The 2018 NFL Draft wrapped up a week ago. That meant that some people began posting 2019 mock drafts. It is obviously crazy to post them a year early, but some fans love it so plenty of draft writers do them. I glanced at a couple of out curiosity. The thing that struck me had nothing to do with the picks. Not one of the mock drafts had the Eagles picking 32nd.
Most teams that win the Super Bowl and return most of its talent will go into the next season as the favorite to win. I don't think that will be the case this year.
Some people have fallen in love with the Los Angeles Rams and all the bold moves they made. They added veteran stars like Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Ndamukong Suh, and Brandin Cooks. You can see where some of that hype is coming from.
Other people love the Saints. That team looked dominant at times last year. They added some good pieces on defense and were able to keep Drew Brees around. The Saints could be a force this year. The team that beat them in the postseason, the Vikings, will also be good this year.
Minnesota had a dream season come to a nightmarish finish at Lincoln Financial Field. They made a huge change, going with Kirk Cousins at quarterback. They added Sheldon Richardson to the league's top-ranked defense. The Vikings also have running back Dalvin Cook returning from injury. He is an explosive runner and flashed big-time talent last year.
The Falcons and Packers will get some hype. Plenty of people will pick the Patriots to win the Super Bowl this year. Even the Jaguars will get some support. They have a loaded roster.
Don't get me wrong. Most people expect the Eagles to be really good. It just feels funny to see a team that won the Super Bowl bringing back so many starters but not be considered the favorite.
This is actually a good thing. Doug Pederson will motivate his players by letting them know they are back to being underdogs to a lot of people. The biggest fear you have with a team coming off a championship is that complacency will set in.
Pederson now has a way to motivate his team.
You can be sure he will let his guys know they aren't as “good” as the Rams or Saints or Vikings or whoever. He will convince his players that they once again are in the underdog role. That will keep them motivated and from being overconfident.
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Not all players will need that motivation. Darren Sproles missed most of last year. He watched the playoff run from the sideline. Sproles might be playing his final season and he will do everything in his power to get the Eagles back to the top. Sproles has done a lot in his amazing career, but he has never played in a Super Bowl win.
Jason Peters has never suited up in a playoff win. He never played in one with the Bills. He then lost with the Eagles in 2009, 2010, and 2013. Sitting on the sideline and watching the team's success last year had to be almost torturous for him. It was great to see the team win, but why did he have to get hurt the one year he was part of a juggernaut team?
Peters wants to be a Hall of Fame player and one thing that really helps offensive linemen is having a Super Bowl on their résumé. We don't know how much longer Peters will be playing so you can bet he will be all-in this season.
Jordan Hicks missed about half the season. He's a young guy so he won't have the same mindset that Sproles and Peters do, but Hicks will be very motivated in his own right. He is in the final year of his contract and needs to prove that he can stay healthy for a full year.
Hicks was a leader on defense when the season began and it had to be tough to watch them play so well with him out. The defense would have been even better with him. The Eagles sure could have used a player with his cover skills in the Super Bowl. He will certainly have a chip on his shoulder this year.
Carson Wentz finds himself in an incredibly unusual position. He's coming off the best season ever by an Eagles quarterback. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in December and has to focus on rehabbing his knee rather than improving his game.
Wentz watched his buddy Nick Foles lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win. Foles was the Super Bowl MVP and the offense was amazingly good in both the NFC title game and the Super Bowl. As great as it was to watch his friends and teammates hoist the Lombardi Trophy, you know it ate at Wentz that he wasn't throwing those passes in the postseason run.
Wentz will be a driven man this season. He is dying to get back on the field. He's working relentlessly to get back. Wentz won't be basking in the glory of his 33 touchdown passes or MVP-level performance from last year. He's still got a lot to prove.
The goal for Wentz is to get back on the field and keep winning. He wants his chance to play in the postseason and to show what he can do in January and February. Wentz is going to be incredibly motivated to get the Eagles back to the playoffs.
Pederson pushed all the right buttons last year. He knew how to keep his team focused and motivated. That will be even more challenging this year because the team did win it all in 2017. A lot of hype going to other teams will help Pederson sell his message to this year's squad.
Having several key players and team leaders coming back from injury will also help. Those guys are going to be hungry to get back to the big game and get their own taste of postseason glory.
The 2018 Eagles won't rest on the laurels of last year. That's ancient history. This team wants to show what they can do and to carve out some history of their own.