The Dallas Cowboys will be looking to make the playoffs for the second straight year, something they haven’t done since 2007. For that to happen, they will need to be better than their competition, so last week we started looking at the teams standing in their way. Today’s profile is none other than their NFC East nemesis, the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017 and managed to fight their way into the playoffs last season despite losing their starting quarterback. They suffered some key losses as players like Nick Foles, Michael Bennett, Golden Tate, and Jordan Hicks are all playing for other teams now. But credit GM Howie Roseman for cycling through a new cast of characters to go with a very deep core. Can they return to greatness in 2019?
What’s holding this team back?
The Eagles endured the second-most games lost due to injury last season with a total of 118.5 games lost according to Football Outsiders. Overall, the Eagles had 28 different players miss a total of 221 games due to injuries. The Eagles medical staff has become scrutinized as several players experienced abnormal recoveries, causing the organization to make changes. Maybe this is something they can correct and maybe this was just dumb luck that should even itself out going forward. One thing that doesn’t help their chances is that they are an aging football team. Over half of the starters on both offense and defense are at least 29 years old.
In contrast, the Cowboys have just two players on both offense (Jason Witten and Randall Cobb) and defense (Sean Lee and Robert Quinn) who are that old and all of them are on the last year of their deals. For Philly, most of their players are older and it’s just harder to sustain good health the older players get.
If they can stay healthy, the Eagles will be one of the top teams in the league, but people shouldn’t be surprised if they have their struggles in this department. It’s not a coincidence.
Why they can be dangerous
The Wentz Factor.
What is odd about the Eagles Super Bowl season is that their best football was played in the middle of the year when Carson Wentz was firing on all cylinders. They weren’t just beating teams, they were blowing them out. The Eagles rattled off four-straight 20+ victories, including a 51-point performance against the Denver Broncos and a 28-point victory on Sunday night against one of their division rivals, but it’s not important which one. Wentz had four games where he threw four touchdown passes before suffering a season-ending injury against the Los Angeles Rams. He was having an MVP-caliber season.
Even though he returned last year, Wentz still dealt with injuries in 2018. Whether it was his knee or his back, he just wasn’t the same player he was the year prior. So the question now becomes - which Wentz will we see this upcoming season?
If he’s healthy, the Eagles have a lot of good pieces in place that will make it very hard for opponents to challenge them.
Should we be worried about them in 2019?
The Eagles have one of the most seasoned rosters in the league. They are talented, and they are plentiful. Roseman has done a great job keeping the train moving. Even when they suffer losses, they use free agency to find replacements. You lose Michael Bennett along the defensive line? No problem, here’s Malik Jackson to help out. Golden Tate darts in free agency? How’s a little DeSean Jackson work for you? And if you’re feeling down about losing Jay Ajayi, don’t fret because Jordan Howard is here to run the ball. And when they lost Jordan Hicks, it felt like that could them hurt more than some were willing to admit, yet they turned around and replaced him with the sneaky good acquisition of Zach Brown. They’re like the liquid metal T-1000 Terminator model. No matter how many blows they take, they somehow keep fixing themselves and keep coming after you.
The offensive line may be an old bunch, but they are a very good unit. 2016 free agent Brandon Brooks has quietly been a nice add to the group and doesn’t get the attention some of the bigger names on the OLine get. Philly is always stacking the trenches on defense, too. Veterans Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Malik Jackson are going to make a fierce defensive front.
Should we be worried about them for the future?
Tough to say, but there are reasons to be skeptical.
We don’t want to discredit the great work Roseman has done in building this roster. His one-year-at-a-time method has produced positive results recently, including the team’s first and only Super Bowl championship. But there are some trade-offs for how this team operates. This team doesn’t have a lot of money and there’s a lot of creative contract structuring going on that keeps pushing costs into the future. This would worry me a little bit if I was an Eagles’ fan (2020 cap space courtesy of spotrac). Roseman has his work cut out for him next season. But hey, tomorrow is tomorrow.
Another concern is this team is filled with several players on the down side of their careers, which inevitably means they’re going to have some holes to fill soon. The Eagles are very dependent on free agency and trades to fill the holes on their roster, and to their credit - they’re good at it. But eventually, the well is going to dry up and they’ll be at the mercy of the draft to replenish roster spots, and that’s not an area they’ve done well at in recent years. Here is a comparison of players drafted since 2014 that have an approximate value greater than 10 who are still on the team.
This could be a problem for them if things don’t improve.
For other installments of this series, make sure to check out:
A players value was determined using the Approximate Value numbers from Pro Football Reference. They were taken from the last season that player saw action and prorated over a full 16 game season (if a player missed games).
Not all contracts are created equal so the cost comes from cap numbers from Spotrac; however, the actual figure used is either cap hit, average salary, or yearly cash - depending on the nature of their contract. These values are selected to better represent the team’s investment in that individual player.