With the Indianapolis Colts facing the Philadelphia Eagles tonight in the third preseason game, Stampede Blue's Josh Wilson talked with Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Lee Gowton about the Eagles and their outlook for 2016. The questions are in bold and then Brandon’s responses follow.
1. Carson Wentz is injured currently, but how was he looking before the injury? When is he expected to return, and do you anticipate him starting this year?
I went through and broke down every throw (and run) from Carson Wentz's preseason debut. Overall, he made a good first impression. I was impressed by his toughness, arm strength, mobility, and pre-snap awareness. One thing he really needs to work on is his accuracy. There are too many times when he’s sailing passes over the heads of his receivers.
When the rib injury was first announced, it seemed like the Eagles expected to have him back for the fourth preseason game. Wentz has been doing some light throwing in practice but he’s not fully back yet. It remains to be seen if he’ll play onSept. 1.
If Wentz doesn’t play in the preseason finale, we may not see him on the Eagles’ active game roster for quite some time. Sam Bradford will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback until he either struggles or gets hurt. But even if Bradford goes down, it could be Chase Daniel who comes in off the bench before Wentz.
I do think Wentz will start at least one game this year because Bradford is a lame duck quarterback and Daniel is a career backup. If the Eagles aren’t in contention by the end of the year, which is very possible, it will be time for Wentz to get some regular season snaps as the team prepares for 2017.
2. One of the biggest storylines for the Eagles this offseason was all of their trades. It's of course too early to say for sure, but do you think the team made good moves this offseason in that regard?
In short: yes.
Let’s start with the Byron Maxwell/Kiko Alonso trade. The Eagles got rid of an overpriced, underachieving cornerback and an injury-prone, erratic linebacker … AND got to move up five picks in the first round (from No. 13 to No. 8). Shedding Maxwell’s contract and actually getting value in return was a impressive move by Howie Roseman. Alonso was very bad in 2015 so he’s hardly a huge loss.
The DeMarco Murray trade was also a no-brainer for the Eagles. Murray averaged 3.6 yards per carry in 2015. His blocking wasn’t always great, sure, but he also just looked really slow. This should have been expected since he was coming off a huge workload in 2014. Getting rid of his contract and swapping fourth round picks with the Titans was worth it for the Eagles.
These two trades helped the Eagles move up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Carson Wentz. Philadelphia hasn’t had a legitimate franchise quarterback since Donovan McNabb. The Birds have tried a lot of half-measures in the mean-time and none of them have panned out. Making such an aggressive move for a quarterback is unquestionably risky. But the reward could be worth it if Wentz turns out to be a legitimate franchise passer.
3. What has new head coach Doug Pederson brought to the table? What's different with him in charge now, and what are the early impressions of him?
Doug Pederson has brought exactly what was expected of him: a return to the Andy Reid way of doing things. Practice is a lot slower than it was during Chip Kelly’s reign. The Eagles are trying to get back to what used to work for them before Kelly got hired.
The memory of Kelly hasn’t been erased completely. His sports science program still remains. This new Eagles era features a lot of Reid influence with just a touch of Kelly to round things out.
Pederson obviously won’t be truly tested until the real games start. In the meantime, he hasn’t been a disaster. There are plenty of questions about his coaching ability, though. He’s relatively inexperienced and it’s not like he was heavily pursued by NFL teams. He has a lot to prove.
4. What are you looking for from the Eagles in the third preseason game?
Philly's defense has really balled out this summer. Jim Schwartz’s unit held the Buccaneers to nine points before shutting out the Steelers last week.
The offense, meanwhile, hasn’t been so successful. The Eagles’ first team group hasn’t been very impressive through two preseason games. Sam Bradford has been throwing a lot of check downs. The wide receivers have been struggling to get open and even when they do they just drop the passes anyway.
The Eagles will really be looking to get their offense going in this game. A lot of eyes will be on newly acquired pass catcher Dorial Green-Beckham. The Eagles need all the receiver help they can get and DGB is an intriguing player due to his combination of size and speed.
5. What are the expectations for the Eagles in 2016?
Not very high. It’s a weird year. Bradford is a lame duck quarterback. Wentz is clearly the future of this team but he’ll likely be kept inactive on game day to start out the year.
The Eagles simply lack talent on offense. There’s not a lot of reason to be optimistic about that side of the ball, especially with starting right tackle Lane Johnson facing a 10-game suspension.
The defense is a different story. As mentioned earlier, Schwartz’s unit is looking real good. There’s reason to believe the Eagles can have a strong defense this year. And if that’s the case, the Birds might be able to compete in a weak NFC East.
Overall, I think 6-10 is a realistic record projection for the Eagles. 8-8 is the ceiling for this team.