The Philadelphia Eagles have shocked the world with an 8-1 start to the 2017-18 NFL season. Even the most optimistic of fans would have never predicted a start like this which has placed the Eagles at the top of the league. After ending the 2016 season with another subpar record of 7-9 and finishing last in their conference, the Eagles had a lot to work on coming into 2017. But, with an impressive list of rookies and free agent additions, it became increasingly clear the Eagles were to exceed expectations come the start of the season.
The key to success for the Eagles began in the offseason where they successfully filled holes with a handful of blockbuster trades and key signings in the free agency period. Supplementing the Eagles’ receiving core was an area of emphasis that executive Howie Roseman, owner Jeff Lurie, and head coach Doug Pederson wanted to key in on. The team started their offseason strong by signing San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith. The Eagles then picked up Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery from the struggling 3-13 Chicago Bears. Jeffrey, now in his fifth year, is a freakishly explosive athlete with big play capabilities that he has consistently shown in his time in Chicago, as well as this season so far. He is undoubtedly a top-10 wide receiver in the NFL whose ceiling is sky high. Additionally, the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount from the 2016-17 Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots, who boasted a league-leading 19 rushing touchdowns in the Patriots’ title-winning season. This signing diversified the Eagles run game with Blount’s hardnose physical running style supplementing the speed of Darren Sproles. These key additions, along with the signing of DE Chris Long, DT Timmy Jernigan, CB Sidney Jones, and CB Rasul Douglas, gave the Eagles a great advantage coming into the 2017 season.
So what sparked this extraordinary start for the Eagles? To begin, Carson Wentz, now in his second season in the NFL, has exceeded all expectations every time he has stepped on the field. He’s been an extremely efficient passer and runner of the ball so far. This, in addition to an impressive touchdown to interception ratio (23-5), has made Wentz the clear favorite for MVP of the NFL, something that no NFL fan expected just two years ago when Wentz was drafted out of North Dakota State University. Wentz has received praise and admiration for his play from coaches and players across the league, including analyst Jon Gruden. “He’s throwing the ball at a high level. He’s seeing the field well. He’s making changes at the line of scrimmage. And he’s making plays – and making plays in critical situations, third down. When you’re No. 1 in the NFL on third down, that says a lot. So he is making a rapid ascent, no question.” said Gruden on a Monday Night Football broadcast. It is amazing to see Wentz leading his team to victory after victory at such a young age. Wentz has formed great chemistry with tight end Zach Ertz, and they have become one of the best tight end/quarterback duos in the NFL. Ertz has snagged six touchdowns so far this season and continues to impress in his 5th NFL season. This duo, along with many other influential players, are the reason the Eagles’ offense ranks so highly across the board. The Eagles, offensive line, led by Lane Johnson, have been performing above expectations after future hall-of-famer Jason Peters tore his ACL and MCL against the Redskins in week 7.
While the Eagles’ offense has been outstanding this season, the defensive side of the ball is where the Eagles’ have especially excelled. The Eagles defense ranks sixth for most sacks, fourth for interceptions, and first in stopping third down conversions. This defensive success starts with the defensive line, where Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Vinny Curry have been terrorizing quarterbacks and running backs alike all season. The linebacker corps took a hit when young star Jordan Hicks tore his achilles against the Redskins, but the duo of Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham have been able to successfully manage since. Cornerback Ronald Darby will return after the bye week which will help bolster the Eagles’ secondary.
With such promising play on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, is it too early to start talking about the playoffs? The Eagles’ next game is against conference rival Cowboys, who have been struggling so far this season and now look even weaker with linebacker Sean Lee expected to be out. The Eagles are sitting comfortably in first place in their division and are now working towards a first round bye in the playoffs. Although there are still many games left to be played, Philadelphia is in peak form and will look to push deep into the playoffs later this season. It is not too wild to think that the Eagles are well on the path to their first super bowl; their potential is limitless.