Do you feel like you know what to expect from the Eagles on a week-in, week-out basis? We’re six games into the season. The Eagles have had an unusual number of injuries and players in and out of the lineup. At 3-3 and coming off the big win last Thursday night over the Giants, have the Eagles gained their 2018 identity?
“I don’t think I can answer that question yet,” center Jason Kelce said. “We’ll see. I know that we played the kind of game against the Giants that we’ve been hoping to have. We were much more consistent with our performance all around and we cut down on our self-inflicting mistakes, we scored in the red zone, we scored early in the game, and we were balanced. It was encouraging. It feels good to go out and execute.
“But I don’t know what that game means looking ahead. We have to go out and play the same way on Sunday against Carolina.”
Said safety Malcolm Jenkins: “I hope so. We have a lot of confidence that we are headed in the right direction, but you never know until you go out and do it. Sunday’s game is big for us. We have to bring the same consistency in our performance and if we do that, I think we’re going to be pleased.”
Give head coach Doug Pederson a lot of credit here: Coming off the physical and emotional toll of winning the Super Bowl and reveling in the celebration after – the post-Super Bowl challenge is very real – and then facing injury challenges through the first six weeks of the season, Pederson has remained positive, energetic, and focused on getting the Eagles on the right track and staying there. He points to playing with “confidence” and “swagger” and eliminating the myriad mistakes that have halted progress in 2018.
Injuries are never an excuse for an NFL team, but they are a reality. And the reality is that the Eagles have been socked with injuries. The list is a long one …
- At wide receiver, Mike Wallace went on Injured Reserve with a broken leg, joining Mack Hollins (groin). The two, counted on heavily to contribute to the passing game, instead have exactly zero receptions in six weeks. There is no word on their return or the possibility of either playing the remainder of this season.
- Running back Jay Ajayi, the lead back in a rotation-heavy backfield, went down with a torn ACL in the loss against Minnesota. He’s done for the season.
- Running back Corey Clement was inactive for one game and dressed but did not play in another as he recovered from a quadriceps injury. Clement may not be all the way back to 100 percent, but he’s on the field and a big part of the offense moving forward.
- Darren Sproles, one of the league’s dynamic punt returners and threats in the passing game out of the backfield, hasn’t played since suffering a hamstring injury after the Week 1 victory over Atlanta. Sproles was a big part of that win and he’s been missed on the field.
- Left tackle Jason Peters has played in 75 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, including only eight snaps against Tampa Bay and only 38 last week at New York. He’s now playing with some kind of biceps injury that, the Eagles say, won’t limit his playing time. Peters' inconsistency staying on the field is tough for an offensive line searching for chemistry.
- Tight end Richard Rodgers, signed in free agency and expected to be a solid third tight end with receiving skills and a good, in-line blocking game, hurt his knee in the preseason and was placed on Injured Reserve.
- Oh, and Wentz (two games) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (three games) started their regular seasons late coming off injuries suffered in the 2017 Super Bowl run, further delaying an offense trying to find its rhythm.
- On defense, starting safety Rodney McLeod is out for the season after suffering a knee injury against Indianapolis. Fellow safety Chris Maragos remains on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list after suffering a knee injury last season.
- Starting defensive end Derek Barnett missed one game with a shoulder injury and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back) remains on the league’s Non-Football Injury list. He’s making progress, but there is no timetable as to when Jernigan will return. Tackle Haloti Ngata has missed the last two games and has been limited this week in practice with a calf injury.
Every team has its injury lists and concerns and challenges to its roster depth. There are no excuses. But there is no question that the Eagles have been inconsistent – OK, OK, slow in many ways – and the injuries have had something to do with that.
“We just have to be consistent, the way we know we can play,” said tight end Zach Ertz, who is second among all players in the NFL with 48 receptions. “We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and play our best football. It’s there for us. Our goals are there for us to accomplish. It’s something where we have to be at our best at all times. We’re getting other teams’ best shots. We have to be ready for that and we are. We’re up for the test. I think we’re going to find out a lot about our football team the next couple of weeks.”
Ertz said all of that in the immediate afterglow of the win over New York. A mini-bye weekend followed as the players took off Friday through Sunday. Now it’s back to work. The Eagles are deep in the weeds preparing for a good Carolina team stinging after its loss to Washington last week. A physical game awaits at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
And with it, a chance to answer the question of whether the Eagles have found their footing and if we know what to expect from this football team on a consistent basis as the playoff field starts to form in the NFC.