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NFC East preview: Philadelphia Eagles

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Can Wentz lead a deep team to the promised land?

Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars
The Eagles are Carson Wentz’s team, and Nick Foles (right) is no longer there to be the backup savior if they need him.
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

2018 RECORD

9-7

Wild card

Lost in the NFC divisional round

VEGAS OVER/UNDER

10 wins

UNIT-BY-UNIT 2018 RANKINGS

DEFENSE

23rd (366.2 ypg)

OFFENSE

14th (365.3 ypg)

POINT DIFFERENTIAL

T-12th (+19)

SCHEDULE

Sept. 8 vs. Washington

Sept. 15 @ Atlanta

Sept. 22 vs. Detroit

Sept. 26 @ Green Bay

Oct. 6 vs. NY Jets

Oct. 13 @ Minnesota

Oct. 20 @ Dallas

Oct. 27 @ Buffalo

Nov. 3 vs. Chicago

Nov. 17 vs. New England

Nov. 24 vs. Seattle

Dec. 1 @ Miami

Dec. 9 vs. NY Giants

Dec. 15 @ Washington

Dec. 22 vs. Dallas

Dec. 29 @ NY Giants

THE BREAKDOWN

THE COACH: Doug Pederson

THE STAR: Zach Ertz

THE PLAYER THE SEASON RIDES ON: Carson Wentz

THE DIRT

The safety net is gone.

Nick Foles drove the Eagles to their first Super Bowl victory in 2017. Last year, he again took over for an injured Carson Wentz and led them on an unlikely playoff run after a rough start.

But now Foles is in Jacksonville, trying to resurrect the Jaguars. And everything rests on Wentz’s shoulders.

His knee and the back should be fully healed. And with a $128 million contract extension in June, there are no more excuses, especially with a deep and talented roster capable of making another run to the Super Bowl.

However, questions persist despite the consensus that the Eagles will rebound from their Super Bowl hangover season and a deluge of injuries.

Philadelphia was only 5-6 with Wentz last season. While his statistics were impressive (completing 69.6% of his passes for 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, seven INTs, and a rating of 102.2), they did not always translate into victories.

He will be throwing to veteran DeSean Jackson (41 rec., 774 yards in 12 games), who again is an Eagle after a trade with the Bucs. He gives Wentz a deep threat (finally) to augment a receiving corps of Zach Ertz (a franchise record 116 rec., 1,163 yds, 8 TDs), Alshon Jeffery (65 rec., 843 yds, 6 TDs), Nelson Agholor (64 rec., 736 yds, 4 TDs) and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Jordan Howard (3,370 rushing yards in three seasons with the Bears, including 935 in 2018) might be the starting back after the Eagles traded a sixth-round pick for him. He is just 24 and will run behind maybe the NFL’s best offensive line, which includes LT Jason Peters, C Jason Kelce, RT Lane Johnson and RG Brandon Brooks.

But the buzz out of Philly is rookie Miles Sanders is the real deal and the heir apparent. Don’t know much about him? The second-round pick was stuck behind Saquon Barkley for two years at Penn State before shining in 2018 (1,274 rushing yards, 5.8 ypc, 9 TDs). Meanwhile, Howard’s ypc has declined annually from 5.2 to 4.1 to 3.7.

The loaded back field also includes Darren Sproles and Corey Clement.

The defense is built on the line, led by All-Pro Fletcher Cox (a career-high 10.5 sacks). They lost DE Michael Bennett (9.0 sacks) and Chris Long (6.5 sacks), but signed former Jaguars DT Malik Jackson (3.5 sacks in 2018, but 8.0 in a Pro Bowl 2017). They need more pressure from their ends, Brandon Graham (4.0 sacks) and Derek Barnett (2.5 sacks in just six games due to injury).

At linebacker, the loss of Jordan Hicks (91 tackles, 3.0 sacks in 12 games) will hurt, and Kamu Grugier-Hill (knee) and Nigel Bradham (toe) are dealing with injuries.

Pro Bowl S Malcolm Jenkins (team-high 97 tackles, 79 solo stops) again anchors the secondary. CBs Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones and Jalen Mills (who will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list) are all coming off injuries. Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas are solid backups.

THE TAKEAWAY

The Eagles will go as far as Wentz takes them. There is no Plan B. Josh McCown is the backup, not Foles.

As long as Wentz stays healthy and realizes his potential, Philadelphia is a Super Bowl contender. He will be able to rely on a strong offensive line and ground game.

But Wentz will have to make plays for the Eagles to make another Super Bowl run.