How on Earth did the Eagles go from division fourth-place in 2016 to become the best team in the National Football Conference in 2017?
Hog heaven turned to blogging colleague Thomas Jackson, the brains behind Eagles Eye Blog for his thoughts.
“I think it’s just been a perfect storm of key free agent signings, some nifty trades, the maturation of Carson Wentz and a nice blend of veteran players with younger ones, all buying into the offense Doug Pederson calls and the defensive system of Jim Schwartz. With only two years of continuity within the coaching staff (except for the OL coach Stoutland and the ST coach Fipp) I just didn’t see this thing becoming special this quickly. I guess I will have to enjoy the turnaround while I can, because Mr. Belichick and Mr. Brady probably have a fork in the road ready for the Eagles to get skewered upon soon enough!”
So, everything just came together at the right time? That’s not enough for thought leaders at Redskins Park to borrow as best practices.
Lets peel the onion of Philly’s 2017 player transactions for more insight.
Nick Foles, returned to the Eagles as to back-up Carson Wentz. His late season performance suggests that Wentz was not the only reason for the Eagles’ strong performance. Free agent receivers boosted the offense.
Alshon Jeffrey was the Eagles’ third leading receiver for receptions. (57 catches, 789 yards, 9 TDs). He was the perfect compliment to Nelson Agholor who enjoyed a breakout season in his third year at wide receiver.
Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson were cap casualties for the Redskins. Both were 1,000-yard receivers last year but combined for a mere seven scores between them. Both had disappointing 2017 seasons on new teams. Garcon went on IR mid-year. Jackson produced 668 yards and three scores for Tampa Bay.
Josh Doctson alone scored 6 TDs on 502 yards for the ‘Skins.
Terrelle Pryor was Washington’s big free agent signing of 2017. Hog Heaven supported the move. Lets just tip toe away from that, shall we?
The 49ers lost Torrey Smith and Brian Quick to free agency. The Redskins signed Quick, then rarely used him. Torrey Smith (36 catches, 430 yards, 2 TDs) made clutch catches during the Eagles Playoff run.
The biggest difference between DC and Philly has been the health of their receiving tight ends. Zach Ertz is the Eagles’ top receiver in catches and yards. Jordan Reed is Washington’s only skill player with the potential to alter opposing defenses. His 10-game absence crippled the offense.
The Eagles lost RB Darren Sproles to injury in Week 3 and back-filled the hole by trading a 2018 fourth-round pick to the Dolphin for Jay Ajayi.
Rushers are generic in Jay Gruden’s offense. We can’t envision him trading for a depth player at running back. The ‘Skins might have if they were leading the division at mid-season.
Would Redskins fans have sat still for Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator? The Eagles signed him in 2016. They were a mid-tier team in yards and points allowed last year. In 2017 they ranked No. 4 in both categories. I believe they got a few of their horses back from injury. Injuries devastated Washington’s defense.
Everything came together for the Eagles in the same areas they fell apart for the Redskins. Here’s the bright spot. Last year’s Eagles finished 7-9 and in division fourth-place—precisely where the Redskins are right now.
Look at the Eagles now.