For many people, the brisk Autumn winds bring the scent of caramel apples, the crunch of fallen leaves, and the warmth of woolen scarves. Everyone has their reasons for loving this special season. Needless to say, for a majority of Americans, fall means one thing; football.
Swarthmore students are lucky enough to be located just 30 minutes away from Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, an NFL franchise boasting one of the most loyal fanbases in the country. Eagles fans expect to win and win big, but in recent years, it seems that all they’ve received from their beloved team is inconsistency in every facet of the game. The team has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, and their last postseason win was more than eight years ago. Last year, the Eagles finished with a mediocre 7-9 record.
Nonetheless, with every new season comes a renewed sense of hope for the Philadelphia faithful, and this year, there might just be a good reason. Most of the early-season optimism the Eagles are enjoying is due to Carson Wentz, their fresh-faced quarterback whose 2016 rookie campaign left many fans thrilled by his potential. The 24 year-old slinger showed flashes of excellence last season with minimal talent at wide receiver. With the recent addition of the big-bodied, star wideout Alshon Jeffery, formerly of the Chicago Bears, Eagles fans have a lot to be excited about on the offensive side of the field. There are injury concerns when it comes to Jeffrey, who has missed eleven games over the last two seasons, but there is no denying his ability when he is on the field.
Other assets on offense include former New England Patriot and Super Bowl Winner LeGarrette Blount, the 2016 season’s touchdown leader with 18 scores. Blount, along with Ryan Matthews and the small but quick Darren Sproles, will contribute to a very intriguing Eagles rushing attack. Tight-end Zach Ertz returns after putting up another solid season eclipsing 800 receiving yards and 70 receptions. The offensive line returns all of its starters, and performed well in the 2016 campaign. However, the Eagles will look to improve upon their average of 337 total yards of offense per game from 2016, which ranked 22nd in the NFL, and average of 22.9 points per game, which ranked 16th.
Defensively, the Eagles had a decent year in 2016, ranking 12th in total yards against per game and 11th in points against per game. However, there is room for improvement. The Eagles secondary must improve this year, as they allowed 60 percent of passes thrown their way to be completed last season. The Eagles drafted two cornerbacks, most notably Sidney Jones, in the hopes that their lackluster secondary play can be improved. There weren’t any departures at the linebacker position for the Eagles, and rising star Jordan Hicks has returned to anchor their defense. On the defensive line, the Eagles made three additions, most notably first rounder and all-time University of Tennessee tackle leader Derek Barrett. He hopes to bring pressure to opposing quarterbacks alongside pro-bowler Fletcher Cox and former first rounder Brandon Graham.
Despite all of the encouraging additions, Eagles fans should still have somewhat reserved expectations for their squad this year. The Eagles play in the NFC East, one of the toughest divisions in football. Two teams, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, made it to the playoffs last year with records of 13-3 and 12-5 respectively. The Washington Redskins are competitive too, finishing with an 8-7 record in 2016, leaving the Eagles at the bottom of the division. The Eagles will play six games in this tough division, not to mention difficult match ups against the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders. As of September 18th, they are 1-1 with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and a victory against their division rival, the Washington Redskins. The season is young, and so are the Eagles. Hopefully for the fans of Philadelphia, the Eagles can deliver this fall.