A Sunday of watching the NFL – the NFC East, specifically – was a healer for everyone as the Eagles' bye week ended with a Dallas (2-7) loss and with New York (2-7) helping the cause by defeating Washington (2-6) and, holy moly, look at the Eagles' lead in the NFC East. It's a solid game-and-a-half lead, which in this division seems like an ocean's worth of distance between Philadelphia and the rest of the division.
We've got eight games remaining in the 2020 regular season and the Eagles have work to do. The goal is not just to win the NFC East, of course. Win the Super Bowl or go home unhappy. That's how it works in the NFL. With that in mind, here are some thoughts as the team gets back to work at the NovaCare Complex on Monday fresh and ready to get back at it …
1. The first order of business is to take stock of the injury situation, and the truth is that we're not really going to know until a bit later in the week what kind of progress the Eagles have made in this department.
The expectation is that running back Miles Sanders will return to practice after missing time with a knee injury and, as I explained a few days ago, the Eagles would benefit by building the offense around Sanders. Of course, he has to stay healthy. That's the first objective. His playmaking skills are so important to the offense. The offense will be much more dynamic with Sanders on the field.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is also expected to be at practice as a full-time participant, so the passing game gains here. How will the Eagles use Jeffery? Does he play the X position that Travis Fulgham has manned so capably, with Fulgham moving? Does Jeffery begin on a limited snap count? Both Fulgham and Jalen Reagor are the kind of explosive players the Eagles need on the field. Greg Ward is a solid man in the slot. John Hightower has the vertical speed. Jeffery's return's boosts this group. This will be fun to watch.
Also, defensive tackle Malik Jackson (quad) and cornerback Darius Slay (ankle) were unable to finish the win over Dallas, but both escaped an injury that will sideline them further, per Doug Pederson's day-after press conference last week. So, yes, the Eagles are much healthier right now. What we don't yet know is right tackle Lane Johnson's status as he's been battling knee and ankle injuries all season. Same with guard Isaac Seumalo, who has been out since Week 2 with a left knee injury. He would seem to be closing in on a return, and that would mean a lot for the offensive line. And tight end Zach Ertz is returning from his ankle, although he could be another week or so away.
2. What did the Eagles learn from a week of self-scouting? They looked at the red zone, where the offense ranks 11th in the NFL and the defense ranks 25th. Having Sanders on the field will help the offense, as the running game just hasn't been there inside the 10-yard line. A fairly healthy offensive line will also make the surge better. Defensively, the Eagles need better consistency in their communication, and they need to win at the line of scrimmage. Will coordinator Jim Schwartz tweak his scheme in the red zone? He's always tinkering, so the answer is that he will probably work on a few things.
3. Carson Wentz spent some time hunting during the bye week, if you follow him on social media, and the rest and relaxation should be great for Wentz, who has had the most vexing eight-game stretch of his career. When Wentz has been good, he's been very, very good. His upside is so high, you understand why he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league from a talent standpoint. But the giveaways – 12 interceptions and 4 fumbles – have been troublesome. Which Wentz shows up when the Eagles play at New York on Sunday? He continues to say "I have to be better," and everyone agrees with that. Wentz wants to remain aggressive, which is what he is all about. That's fine. But Wentz has to show some patience and use his football IQ to reduce the mistakes – the turnovers and the times he holds on to the ball too long – so we will see if the week off helped his perspective. Wentz doesn't have to do it all. He has to distribute the football to an offense that is going to have some big-play men who give the Eagles a chance to create favorable matchups.
4. Something to watch defensively is the impact linebacker T.J. Edwards makes moving forward. He was a beast against Dallas with 12 tackles and the big strip-sack in the fourth quarter that led to Rodney McLeod's scoop and score. If Edwards can continue to make strides, the defense will have some "thump" in the middle with Edwards. This is needed. Edwards, a second-year player the Eagles have loved from the time they signed him after the 2019 NFL Draft, no doubt gained a lot of confidence against Dallas as he returned from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him since the San Francisco game.
5. With Avonte Maddox healthy at cornerback, the Eagles can utilize their personnel the way they envisioned when they put the roster together. Moving players like Will Parks and K'Von Wallace in and out of the lineup and playing with six defensive backs who are "positionless" give quarterbacks a lot of different looks. Speaking of Wallace, he's part of a 2020 Rookie Class that should have an impact down the stretch here. Reagor is going to play a lot. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has carved out a role in the offense and that should continue as the Eagles emphasize the red zone and their two-point play considerations. Linebackers Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley will continue to play on special teams and may have more reps come their way on defense. Jack Driscoll is working his way back from an injury, and when he's back, the Eagles gain more depth along the offensive line. Wide receivers Hightower and Quez Watkins are playing.
6. Finally, don't overlook the Giants. They are a much-improved team and have played hard for Head Coach Joe Judge. While they are only 2-7, the Giants have lost close games in the last several weeks – 17-9 to the Rams, 37-34 to Dallas, 22-21 to the Eagles, and 25-23 to Tampa Bay between wins over Washington. The defense is playing well. Quarterback Daniel Jones, hot and cold as young quarterbacks are, presents a dual threat. Even without star running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants are running the football. They stacked up 166 yards on 35 carries against a good Washington front. Defensively, the Giants shut down Washington on the ground and picked off quarterback Alex Smith three times. So, yeah, the Giants are coming. Tough game ahead on Sunday. Very tough.