At this point last year, the Eagles thought Sam Bradford would be their starting quarterback while Carson Wentz learned about life in the NFL.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury changed those plans and led to Wentz starting every game in his rookie season. There were the expected ups and downs, but the end result was enough ups for the Eagles to feel like they have their quarterback of the present and future.
As long as everyone is healthy, the offensive line should provide strong support for Wentz and what the Eagles hope will be a better run game. They also have a deep defensive line despite the loss of defensive tackle Bennie Logan as the additions of Chris Long, Timmy Jernigan and first-round pick Derek Barnett ensure the cupboard will be well stocked.
Tight end Zach Ertz, linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Malcolm Jenkins are other players to like in Philly, but Wentz’ development figures to be the lead storyline for the Eagles one way or another.
Biggest positive change: The Eagles were lacking at wide receiver last season and they addressed the issue by signing a pair of veteran free agents. Alshon Jeffery came on a one-year deal as he tries to get past recent injury woes and return to where he was with the Bears a couple of years ago. Torrey Smith’s time with the 49ers was dismal, but he still has the ability to stretch the field and improves Wentz’s options over the corps he was working with last year.
Biggest negative change: No one in Philadelphia is likely to lose too much sleep lamenting the departures of cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin, so it may not be a negative change so much as the lack of an immediate positive one at cornerback. The Eagles signed Patrick Robinson and drafted Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones, but Jones may be a redshirt after a pre-draft Achilles tear and it would be a lot to ask Douglas for high achievement in his rookie season.
We’d like to crack a beer with … LeGarrette Blount. Coming off an 18-touchdown season for the Patriots, Blount lingered as a free agent until signing with the Eagles in May and it would be interesting to hear what his conversations with New England were like before they made it clear they were moving in other directions. Blount’s previous departure from New England didn’t go well as his stay with the Steelers didn’t make it a full season, so we’d also be interested to know where things will be different this year.
Coaching thermometer: There’s going to be an expectation of improvement in Philly after going 7-9 with a rookie quarterback in Pederson’s first year, but there will be growing pains in Year Two for Wentz as well and that may not lead to a leap in the standings that makes the Eagles a playoff contender. Barring total catastrophe, that shouldn’t be an ominous outcome for Pederson given how much they’ve overhauled the team since Chip Kelly’s departure.
How they could prove us wrong: We’re around the midpoint of the power rankings, which means the Eagles could prove us wrong with a move in either direction. A shift in the positive direction would likely mean the new faces on offense aid in a jump for Wentz in his second season while more injury trouble for Jeffery and a lack of growth in the secondary would be reasons why the Eagles could fare worse than anticipated. In a strong division, there’s also the chance that the Eagles could be better overall without making much headway in the standings.