Last year the Eagles began the post-Chip Kelly era after pulling the plug on the former University of Oregon coach whose tenure in Philly can only be called a debacle.
Kelly was hailed as a genius by many in the sports media after he took the Eagles to 10-6 his first year and then followed that up in 2014 with the same.
The team badly regressed in 2015 and Kelly was faced with accusations of favoring white players over blacks as well as being behind a number of personnel disasters including trading star running back LeSean McCoy. Owner Jeffrey Lurie pulled the plug on Kelly after only six wins in 2015, enough was enough.
Enter longtime assistant Doug Pederson and new quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles traded up to snag the small college product in the 2016 draft and an impressive 3-0 start had some believing that they had the rare rookie who would be able to step right in.
Unfortunately, the Eagles went on to lose nine of their next eleven as Wentz predictably struggled against NFL caliber competition, he finished with 3,762 yards, 16 touchdowns, and fourteen picks.
It was about what you could expect from a guy thrown into the deep end and asked to swim with one of the most mediocre receiving corps in the league.
The Eagles have overhauled their receivers in an effort to give Wentz some help. Gone is Mr. Alligator Arms Jordan Matthews and in are free agents Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. Jeffrey, in particular, could be a boon for the young quarterback if he is able to return to form after being plagued by injuries and illegal substance suspension with the Bears.
There also have been changes in the running game with the organization hoping that former New England Patriots back LeGarrette Blount has another big season in him – he scored a whopping 18 TDs last year but that was with Tom Brady as a quarterback.
The Eagles cut the disappointing Ryan Matthews loose and are hoping against hope that former multi-purpose threat Darren Sproles can recapture some of his previous forms but the prognosis for the ground game is grim. Both Blount and Sproles are 34-years-old and it’s a head-scratcher that Philly believes that they can once again be the impact players that they once were.
Philadelphia actually had somewhat of a fair defense in 2016. The club finished 13th overall and was actually decent enough that had the lethargic offense come through, may have won a few more games to make the difference between a mediocre 7-9 and 9-7 and a contender for a wild card.
The team invested heavily in further enhancing this unit by spending their top three draft picks on defensive players, signing free agent defensive end Chris Long and cornerback Patrick Robinson and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan.
So, what does it all mean?
Every team in the NFC East got their Christmas presents early when Dallas Cowboys stud running back Ezekiel Elliott was hit with a six-game suspension. Elliott appealed but new reports that he was spotted on a party boat don’t bode well for the Cowboys.
If Wentz can continue to develop and his new receivers are able to step up, the Eagles will at least be in the scrum in the division. There is simply no way to overstate how the loss of Elliott brings Dallas back to the rest of the pack and the Eagles will be one of three teams seeking to capitalize on the misfortune of the Cowboys. Possible wild card.