By Ryan Waterman
A devastating season-ending loss has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many Eagles fans around the Delaware Valley, and beyond. As is the case with most tough season-endings, some have opted to play the blame game, and point fingers. Seemingly unbothered by the public's perception of how their championship-defending campaign unfolded, the Birds have remained focused on the road ahead, in what's sure to be one of the most important off-seasons in recent memory. Multiple key players with expiring contracts, a potential mega-extension on the horizon, and a plethora of questions from the fan base all pose compelling storylines, as we enter the spring ahead.
With Free Agency set to begin, in theory, in just about 24 hours, it's time that we take an in-depth, detailed look at what this off-season could hold for the Philadelphia Eagles.
It's been eight days since the Philadelphia Eagles season came to a heartbreaking end, as a pass slipped right through the hands of Alshon Jeffery, and into the welcoming arms of New Orleans Saints defender Marshon Lattimrore. It was an apropos way to end a season, in which the Birds saw a number of games slip right through their hands.
By Ryan Waterman
Is it too late for the plot-twist ending, where we wake up, revealing the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles season to be nothing more than a bad dream? As much as we'd love that, it's far too late for that.
The defending Super Bowl champs nightmarish season took a devastating blow on Monday with the news that starting running back Jay Ajayi has been placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL, ending his 2018 campaign, and quite possibly his career as a Philadelphia Eagle.
As much of an unfortunate situation it is for Ajayi, it's equally as devastating for the Eagles organization. The Birds have spent a large portion of the season thin at running back, with Darren Sproles missing the last month with injury, and Corey Clement dealing with a hamstring injury. Suddenly, they now find themselves without their best running back. With Sproles still rehabbing, and Clement working his way back into form, the Eagles are now left with a healthy Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams to lead the backfield.
Following back-to-back crushing losses, coupled with this devastating injury, the Eagles suddenly find themselves facing an unexpected crossroads.
A report surfaced earlier this evening that the Eagles restructured the contract of defensive lineman Fletcher Cox this past Friday, freeing up an additional $6.5 million in cap space for this season, and opening up a sizable $11.7 million for the 2019 season. This immediately led to speculation that the Eagles could pull the trigger on a highly-anticipated Le'Veon Bell trade. While it's still possible, ESPN's Adam Schefter was quick to pour water on that fire, citing a source with knowledge of the Eagles plans who claimed "it's 100 percent misleading to think Cox's restructuring was done with Le'Veon Bell in mind."
So, that now begs the question. If Le'Veon Bell is truly not in the Eagles plans for this season, then what's next moving forward?
One strategy could be for the Eagles to use their now $10 million in cap room to bring in some reinforcements and attempt to right the ship in hopes of another Super Bowl championship. If Howie Roseman opts for this strategy, there are a few holes that could use some plugging -- obviously beginning at running back. There are a plethora of options that would be able to provide immediate help to the Eagles.
Let's begin with the one that is currently on everyone's mind, and that's Le'Veon Bell. It's no secret that Bell's not happy in Pittsburgh, that much has been cemented with his holdout lasting this far into the season. Bell was said to be reporting before the Steelers opening game against the Cleveland Browns, but he no-showed. Little's been known regarding his status before a couple weeks ago, when reports began to surface that Bell would report to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye. That's all fine and good, as Bell needs to report by Week 10 at the latest to be eligible for free agency in March. Unfortunately, with James Conner seemingly firmly entrenched as Bell's replacement, it's not much of a surprise that Pittsburgh's open to trading the All-Pro. Their asking price has been reported as "a 2nd-round pick, and a 'good' player." Whether that is true remains to be seen, but if the Eagles are serious about a repeat, this is the best move that the team can make. Adding a player of Bell's caliber to this offense would add an explosive dimension that hasn't been seen since the days of LeSean McCoy.
By Ryan Waterman
Of the seven defending Super Bowl champions to begin their next season with a 2-3 record, a single team, the 1996 Dallas Cowboys, have made the postseason. Mathematically, the odds are astronomically against the Philadelphia Eagles following a devastating 23-21 loss in a rematch of the NFC Championship with the Minnesota Vikings.
I don't even know where to possibly begin with this game. To best sum it up, the only thing that comes to mind is that the Eagles crumbled. The box score may not show it, the final score won't show it, but I'll be damned if anyone's going to suggest otherwise. No specific area of their performance stood out as worse than the others, it was simple an all-around atrocity of a performance by a team that should be embarrassed by their current level of production.
So, one week after initially asking the question, we find ourselves asking it once again...what is wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles?
Well, let's begin right at the top. The first one under the microscope is none other than the Master Magician, Howie Roseman. Much of the credit for last season's championship has been awarded to Howie, and rightfully so. However, the offseason that followed was a little more than questionable. Yes, while it may be true that you can't retain every free agent, there's at least one that Howie let walk, which has proven to be costly in many a situations this season. That name has to be LeGarrette Blount. Blount tips the scale at 247 lbs, and uses every bit of that frame when running, plowing through defenders with ease. The Eagles current crop of RBs consist of four that surpass the 200 lb threshold, although not one surpasses 225 lbs. The lack of Blount's power-running style has been a key in the Eagles slow-start this season, as they've struggled to get a run game going on third-and-short situations, as well as in the red-zone.
One can also argue that the lack of a replacement for Mychal Kendricks have proven costly at times, which sure enough, also falls on Roseman to a degree. Back in April's draft, the Eagles held the 32nd overall pick. When their pick came up, two names sat up there that were of interest, and those were Darius Leonard and Harold Landry. Instead of opting to fill what would become a major need, the Eagles opt to trade out and acquire additional picks, the first of which ended up being Dallas Goedert. This is not meant to be a dig against Dallas in any way, it's just meant to be the Eagles need at linebacker under a microscope. I believe Goedert has a successful career when the Eagles finally opt to fully involve him in the offense, I simply question whether that was the smart pick when Zach Ertz is already firmly entrenched as the starting tight end for at least a few more years. It certainly comes off as a head-scratcher, especially after seeing how both Landry and Leonard played in their respective games against the Eagles.
By Ryan Waterman
Four weeks into their championship defense, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves in a much different predicament than they did in 2017. Sitting at a .500 record of 2-2, the Birds have found themselves doubted, questioned, and everything in between. Initially, I was one of the first to defend them. Yet, after today's crushing loss against the Tennessee Titans, I now find myself among what I assume to be many Philadelphia fans and experts, wondering -- have the Eagles begun to buy their own hype?