It's Denver this week, and as the Broncos traveled to Kansas City and struggled all night against the Chiefs, the reality hit home: Short week for them. Long week of waiting for us. The Broncos are in a tailspin with three consecutive defeats. Sunday is going to be very interesting.
Here are some random thoughts on the 7-1 Eagles at the midway point of the regular season ...
- Let's hear it for the Rookie Class, which has made plenty of contributions. First-round draft pick Derek Barnett has been part of an impressive defensive end rotation and is playing with high-energy resulting in highly productive football. Cornerback Rasul Douglas is helping in the secondary, which has withstood injuries and early-season questions. Wide receiver Mack Hollins shows a lot of promise and has been integrated more and more into the offense. Sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls has seen some time at defensive tackle. Linebacker Nathan Gerry is now contributing on special teams. Corey Clement, signed after the draft, has played his way into the rotation at running back. The Rookie Class of 2017 - and that doesn't include kicker Jake Elliott - is off to a promising start.
* Carson Wentz has 19 touchdown passes and five interceptions in eight games. That is a great ratio, and Wentz has been everything – and more – in his second season. Are there things to work on? Sure. Wentz has a tendency to hold on to the football a bit too long and he can try to make big plays on every snap, but those are things he can work on over time. Wentz has taken some hits that were a little worrisome. But this is nit-pick stuff. Wentz is a top NFL quarterback who has a chance to give the Eagles deep-playoff hopes for the next decade.
* The Eagles started Joe Walker at middle linebacker and he played well on Sunday against San Francisco. He was solid with his assignments, he tackled well, and he played fluid football. In the nickel and dime, Malcolm Jenkins played at linebacker with Nigel Bradham – Mychal Kendricks saw reps in that personnel package, too – and Corey Graham came and played safety. It worked as the Eagles shut down the 49ers in the air.
* Consider just how remarkable Jake Elliott has been since signing here. The Bengals' draft pick has already made five field goals of 50-plus yards and he consistently kicks off deep into the end zone. Elliott has missed three PATs, but the weather was a factor on Sunday. Elliott has made 5 of 6 attempts from 50-plus yards and he's nailed 8 of 9 kicks from 40-to-49 yards.
, sign Chris Long in free agency, and draft Barnett. All three have been huge for the defensive line and perfect fits on and off the field.
Without a doubt, the most pleasant surprise of the first half of the season is cornerback Patrick Robinson, an after-thought in free agency who has played so well for the secondary. Robinson is in concussion protocol, so he's a question mark for the Denver game. The Eagles need him against a good group of receivers from the Broncos. Ronald Darby is still working in practice and it's too early to know if he will play against Denver.
Good reviews from head coach Doug Pederson on the play of left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai in his starting debut at left tackle against the 49ers: "I think he held up extremely well. He gave up the one sack, and it was a combination of him getting a little off balance and Carson hanging on to the ball while just waiting for the routes to open up down the field. Things like that are going to happen, obviously, but you take away that play, and he played really well."
Suddenly, the Eagles are second in the NFL in touchdown efficiency in the red zone, putting the ball in the end zone 68 percent of the time. That's a great indicator of just how well the Eagles are executing and closing out drives. The success on third down – the Eagles are second in converting on third downs, too – has gained a lot of attention, but the fact that the offense is scoring touchdowns rather than field goals is a beautiful thing.
Huge game by Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce against Denver, and it makes you wonder what Zach Ertz thinks when he's sitting there watching the next opponent. Denver is great rushing the line of scrimmage and the defense is extremely sound. The Eagles must be patient on offense this week.