The Eagles didn’t make the playoffs this season and there are a bevy of reasons why. Carson Wentz had no help from his wide receivers, Lane Johnson’s suspension tossed the offensive line into disarray and the Birds played the toughest schedule in the NFL.
In Doug Pederson’s second year — even in the loaded NFC East (which will in all likelihood be loaded again in 2017) the Eagles are a good bet to make the postseason 12 months from now.
Here are the five biggest reasons why:
With the No. 4 spot in the NFC East standings, Philly has assured a last place schedule in 2017, meaning they’ll face the Jaguars and Panthers, along with the mostly weak NFC West. They still have six games against their difficult division and four games against the AFC West — but it is a much easier slate than they faced in the 2016 season.
They were better than 7-9
Despite finishing in the middle of the standings and out of postseason contention, pretty much as early as Week 14, Philly will finish the season with the No. 5 ranked DVOA in all of football. The advanced metric looks at a team’s productivity on both sides of the ball and determines how a team’s performance on the field ranks despite the win-loss record. Philly had the No. 1 special teams unit in all of football in 2016 as well.
With an easier strength of schedule, a sophomore Wentz and Pederson and perhaps some better luck in close games (they were 1-6 in one-touchdown decisions), the Eagles were better than the standings say they were in 2016.
Carson Wentz year two
The Eagles’ rookie quarterback went from being a third stringer holding a clipboard for four months to setting an NFL record for completions by a first year player. He took nearly every snap this season and showed the league that, even with a few hiccups, he is a franchise quarterback. Eagles fans should be optimistic about Year 2.
“He’s really seeing the field,” Pederson said after the Eagles’ season-ending win over Dallas. “He’s surveying the field. He’s using his legs. He’s a gifted runner. He knows where everybody is going to be. He’s got great dialogue and communication on the sideline, on the football field. His leadership ability. He’s an exciting player to watch and to coach, and it’s a pleasure having him this year. In his rookie season, to do the things that he’s done just is amazing, and really looking forward to the off-season and building for next year.”
The Eagles will be focusing on skill players in 2017. There is no way their wide receiving slate can be worse than it was in 2016. Wide receivers not named Jordan Matthews combined for barely 1,000 yards receiving total — leaving Zach Ertz, the other tight ends and the running backs to make up for the deficiency of a unit that should be, at worst twice as productive.
With players like DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery likely to be available in 2017 and a draft class that boasts potent wide receivers and more than a few above average running backs, the skill positions will be better next season.
No one will argue that the Eagles’ defense was a model of consistency. However it showed in stretches that it can be one of the best units in football. The safety tandem of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod proved to be a strength, as did the linebacking unit led by Jordan Hicks, who has caused 11 turnovers in 24 total games. The defensive line had some lackluster games but does boast Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox and should-be Pro Bowler Brandon Graham. Add some solid cornerbacks and the unit should be stronger in 2017.
“I think we can win with the players we’ve got,” Hicks said Sunday.”I think it’s just a matter of execution. Obviously the front office will do what they have to do, but for us, the players, the focus is execution and getting better individually.”