Good morning, Eagles fans! Fear not! The bye is over and the Birds are back with Dallas in their sights for Sunday. Eagles players will speak to the media in the locker room at 2:20. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh will speak to the media at 4 p.m. and we will carry both of those live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with the NFL's new norm.
1. Offense Key In Second Half
The bye week is over and the Eagles are set to attack the second half with everything in front of them. The next eight games include three crucial divisional games in an NFC East race that got tighter with Washington's loss yesterday. And we will all watch tonight at Dallas takes on the Titans.
Yesterday's games also showed the importance of offense in the current NFL. The Saints put up 45 points yesterday at home and the Rams had 35 in a losing effort. The Eagles will face both of those teams on the road in the second half and crucial games may end up being shootouts. As Eagles' Insider Dave Spadaro writes, this makes the Eagles' trade for Golden Tate all the more important as the offense looks to become more explosive and keep up:
There is no question that defense wins championships – it will stay true until proven otherwise – but in today's NFL, it's vital to have the means to put points up in bunches. Look at the top teams in the league and where they rank in points scored: Kansas City (8-1) leads all 32 teams with 36.3 points per game. New Orleans (7-1) averages 34.9 points per game. The Los Angeles Rams (8-1) are scoring 33.2 points per game. New England (7-2) averages 30 points per game. Chicago (5-3) is scoring at a 29.4-points-per-game clip.
Get the idea?
2. Bye Week Finale
Chris McPherson put together a Bye Week Watch Guide for yesterday's important games that affect the Eagles. While Sunday provided some intriguing and even helpful results, there is still an intriguing game for Eagles fans tonight as the Dallas Cowboys (3-4) host the Tennessee Titans (3-4) on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys have been impressive at home and a win would even their record with the Eagles:
Interesting that the Cowboys will be coming to Lincoln Financial Field for a Sunday night showdown on a short week. We all get to scout the Eagles' next opponent on Monday Night Football as Dallas hosts Tennessee. Dallas is coming off the bye week and new wide receiver Amari Cooper will make his Cowboys debut.
The Titans are also coming off the bye week and, believe it or not, haven't won since beating the Eagles in Week 4. They've lost to the Bills, were shutout by the Ravens, and dropped an overseas matchup to the Chargers after going for a two-point conversion when an extra point would have tied the game in the final minute.
If Dallas loses, that helps the Eagles. No question. But should the Cowboys emerge victorious, it only helps hype up the Dak-Carson storyline and make an Eagles win that much sweeter. Just sayin'.
3. Second Half To-Do List
The first half did not go as well as the Eagles planned. There were unfortunate injuries and little mistakes that added up to losses. The team is a few plays from being 6-2 but currently sits with a 4-4 record. Nonetheless, the Eagles are right in the hunt for the NFC East with consequential tests coming up. Tommy Lawlor writes that if the Eagles can correct a few problems and revert to what worked so well in 2017, they can back to the playoffs and back to their dominant selves:
Can the offense start scoring more points?
The key to this is red zone efficiency. The Eagles are currently 17th in the league when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They average four red zone trips per game, but only convert them into touchdowns 55 percent of the time.
If you can fix that issue and get one more touchdown a game, you go from scoring 22 points per contest to 26. The Eagles led the league in red zone offense last year, so we know they have the potential to excel at this.
4. Is Wentz Better in 2018?
Carson Wentz was an MVP candidate in 2017 before his ACL and LCL tears cut his season short. He dominated the league and put up unreal numbers for a second-year quarterback.
But what if I told you that since returning from his injury this season, Wentz is actually playing better than last season? I took a look at stats from Wentz's first six games of last season and his first six back this year and his dominance this season may come as a surprise:
"I thought he was a very good quarterback last year. I think he's a very good quarterback this year," said Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera before Week 7. "I don't think he's changed his style. He's still an aggressive football player. You still see him tuck and run when he has to. He doesn't go down easy. He fights for everything. I think he's going to be one of the really good ones coming up in this league."
5. Where Are They Now? Chad Lewis
Tight end Chad Lewis was a critical piece in the dominance of the Eagles in the early 2000s. He caught two touchdowns in the 2004 NFC Championship game including one that sealed the game and ended with him sitting in the corner of the end zone and throwing his arms in the air in celebration. Jim Gehman caught up with the BYU alum and found out what he's up to today:
"I worked as hard as I could to be the best tight end I could be for the Philadelphia Eagles. I was proud to take the field as an Eagle. I just feel like I gave everything I had. I mean, I left it all on the field."
6. Didinger: Kuharich's Slam Dunk
Former head coach and general manager Joe Kuharich was the man in charge of one the most disappointing stretches in the franchise history. His moves such as sending away Pro Football Hall of Famers Tommy McDonald and Sonny Jurgensen proved to be part of a long list of mistakes. But there was one move Kuharich got right, writes Ray Didinger. The decision to bring in aging veteran Ollie Matson, an eventual Hall of Famer, was fantastic for the 1966 Eagles and for Matson:
Matson was an All-Pro early in his career with the Chicago Cardinals but he had a lot of miles on him when he arrived in Philadelphia. He was coming off his worst season – 13 rushes for 20 yards with Detroit in 1963 – and most people had written him off. When Kuharich dealt starting left tackle J.D. Smith to the Lions for Matson and defensive lineman Floyd Peters, Matson was seen as a throw-in.
"Don't worry, Ollie has a lot left," Kuharich said. No one believed it but it proved to be true.