ESPN's Sal Paolantonio is bullish on the Eagles' chances of winning the NFC East in 2017. In an interview with Dave Spadaro, Paolantonio thinks that the Eagles will compete for the division title, and it'll come down to either the Birds or the New York Giants.
Not the Dallas Cowboys?
"I think you'll see a little bit of a drop-off in the run game because Ezekiel Elliott's had some off-the-field problems this offseason," Paolantonio said of the Cowboys. "I think their defense has been decimated through losses of different players and they won't be the same."
Makes sense, but why does he believe in the Eagles? One big reason is No. 11 Carson Wentz.
"He's definitely more relaxed, more comfortable in the skin of being the franchise quarterback. He's definitely more confident," he said. "His confidence and maturity are off the charts."
"These are the types of things you don't expect out of a Year 2 player," he said. "Now he's just got to translate that all to the football field."
Offensively, Paolantonio insists that the Eagles must balance the offense after Wentz attempted 607 passes last season, the second-highest total for a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Paolantonio acknowledges the question mark defensively at the cornerback position, but argues that Jim Schwartz is "is one of the smartest defensive coordinators we have in the National Football League."
He knows that the pass rush can help the secondary and senses the team is accelerating the learning curve for first-round pick Derek Barnett after watching practice.
"They don't want to wait until Year 2 for him to blossom. They want impact right now from a rookie defensive lineman to get to the quarterback," Paolantonio said.