July 10, 2017
What the future holds for the Philadelphia Eagles remains to be seen, but it's nearly impossible to argue with the notion that it's looking better now than it did a few years ago.
And the 2017 season will be a big one for the Birds, a year in which we should learn quite a bit more about two of the people who could have the greatest impact going forward: quarterback Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson, both of whom are entering their second year on the job.
The early returns were promising, and according to the NFL analysts over at ESPN, they feel better about the Eagles' future than they did at this same time last season. They ranked the Birds 19th in their updated NFL Future Power Rankings, five spots ahead of where they were a year ago.
But before we get further into the numbers and analysis, it's important to note that these differ from traditional power rankings in that they're looking to identify which teams are best positioned for long-term success rather than which teams are the hottest at the current moment.
Here's a look at ESPN's methodology:
To project which NFL franchises are in the best shape for the next three seasons, we asked our panel of experts -- Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates -- to rate each team's roster (excluding quarterback), quarterback, draft, front office and coaching using this scale:
100: A+ (Elite), 90: A (Great), 80: B (Very good), 70: C (Average), 60: D (Very bad), 50: F (Disastrous), 40: F- (The worst thing imaginable).
After averaging the results from the panelists, each of the five categories was weighted to create the overall score -- roster (30 percent), quarterback (20 percent), draft (15 percent), front office (15 percent) and coaching (20 percent). The result is a comprehensive ranking based on how well each team is positioned for the future. [ESPN IN$IDER]
The Eagles finished with an overall score of 75.85 and saw improvements in all five categories:
• Roster: 76.0 (+14.3)
• QB: 81.3 (+18)
• Coaching: 69.7 (+6.7)
• Draft: 74.0 (+12.3)
• Front Office: 78.3 (+11.6)
Their highest-rated position was quarterback (81.3) – it was also their most-improved area and a huge part of the reason the Eagles climbed five spots up the rankings:
The fastest way to rise in these rankings is through quarterback validation. Specifically, if Carson Wentz makes a leap in Year 2, Philly's outlook shifts upward. He surged early as a rookie, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 start. But as the season wore on, Wentz's mechanics regressed and his play fell off. But big-picture, Wentz still has plenty of traits you look for in a potential franchise quarterback, which gives the Eagles plenty of hope for the future. -- Field Yates [ESPN IN$IDER]
That was followed by the team's front office at 78.3, an improvement of 11.6 points from last year. But on the other side of the spectrum: coaching. Pederson had the lowest year-over-year improvement – an improvement nonetheless – and was the only one to receive a below average rating.
Doug Pederson is a relatively young head coach (age 49) coming off a respectable 7-9 first season. He has a promising young quarterback to build around. The Eagles' coaching situation would appear to be a glass-half-full scenario under the circumstances, but Philly ranked just 26th in coaching outlook. Beating those low expectations shouldn't require a miracle. -- Mike Sando [ESPN IN$IDER]
The Eagles finished five spots ahead of Washington (24th) but are still stuck behind a pair of NFC East rivals – the Cowboys (6th) and the Giants (11th) – after finishing 10th in the conference.
I'm not entirely sure how the Giants finished eight spots ahead of the Eagles – if it was regular power rankings I'd be more on board with it. But when it comes to ranking the teams' futures, and the methodology used by ESPN, I don't understand how 57-year-old Eli Manning and second-year head coach Ben McAdoo are that much better than what the Eagles have.
I guess this is just what we do in July...
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