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Eagles look like a rare bird in a strange NFC landscape…

The Eagles get RT Lane Johnson back this week after he cleared the concussion protocol, and it also looks like RB Wendell Smallwood (sore knee) could be ready to go against the Redskins on Monday night. These news items are related in that each applies to better pass protection when both those guys are in the game at the same time. There were a few pass-pro issues at right tackle and running back last week, I shall not name names!

It’s really tough to assess the quality of the Eagles as a team moving forward from 5-1, since so many other teams in the NFC are struggling with inconsistency from one week to the next. I mean, teams we thought were really solid like Atlanta, Dallas and dare I say the Redskins are fighting to stay afloat at the end of most of their games. Suddenly Green Bay and Minnesota have serious QB issues due to injuries. The Giants have seemingly fallen off a cliff—weren’t they 11-5 last season? Whether or not you can admit it, these were all teams the Eagles were trying to keep up with last season—and in some ways, emulate.

The games so far are predictable in their unpredictability, ya know?— Forget the power rankings and the weekly injury reports, you could predict the outcome of most of the team matchups up to this point by flipping a coin and get a better hit percentage.

I will be back in a few hours once I figure out where I am going with this!

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Okay, I think I know where I’m at with this… Ryan Lubrich, the first poster to comment on this mess tonight, perhaps said it best: “Focus [only] on the Redskins [our next opponent this coming Monday night]…” He’s right, there’s no point in projecting anything else beyond that game.

My concern is that the league as a whole right now is so fluid in its parity and inconsistency of performance that how do we really know who or what the Redskins are as a team right now? How do you game-plan for a team that is perhaps trending in a different direction from the team you beat six weeks ago?

As consistently as the Eagles have played in all three phases over their first six games, other teams have been streaky…flashing at times in one aspect of the game, looking awful at times in another.

This is where my inbred inferiority complex as an Eagles fan comes into play—have we been simply on a streak of good fortune ourselves so far, and that inevitable bad streak where nothing seems to work is waiting for us within the law of averages?

I’d like to think the Birds have put together a unique roster of compatible teammates who have that special mix of veteran leadership and youthful contribution which kind of levels out the “streaky” factor. Consistency is an attainable goal, and so far the Eagles have shown it. You see this as a product of good coaching as much as the product of good talent on the field. So far, so good…

We’ve even shown a tolerance for injuries, which is impossible to plan for but it is something you can play through if your roster depth was decently engineered. Again, so far so good…Even if Carson Wentz had to miss significant time, you feel pretty good about Nick Foles stepping in at QB.  We might be getting a tad thin at linebacker if Bradham or Hicks go down for any extended time, but all around the rest of the roster we seem to have decent depth—and hence, no excuses for going into a negative streak because of injuries.

The other “anti-streaky” thing we have going for us is we are getting meaningful contributions from our 2017 draft class. How often could we say that in prior years?

Rd 1, Pick 14 (14) Barnett, Derek DE
Rd 2, Pick 11 (43) Jones, Sidney CB
Rd 3, Pick 35 (99) Douglas, Rasul CB
Rd 4, Pick 12 (118) Hollins, Mack WR
Rd 4, Pick 26 (132) Pumphrey, Donnel RB
Rd 5, Pick 22 (166) Gibson, Shelton WR
Rd 5, Pick 41 (184) Gerry, Nate S
Rd 6, Pick 31 (214) Qualls, Elijah DT

The impact that Rasul Douglas has made at CB has been just short of sensational. He has bought the Eagles defense time to weather the storm of losing Ronald Darby to injury. Barnett is gaining more experience and confidence with every game as he is eased into the DL rotation, and Mack Hollins is becoming more valuable every week as a possession receiver. Qualls, while not really lighting it up just yet, has earned his keep as big-body insurance on the front line.

In other words, we’re getting our money’s worth from the most recent draft in terms of meaningful minutes played in money time of the games played so far. A lot of the teams around the league who are struggling right now with inconsistent and streaky play cannot say that.

Add to that the more-than-advertised successes of guys like CB Patrick Robinson and RB LeGarrette Blount, and you have a pretty consistent cast of new contributors which make this 2017 Eagles team a lot different and a lot more unique than the cast of characters we had grown accustomed to rooting for the prior two seasons. It’s kinda like if you were a fan of Saturday Night Live, and they lost a cast member who went on to bigger things, but they brought in a couple of new cast members who were even funnier than the guy who left. It didn’t happen often like that on SNL, but when it did (for example, Chris Farley and Adam Sandler after Eddie Murphy left), you were energized as a fan and the best part was you noticed the show wasn’t as streaky as it used to be.  The show developed more continuity with more consistently funny skits.

That’s the kind of goal I have for this 2017 Eagles team going forward— no matter what adversities await us, I want to believe in the continuity of the systems they have in place right now. They’ve hooked me into believing the organization has figured out consistency of performance in the face of inevitable obstacles and tough breaks along the way. That positive mindset can be contagious when it flows from not just the owner but also the general manager, the scouting department, the coaching staff and the players under contract. If truth be told, we ain’t had that spirit here since…well, time’s yours!

 

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