Congrats all around to Doug Pederson’s Eagles for taking those final two games. You sent the fans home happy. Your players didn’t quit, if that’s the bar we’re using to measure success.
Yes, winning beats losing. But don’t let these meaningless victories fog your judgment of a team that lost nine. Don’t let this become 2011 again. That was the season Andy Reid started out 4-8 before winning the final four and saving his own job for 2012. Remember how that turned out?
I’m not suggesting Coach Doug should go. But the phrase that came to capture that 2011 illusion — “fool’s gold” — again seems apt. With their 7-9 finish, these Eagles are a flawed team needing a major offseason makeover.
Where to start? The wide receiving corps is a disaster, save Jordan Matthews — and he’s more of a steady player than a game-breaking threat. The collection of running backs is even feebler.
The starting cornerbacks must be replaced, for what seems like the 40th straight offseason. There are needs at edge rusher, defensive tackle (if Bennie Logan leaves) and outside linebacker (as the team soured on Mychel Kendricks).
Now the good news. The Eagles have their franchise QB. Yes, Wentz started 2016 stronger than he finished it. Yes, he has flaws. He’s often late delivering the ball. He throws into traffic and sometimes high. He needs to learn to toss it away.
But those are fixable defects. Wentz, above all, is a smart and athletic kid with all the tools to make it as a star. He was durable enough to play all 16 games and in some areas — like using his legs to extend plays — kept improving this season.
I think MLB Jordan Hicks proved to be a cornerstone on defense. His two interceptions Sunday made him the first NFL linebacker since Jack Ham (1971-72) to garner 11 turnovers in his first 24 games.
So Hicks, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins give the Eagles four high-level defensive starters. That’s not bad.
I’m higher on the Eagles’ offensive line than most, particularly if they find a way to return Jason Peters (who stands to count $11 million against the cap). A full season of Lane Johnson (please) and development of this year’s two rookies signal a solid line going forward.
So it’s not inconceivable to see this team in the playoff hunt next season — unless they actually believe Pederson when he says “we’re very close.” Smug satisfaction with 7-9 would be that fool’s gold.
The key man is personnel director Joe Douglas, imported last offseason from the Ravens. He — and not GM Howie Roseman — has to conduct a draft that turns up no Danny Watkins or Nelson Agholors. He has to figure out which free agent receiver (Alshon Jeffery? Terrelle Pryor? Desean Jackson?) becomes Wentz’s go-to deep threat. He has to find those late-round and undrafted pearls that lift a roster without crushing the salary cap.
It is doable. Now the Eagles just have to let Douglas do his job.