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November 06, 2018

Al Morganti: Bye week treated Eagles well — and now they're poised for a second-half run

The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t even play a game this past weekend, but it sure feels like they used the bye week to gain more yardage in the NFL in terms of success than any other team.

While the Eagles were sitting back and enjoying the bye, the front office, headed by Howie Roseman, went out and acquired wide receiver Golden Tate. Then, while Tate was studying the playbook, and while quarterback Carson Wentz was out hunting with Mike Trout, the Eagles benefited from a week of horrors for a couple of NFC East adversaries.

The Washington Redskins not only lost in a big way to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but they also lost in a big way in terms of their roster, as three starters suffered season-ending injuries. Making matters even better for the Birds, one night later, the Dallas Cowboys were embarrassed by the Tennessee Titans on national television.

As for the other member of this NFC East mess, the New York Giants don’t even figure into the equation. They are facing a future without a quarterback as Eli Manning’s star has dimmed to the point of becoming a black hole.

And just to add to the enjoyment of Eagles fans, when the second half of the season cranks up this Sunday in Philadelphia, it will be the Cowboys providing the opposition. Want to talk about a sweet restart? The Cowboys always provide a jolt of energy to both the fans and the team. The situation is almost like deferring the coin toss to start a game: it is the Eagles who will be on the offensive when the second half of the schedule takes place against the Cowboys.

Sure enough, there is still the matter of both the New Orleans Saints and Los Angels Rams, a pair of powerful teams in the NFC still awaiting the Birds — and the Saints looked truly potent on Sunday when they handed those Rams their first loss of the season.

Then again, the Green Bay Packers have faded to the point where quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t likely to even get a shot to make miracles happen in the playoffs, while the Eagles should do nothing but improve as the calendar heads toward December and beyond.

The basis of all this optimism is the progress of Carson Wentz, who should truly benefit from the addition of Tate. Wentz now has a bigger variety of targets, not to mention Tate’s ability to scoot for huge chunks of yardage after a short pass. However, it is more than just the addition of another receiver that makes the Eagles appear to be such an imposing team over the next few months. The bigger factor is likely to be the continued improvement of Wentz in terms of his overall health.

Although Wentz has been statistically solid in terms of his quarterback rating over the first part of the season, it was also obvious that he was not back at 100 percent from the knee injury that derailed him last season. Each week he has looked better and better in terms of escaping the pocket and using his wheels, and it is fully expected that he will be running at full capacity when the Eagles enter their crucial late-season stretch in December.

The Eagles front office knows the special talent it has in Wentz, and the goal of Roseman and and all of those involved should be to give Wentz every weapon he needs to make sure the team is not a one-shot champion.

All they need to do is look at Green Bay, where an equally passionate fan base is likely to only get the single Super Bowl championship during the career of Rodgers. You can probably find more than a few people who believe Rodgers is every bit the equal of Tom Brady in terms of talent, but he has never had the front office and coaching machinery of the New England Patriots to allow him to win all that he should have won.

It does not appear the Eagles will allow the chance of consistent winning to escape. This should be the golden era of Eagles football.

Initially, it appeared that the Cowboys, with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, would be a measuring stick for the next decade. That has all fallen apart, and the Eagles are at the top of the NFC East mountain.

All well and good, but the Eagles have a much larger mountain to climb and they should start that trek on Sunday against those Cowboys.

You could not ask for much more – a well needed breather after a trip to London; a new weapon for the star quarterback to utilize; a ransacked NFC East; and a hated divisional foe on the menu to start the second half.

Sounds like a recipe for success.