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2018 Season Review: 9-7 (2nd in the NFC East)
The Philadelphia Eagles came into 2018 as the defending world champions after beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl the year before behind a remarkable run by Nick Foles, and that was the talk of the offseason. Carson Wentz was coming off of a ACL injury and there was a lot of talk as to whether the Eagles should move on from Wentz and keep Foles as their starter because he played so well. Head Coach Doug Pedereson was clear throughout the off season that Wentz was their guy, but the talk never died down.
Because of the injury Wentz didn’t come back right away and Nick Foles started the first two games of the year. If Foles came out and lit it up, there could be a QB controversy on the Eagles hands. However Foles came out slow against the Falcons and Buccaneers while leading the Eagles to a 1-1 record. Foles only threw for 117 yards and 1 INT in the opening game of the year against the Falcons and although he threw for 334 yards and 1 TD against the Bucs in the following week, the Eagles lost.
That led to Wentz coming back and honestly, Wentz is a much more talented QB than Foles. However, Wentz may have come back too soon for an ACL injury. He tore his ACL the previous year against the Rams on December 10th and was already back starting on September 23rd. It’s not the shortest time but in hindsight, the Eagles probably should have waited a little longer.
Wentz played in the next 11 games leading the eagles to a 5-6 record with him starting. Went was shut down after a Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboy because of a back issue and the Eagles not wanting to injure their franchise QB yet again. Even with Wentz in, the Eagles offense which was high flying in 2018 under him, only scored 30 points or more once and that was against the lowly Giants. Wentz threw for 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, and 7 INT with a 69.6% completion percentage. Wentz couldn’t string together any wins for the Eagles however as they didn’t win back to back games with him until weeks 12 and 13 against the Giants and Redskins, who were both bad teams.
Foles came back in for Wentz in win now mode for the Eagles, and won at the Rams (270 YDs, 1 INT), vs the Houston Texans (471 YDS, 4 TDS, 1 INT), and at Washington (221 YDS, 2 TDS, 1 INT) to lead the Eagles to a 9-7 record and the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Foles for the year in five games went 4-1 and threw for 1,413 yards, 7 TDS, and 4 INTS.
Between the two QBs, the Eagles scored 22.9 PPG for 18th in the league and put up 365.3 yards per game which was 14th in the league. Besides the average QB play during the regular season, minus Foles’ last three games, the biggest issue for the Eagles was the running game. In 2017 the Eagles got great play from LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement.
In 2018 however, Blount was on the Lions, Ajayi only made it through four games, Corey Clement only played in 11 games and wasn’t as effective as he was in 2017. Overall the Eagles had 5 different RBs who had over 100 yards on the year led by Josh Adams, a rookie, who rushed for 511 yards and 3 TDs. The Eagles also trotted out Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles at RB.
For guys who catch the ball, TE Zach Ertz had a career year with 116 catches, 1,163 YDS, and 8 TDs. He led the team in all those categories and was the main target for both Wentz and Foles. Right behind Ertz was WR Alshon Jeffery who had 65 catches for 843 YDS, 6 TDS while only playing in 13 games. The Eagles also got solid contributions from WR Nelson Agholor who had 64 catches for 736 YDS and 4 TDS, while rookie TE Dallas Goedert had 33 catches for 334 YDS and 4 TDS. The Eagles also felt like they needed help at WR because they went out and got Golden Tate midway through the season. Tate played in 8 games for the Eagles and caught 30 balls for 278 YDS and 1 TD. His biggest contribution came in the playoff game against the Bears which made the whole trade with the Lions worth it.
The reason the Eagles were able to still win 9 games was because of their defense, who only gave up 21.8 PPG which was 12th in the league. The Eagles strength was their defensive line which helped recorded 44 sacks (8th in the league) and held teams to under 100 yards rushing per game. They were led by Fletcher Cox who continues to be one of the most dominate defensive linemen in the league, he recorded 10.5 sacks, forced one fumble, had 46 tackles, 12 TFL, and 34 QB hits. Michael Bennett was close behind him with 9 sacks, 34 tackles, 15 TFL, and 30 QB hits. The Eagles were also able to trot out Brandom Graham, Chris Long, Derek Barnett and Haloti Ngata throughout the year on the DL.
The Eagles were also loaded at LB with Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. Both guys had over 100 tackles and recorded at least one sack during the year.
The secondary is where the Eagles were hurt however. At safety Malcolm Jenkins was still a staple and made the pro bowl. At CB, the Eagles had 8 different guys play significant time. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills were the two starters for the Eagles at the start of the year, Darby only played 8 games and Mills only played in 9. From there the Eagles had to rely on guys like rookie Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Josh Hawkins, Cre’von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan, and Avonte Maddox. The Eagles secondary was the real liability for this team and it took awhile for them to gel, but they eventually did by the playoffs.
The Eagles got pitted against the Bears in the Wild Card round and won 16-15 after Cody Parkey double doinked the game winning field goal attempt. Golden Tate proved the trade was worth it when he caught a 4th down touchdown pass to put the Eagles ahead with 56 seconds left in the game. Foles played good against the best defense in the league and there for 266 yards, 2 TDs, and T INTs. Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Golden Tate all caught 5 balls or more.
Next up the Eagles went to the Saints in the Divisional Round and lost 20-14. Like most of the year their defense played well enough but the offense just didn’t have enough. The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter, but wouldn’t score the rest of the game. Foles had a sub-par game against a good defense, throwing for 201 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. The play of the game came late in the 4th quarter again with the Eagles on offense. Driving down the field to score again, Foles threw a perfect pass to Alshon Jeffery that went through his hands and was picked off which ended the Eagles season. If not for that, we could have seen another Eagles/Patriots Super Bowl.
Key Off Season Acquisitions
DT Malik Jackson (3 Years, $30 Million)
Michael Bennett left, and Chris Long retired, so what do the Eagles do? Just sign the best DL on the market. Even though he’s doesn’t play DE, Jackson is one of the best in the league and he’ll help fill in that production that left from those two guys.
DE Vinny Curry (1 Year, $2.25 Million)
Curry returns to the Eagles to help the loss of Bennett and Long. Curry won’t start because he’ll be backing up Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham but to have him come off the bench is a great luxury.
WR DeSean Jackson (via trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The Eagles gave up a 6th round pick to fill a need in their offense. Apart from the running game, the Eagles were missing a great deep threat. Well here comes Jackson back to the Eagles to team up with Carson Wentz. Jackson will bring a much needed aspect to the receiving core that is different from Jeffery, Ertz, Goedert, and Agholor.
Round 1 Pick #22: T Andre Dillard
Andre Dillard is not going start, because the Eagles probably have best OL in the league. My only thinking here, is the Eagles went with the top player on their board here for more depth.
Round 2 Pick #53: RB Miles Sanders
As we went over in the ’18 review, the Eagles struggled at RB. They did trade for Jordan Howard also but Sanders will fight for carries and don’t be surprised if he’s the main guy later on the year. He brings a lot of speed to the position and is a good compliment to Howards running style and the pass catching abilities of Corey Clement.
Key Off Season Departures
QB Nick Foles (via free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars)
Foles was the biggest free agent signing of the year. He finally left and now the Eagles don’t have that comfortable veteran backup behind their star QB whose been shut down the past two years. If Wentz stays healthy, then obviously this doesn’t matter because the backup won’t play.
WR Golden Tate (via free agency to the New York Giants)
Tate only played 8 games but was important for the Eagles. He got way more money than the Eagles were willing to pay. The Eagles filled
LB Jordan Hicks (via free agency to the Arizona Cardinals)
Hicks was second on the Eagles with 91 tackles but only played in 12 games. He is very solid a LB and decided to leave after he got offered a big deal from the Cardinals. For the Eagles they’ll have to replace their top tackler, and a leader on defense. They are so loaded though, that free agent Zach Brown should fit in just fine.
The Eagles have arguably the best roster in the NFL on both sides of the ball. They quite possibly have the best offensive and defensive lines in the game, they are deep at the skill positions on offense, and have a MVP candidate at QB. On defense, the one positions in question is at LB and it’s really only because they have to replace Jordan Hicks. Their secondary should be much better because of how many guys got playing time in 2018 due to injuries.
In these previews I hate to talk about injuries on teams but the only real question the Eagles have his Carson Wentz and his injury history. If Wentz can stay healthy and play all 16 games, then there is no reason why the Eagles shouldn’t earn the #1 seed in the NFC and be Super Bowl favorites.
Wentz got lucky last year in that he didn’t re-injure his knee and he’s had a full off season for it to heal fully, and to get his back to normal. If anything, Wentz should be feeling great heading into Week 1 and better then he has since starting against the Rams in 2017. If Wentz gets back to the 2017 form then the Eagles have a chance to be one of the best offenses in the league, up there with the Kansas City Chiefs.
On defense, the questions all revolve around injuries as well. That secondary was depleted last year and could actually turn into a strength this year for them. Also, they don’t have to be a great unit because their defensive line is going to be so god damn dominant. Eagles fans should be very excited about 2019.
The NFC East play the AFC East and NFC North this year. The Eagles finished second in their division so they also get the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.
The Eagles have five prime-time games this year, Week 2 at Atlanta Falcons on Sunday Night Football, Week 4 on Thursday Night Football at Green Bay Packers, Week 7 on SNF at the Dallas Cowboys, Week 12 on SNF vs the Seattle Seahawks, and Week 14 at home on Monday Night Football against the New York Giants. On top of that, the Eagles also play the New England Patriots at home with a 4:30 PM kickoff and the Cowboys in Week 16 at home with a 4:30 kickoff which both will probably be the prime time late games of those weeks.
The Eagles have a interesting schedule structure. They have five away games in the first nine weeks including three in a row against the Vikings, Cowboys, and Bills. After their bye week in Week 10, they only have 3 away games in November and December.
They do have a divisional heavy end to their schedule also. They play the Giants twice in Weeks 14 and 17, with the Redskins and Cowboys in between those weeks. Those weeks could very well determine who wins the NFC East.
Based on last year records, the Eagles are going to be able to make some hay early on by opening the year with five teams who had losing records last year until they play the Vikings in Week 6.
Fantasy Player You Want
I really like the value on DeSean Jackson. I think Wentz and Jackson are going to absolutely hit it off in their first year together. Jackson is being drafted in the 12th/13th round and could very well be the third biggest target in an offense that can score around 30 PPG.
Fantasy Player to Avoid
I’m going to avoid Jordan Howard. I know the Eagles want to the run the ball but they have Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles that will all get used. Howard will be the starter in Week 1 probably, but I don’t see him getting as many carries as he did in Chicago. Although the Eagles do have the best OL in the football and Wentz is leagues better than Trubisky, I don’t see that as enough to roster Howard for where he is getting drafted.
I think the Eagles are the most talented team in the NFC going into 2019, and the favorite to get the #1 seed. With that in mind, I can see the Eagles winning 13 games.
I don’t see the Eagles dropping off from what they did last year, so I am going to say this team wins at least 9 games for the second year in a row.