November 01, 2020
Two of the worst teams in the National Football League played a game Sunday night. And because of the way the league works — and because 2020 — one of them was going to finish the evening in first place in the NFC East, and therefore in prime position to make the playoffs.
That team was, not surprisingly (after heading into the game as highly favored as 11-points, according to TheLines.com's consensus odds) the Eagles, who at 3-4-1 will head into their bye with the lead in the division thanks to a positively wacky 23-9 win for everyone to see on national television. And thanks to their tie in Week 3, they'll be in first place after the bye too.
They looked god awful in doing so, at least on offense — the defense was pretty outstanding, but playing against Ben DiNucci certainly helped — as Carson Wentz turned the ball over four(!) times and the Eagles struggled to handle things against the league's worst defense before finally breaking things open in the fourth quarter. The Eagles could be the worst Week 9 division leader in NFL history.
The front office won't have a week off as the players and coaches do — the NFL's trade deadline is on Tuesday.
Howie Roseman and his staff must resist the temptation to make any drastic moves. Their position in the standings don't accurately reflect the skill and potential of this football team. And there are a bevy of reasons why the best move before the deadline is no move at all.
The first of these was on full display in Philly's Week 8 victory over their rivals from Dallas. Four key players returned from injury: Jalen Reagor, Dallas Goedert, Jason Peters and T.J. Edwards.
Reagor had his first career NFL touchdown in his return from injury. He also caught a key two-point conversion. Goedert played in a large majority of snaps at tight end and despite limited targets he did have a timely 15-yard grab on a night that Wentz wasn't really distributing the ball well. Peters anchored the Birds' offensive line as it opened up hole after hole for an Eagles rushing attack that gained 119 yards and 4.4 yards per carry. And T.J. Edwards returned ferociously collecting six tackles, a sack and forced fumble.
T.J. Edwards' stat line: 13 tackles, sack, TFL, QB hit. Comes up with a game-sealing play. Monster night for him.— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) November 2, 2020
And all of that is ignoring perhaps their biggest in-season acquisition, practice squad call-up and leading wide receiver Travis Fulgham, who has pretty much come off the street to become the team's go-to receiver. He delivered Sunday night too, pacing every receiver with 78 yards on six catches and a score.
With their injury list as depressing (or perhaps more so) than their record at times during the first half of the season, the Eagles getting healthier and returning to the roster they expected to have back in August gives them a boost better than any a realistic trade would net (were mid-season trades for Genard Avery or Golden Tate really that consequential?)
And the reinforcements will only continue to arrive. Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson, arguably two of the Eagles best offensive players sat out against the Cowboys. Each, with two weeks off, could be full-go in Week 10. Imagine how much more the Eagles could have picked up in the run game with those two healthy.
Zach Ertz should return, Jack Driscoll too. Isaac Seumalo may come back, along with DeSean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery has been in practice and may be ready for Week 10 as well.
Why give anything away, when the Eagles can get better, every week, for free?
Philadelphia should continue to try and improve, but with what they have. If anything, they should be more interested in selling, to open a path for young players to show what they can do in a season in which a hollow division title seems about as high as they can fly.
They should try and get Jalen Hurts some more time with the football, Fulgham time to hone his craft and perhaps be the second of a Reagor-Fulgham receiving duo for years to come. Who knows what some of these unknown players could contribute down the line if given a rare chance to play in meaningful NFL games? (See: Mailata, Jordan)
The offensive line will return Brandon Brooks next season, and former first-round pick Andre Dillard. And Carson Wentz will have more motivation than ever with Hurts breathing down his neck. The future does look bright, even if it's hard to see right now. Don't mortgage it by swapping picks for veterans.
An empty playoff spot, for a division winner that will be historically bad, likely under .500 and that is also likely to lose in the first or second round (and get the 19th pick or worse) is pointless. It's the pre-Process Sixers (or the post-Process Sixers...?).
The Eagles will have some decisions to make, regarding how to handle the impending salary cap atrocity they'll need Roseman to lead them through before the 2021 season. They'll also have to make difficult decisions regarding beloved veterans like Ertz, Brandon Graham and even Fletcher Cox, each of them a year older in a league that sees players age rapidly once they get close to or over 30.
But a fresh draft class is without a doubt the missing ingredient for this team that has had awful draft luck in recent years. And that needs to get younger, badly.
You saw what it took for the Eagles to beat the Giants and Cowboys, two putridly awful teams, with mistake-riddled comeback efforts. An accidental, perhaps embarrassing NFC East title is just a bonus, but it shouldn't be the goal. This team should be thinking about Super Bowls in 2021, 2022 and beyond.
And that's the approach Roseman and Co should be taking at the trade deadline this week.
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