American Football is just a game in the end, although because of an industrial culture it has become a symbol of just about everything we value as a modern society—teamwork, positive thinking, brute force harnessed for the common good, and an opportunity for the individual to shine with finesse in the context of it all.
So when your home team catches a wave like the Eagles are riding into Week 8 of the 2017 regular season, it feels extra good. Old-timers as well as newbies among the fan base are having more fun right now. Even the players themselves are having more fun. Surf’s up!
Veteran Bird-watchers have ridden this wave before. They are aware of the possible wipe-out scenarios which lurk like a great white shark beneath the foam. The beach is littered with the bones of past Eagles teams which started out fast then faded away. The classic textbook example is Richie Kotite’s 1994 squad which started out 7-2, then lost 7 games in a row. That’s the Big Kahuna of wipe-outs.
I for one doubt that anyone on today’s Eagles roster have any memory or awareness of that 1994 season. One guy who surely remembers it is head coach Doug Pederson. Or maybe he doesn’t?—Doug played QB for Miami in 1993 but had to sit out the 1994 season.
The feeling that this current team is less vulnerable to a killer losing streak is centered around the emergence of Carson Wentz as a charismatic leader both on the field and off. I also believe the current Eagles’ defense has a more fluid ability to make in-game adjustments that work out well in the end. A big part of that premise is how well-prepared safety Malcolm Jenkins has shown himself to play multiple roles in the overall defensive alignment.
As for Wentz? The more leeway they give this guy to run the offense, the better.
Not surprisingly, we’re starting to get the “young Brett Favre” comparisons:
“A little bit of Brett Favre, honestly,” Pederson said, via Ed Kracz of EaglesWire, when asked whom Wentz reminds him of. “He’s got that mentality, he’s got that aggressiveness that Brett had. Those are some of the skill sets that I see in Carson. That aggression, that ability to throw the ball down the field. And listen, I love quarterbacks that are willing to take a chance, take a calculated risk down the field. Favre was that way, and I see a lot of the same characteristics in Carson.”
Pederson knows all about Favre, as he was the Packers’ backup quarterback in 1995-98 when Favre was the starter. He continued on with his praise of Wentz, adding that the Eagles young quarterback makes his teammates better.
“And one of the things that Brett was able to do, and you’re seeing it with Carson, is just elevate the play around him,” Pederson continued. “And the thing is he doesn’t feel like, his being Carson, doesn’t feel like he’s got to make every play because he’s got the guys around him to help him make those plays. And, listen, as long as he stays in that mind frame and that state of mind, he could definitely go on to have a fine season, in which he is definitely off to a good start, a lot of ball left obviously.”
There’s a lot of ball left, indeed. And there’s a lot of maintenance and repairs to be made before this regular season ride is finished. The problem with losing guys like LT Jason Peters and MLB Jordan Hicks for the rest of the season is that “Next Man Up!” does not always apply. Ideally the replacement player picks up where the Pro Bowl-veteran left off. That is rarely the way it ends up working out.
As fate would have it, the Eagles’ next opponent has lost 7 games in a row. You would be excused for thinking the wave will continue for the Birds against a team that is struggling to stay afloat.
But I do not take any team lightly, especially one which is coached by Kyle Shanahan.
I don’t care that the 49ers got stomped by Dallas last Sunday so badly that their players were squabbling amongst themselves on the sideline. To me that just makes them more dangerous.
Even more ominous, the 49ers are bringing in a bunch of new bodies and faces for this game. They signed three defensive linemen over the past week, and they are not wasting time getting them into the mix. The 49ers signed Leger Douzable and Tony McDaniel last week, and added Datone Jones this week. The moves came following a season-ending injury to Arik Armstead, and an injury to Aaron Lynch that will leave him out an undetermined amount of time.
Douzable replaced Armstead as a starting defensive end last week, while McDaniel worked into the defensive tackle mix. The 49ers released a new depth chart on Tuesday, and Jones is listed as Solomon Thomas’ primary backup at the other defensive end position. Thomas has rotated between end in base and tackle in sub packages. The team will likely continue looking for ways to rotate bodies in, but the addition of Jones could mean more inside work for Thomas.
The 49ers also announced the signing of Leon Hall on Tuesday. He is listed as Rashard Robinson’s backup at left cornerback, but figure Hall will get nickel back work this week against the Eagles.
All of which to me creates an element of the unknown. The value of the Eagles’ scouting tape on the 49ers defense has just decreased.
Keep riding the wave, just be prepared to handle the 49ers backwash—you know, when a wave sweeps up on the beach and returns to the ocean, sometimes colliding with incoming waves.