Welcome to Other View, a perspective from members of the media, celebrity Eagles fans and Eagles alumni on the state of the 2014 Eagles that runs here weekly during the season. Today: Les Bowen, who has covered the Eagles for the Philadelphia Daily News since 2002. You can follow Les on Twitter @LesBowen.*
The Eagles are maybe a little better than I thought they would be at this point. I thought they would be a good team and I think the Eagles are headed toward being a very good team and by the end of the season, when they get their injured players back and assuming other key players aren't hurt in the interim, I would think they will be one of the top two or three teams in the NFC and one of the top handful of teams in the league and very serious playoff contenders and a team that can win some games in the playoffs.
I'm heartened by what Malcolm Jenkins has been able to do in the secondary and with the leadership that he brings to the locker room and how he has stabilized the defense. Having Jenkins allows the Eagles to use Connor Barwin in different ways. I like some of the things they've done offensively with Darren Sproles, and I'd like to see more of him. I think that if he recovers quickly from his knee sprain that we will see more from him.
I'd like to see quarterback Nick Foles back to where he was in 2013 in terms of efficiency and not turning the ball over. I understand the idea of growing pains, but if you look at the Eagles' turnover situation right now, it's not really tenable. You can't be a top team in the league with the type of turnover margin that they are putting up and I think Chip Kelly certainly knows that better than anybody. My guess is that the Eagles will make that a large point of emphasis going down the stretch here to stop the giveaways. The 14 giveaways heading into the bye week led the league, and that's not where you want to be and it's not where you can be if you really want to be successful.
I like the way the offensive line has dealt with adversity and getting back Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis over the next few weeks will make that a top-notch unit, and now the Eagles are going to have some players who have gained valuable experience during this time ready to go as backups. I like the way Jeremy Maclin has played and the way Zach Ertz has played, and I love what Brent Celek gives to this team with his leadership and his blocking ability helping the offensive line play well despite having so many injuries. Celek has been crucial to that success.
I'm hopeful for the Eagles that running back LeSean McCoy builds off of the Giants game and returns to more of the form we saw last season. I don't think it's primarily been his fault that his numbers have been so bad. I am really anxious to see, when the offensive line is whole, if defenses can limit McCoy by scheming to stop the run the way so many teams did earlier in this season.
Special teams has probably been my biggest surprise of the season thus far. I thought they would be a little bit better after signing guys like Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman, but I didn't think they would be anything like this. Nobody could have seen this coming. They've been a real factor in every game so far.
Players like Brandon Graham and Nate Allen and Casey Matthews who have grown so much indicate to me what a good teaching coaching staff this is. Having so many coaches who bring out the best in players is going to make the Eagles a strong team for years to come and that's not always the way it works in the NFL and it's not always the way it's worked around here in previous regimes.
When you look at the NFC this year, there really is no team that is going to run away and hide. People like Dallas and the Cowboys are 6-1, but they don't look unbeatable to me. They don't look as good as Seattle was last year. Seattle certainly doesn't look to be as good as Seattle was last year. San Francisco doesn't look to be as good a team as San Francisco was last year. Green Bay is on a nice little roll right now, but the last time I watched one of their games start to finish, Clay Matthews was the only player on defense who could do anything. Aaron Rodgers is having a wonderful roll, but I don't know that Green Bay scares me as a team to play.
I really think the NFC is pretty open for the Eagles, and by the end of the season they should be as good as any team in the conference.