- We're talkin' merchandise sales, roster strength, Darren Sproles, and a whole lot more with Training Camp only a few days away!
How much does winning matter as it relates to the profile of a team and its players? We're finding out as the NFLPA released its list of the Top 50 Player Sales of officially licensed merchandise from March 1 through May 30. Quarterback Nick Foles tops the list, quarterback Carson Wentz is third, tight end Zach Ertz is 13th, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is 33rd, defensive end Brandon Graham is 34th, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is 46th. Running back LeGarrette Blount, now with Detroit, checks in at No. 49.
This is remarkable stuff, although certainly not shocking. When you win, the world notices. The Eagles had a taste of this back in the Donovan McNabb-Terrell Owens-Brian Dawkins-Brian Westbrook days, but nothing like this. The Eagles are the hottest property in the NFL and the fans have made sure to celebrate the Super Bowl victory in style and by wearing their Eagles gear loudly and proudly. So, what exactly have the fans been buying? Some notes from the NFLPA's announcement:
· For Foles and Wentz, pictures are worth more than a thousand words as fans powered the duo to Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in photo products by Photo File and Highland Mint.
- Wentz was among the leaders in sales of removable wall decals from Fathead.
- Eleven players among the top 15 best-sellers of bobbleheads from Forever Collectibles were Eagles.
- Foles and Wentz joined a group including Tom Brady, Ezekiel Elliott, and Odell Beckham Jr. that collectively led sales in licensed headwear from LIDS and New Era.
- In the category of youth jersey sales from adidas, Outerstuff, Fanatics, and Nike, Wentz was among the best sellers.
- Wentz was second and Foles fourth in the sale of jerseys in that period of time.
Eagles fans were already incredible with their support, and the Super Bowl victory just raised the bar. The buzz is amazing, with the latest evidence the gone-in-an-instant tickets for the two public practices on August 5 and August 11 for Training Camp at Lincoln Financial Field. Simply put, the reaction after winning Super Bowl LII has been perfect as the Eagles become the most visible team in the NFL.
The Future Looks Even Brighter
ESPN.com analysts projected the Future Power Rankings for the next three seasons and the Eagles came out first of the 32 teams. Not entirely surprising, as Howie Roseman's strategy of cleaning of the roster, locking the core of the team into long-term contracts, and having success in the draft have made this roster deep and talented. Using the categories of roster, quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching, the Eagles came out ahead of New England with a score of 88.7 to the Patriots' 86.7. Wrote analyst Mike Sando under the category, What Could Change For The Better, "The Eagles ranked in the NFL's top three across every category, so it might be unrealistic for Philly to exceed expectations. But what if 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones became a shutdown corner after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon? The talent would seem to be there. If it happened, the Eagles could get massive value from a position where all their top players are playing on lower-priced rookie deals."
In a nutshell, things are certainly looking up for the Eagles. But the word of warning is this, as Roseman well knows: Things change very quickly in the NFL, so the Eagles would be wise to remain aggressive and continue to improve the current roster as well as keep an eye on two to three years into the future.
Darren Sproles, Comeback Player of the Year?
Saints quarterback Drew Brees recently nominated running back Darren Sproles (along with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck) as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, and it makes sense. Now, we'll see how much of an opportunity Sproles has in terms of touches in this talented Eagles offense. The days of Sproles catching 70 passes a season seem to be gone, but you never really know, do you? There won't be a more motivated player in the NFL this season. Sproles wants to end his career with an epic season, and anybody who doubts him is foolish. But the question is: How will the Eagles use Sproles? He'll return punts and the Eagles can certainly use a boost there. A couple of big returns could change the dynamic of how teams punt to the Eagles and having Sproles back in return position will alter the approach, anyway. From the line of scrimmage, the expectation is that Sproles could move around the formation and use his quickness and pass-catching skills in favorable matchups against linebackers.
Corey Clement deserves some touches and Jay Ajayi is primed for a big season – he looked just great in the spring – but there is a place for Sproles. Consider Sproles another piece for head coach Doug Pederson and his coaching staff to use creatively in the offense. He's going to make some big plays.
How Will Eagles Handle Success?
The idea of how the Eagles will handle success is something that is being discussed, notably by former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who suggested that the Eagles will "have a hard time handling success." Hmmmm … It's tough to see that coming. Look, no doubt the Eagles have to understand that they are the hunted team, and that every opponent will give them their best shot. There's a reason only eight teams in NFL history have repeated as Super Bowl Champions. But the Eagles also have a veteran locker room. They've got great leadership. They've also got a bunch of players - Wentz, Sproles, left tackle Jason Peters, middle linebacker Jordan Hicks - who didn't play in the Super Bowl and who come back hungry to get to the top of the mountain on the field.
The NFC East is a wacky division and not since the Eagles of 2004 has a team repeated as champion. That's also the last time a team, New England, repeated as Super Bowl Champion. It's going to be a tremendous challenge, no question about that. But a hard time handling success? That isn't the same thing. The Eagles are handling success just fine.
The League's Best Pass Rush Will Help
Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles' pass rush as best in the NFL. The scheme, combined with a very talented and deep group, set things up nicely for Jim Schwartz's defense. Wrote PFF: "The Eagles led the way in our offensive line rankings and they lead the way again here. With a unit that is as impressive on the edge as on the interior, and with elite top-level players and solid depth, another big season seems likely."
Let's get this season started already!