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July 14, 2019

What they're saying: It's Super Bowl or bust for the Eagles in 2019

Plus, a look at where the Birds' offensive arsenal ranks among other NFL teams

Eagles NFL
Eagles-Super-Bowl_071419_usat Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Last year, following their 2017 Super Bowl season, the Eagles took a step back. After a 9-7 regular season, the Birds, once again led into the playoffs by Nick Foles, were able to knock off the Bears in the Wild Card round before falling to the Saints a week later. 

This year, led by Carson Wentz (hopefully for the whole season this time) and a revamped offense, the Eagles will look to get back to the Super Bowl in February, and that campaign begins in another week and a half.

That's right, football season — at least training camp — is almost here. And the expectations for the Eagles, both internally and externally, locally and nationally, are sky high, with some saying this is a Super-Bowl-or-bust year for Doug Pederson and his team. That, combined with the team falling short of expectations last season, is certainly going to put some serious pressure on the Birds, although it's going to be hard to top the pressure the team faced as defending champions a year ago. 

With the talk of a Super Bowl hangover a thing of the past, there's a good chance a disappointing end to the 2018 season leaves the Eagles with a chip on their shoulder when they return to the NovaCare Complex next week, something Pederson noticed already this offseason, back in minicamp. 

"I kind of mentioned I think the other day that these guys were disappointed in how our season ended," Pederson said last month. "They felt like we were really kind of catching our stride again late in the year. Disappointed on how we finished our season so close to potentially moving on and being in the NFC championship game.

"It was unfortunate we lost that game. I think it resonates with players, and that was my message at the end of the season when we sat here in January was: We have to remember these moments, remember these times, because that's what's going to make us stronger in the future.

"I've seen that excitement and that chip, so to speak, on the guys' shoulders, and they're working hard. They're all building towards the regular season. Now, it's a long season; we understand that. One-game-at-a-time mentality. But there is a little different vibe with the guys this off-season that's been very positive."

The chip will be different than the one the team carried during their Super Bowl run, silencing a sea of critics and doubters with their performances on the field — and ultimately getting the last word from atop the Art Museum steps. This time around, the outside noise surrounding the Birds is overwhelmingly positive, but that doesn't mean they still don't have something to prove. 

That being said, let's take a look at what they're saying about the Birds, which includes some lofty expectations for the 2019 Eagles...

The top offensive arsenals

Bill Barnwell | ESPN

Before getting into the big-picture predictions for the Eagles' season, let's check in with Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com, who recently ranked all 32 NFL teams by offensive arsenal — in other words, "a team's skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme." 

And the Eagles, who upgraded by bringing in DeSean Jackson and Jordan Howard, drafting Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and will get a more-polished Dallas Goedert this season, did extremely well for themselves, especially considering this list doesn't take into account arguably the best offensive line in the NFL or one of the best young quarterbacks out there. 

4. Philadelphia Eagles

2018 rank: No. 7 | 2017: No. 17

I don't think anybody is deeper at the skill positions across the board than Doug Pederson's team. If you took away their best player at each position, you could still roll out a starting five of Miles Sanders, Nelson Agholor, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Dallas Goedert. You would probably prefer that to the Jags' starters. Down the stretch last season, the Eagles started Josh Adams and then Wendell Smallwood at running back; it's not clear whether either back will make the active roster. No team has this sort of depth.

Outside of Zach Ertz, though, it's fair to wonder whether there's the sort of top-level talent we're seeing from the other teams in this top 10. Alshon Jeffery hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2014, though he did make it through the full 16-game season in 2017 with a torn labrum. Jeffery is unquestionably tough and has been a brutally tough out in the playoffs -- aside from the drop against the Saints -- but he also hasn't hit 850 receiving yards in a season in four years. The running back rotation has plenty of interesting options, but there's no guarantee that Miles Sanders steps in and hits the ground running as a rookie back. The sum adds up to more than the individual parts here.  [espn.com]

In case you're wondering, the three teams ahead of the Eagles are the Rams (1), Chiefs (2) and Browns (3). I'd argue that the Eagles have a better arsenal than the Browns, but given that Barnwell said he was putting extra weight on the receivers and valuing top talent over depth (and quarterbacks don't count), I won't put up too much of a fight as the Browns duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry is going to be as dangerous as it is fun to watch. 

And, as I mentioned above, the Eagles are also stacked in the trenches, which isn't factored in to these rankings. 

The State of the Eagles

Adam Rank | NFL.com

Over at NFL.com, Adam Rank took a look at the Eagles expectations for 2019. And it's safe to say that they are SKY HIGH. According to Rank, the only way this season is successful is if there's another parade down Broad Street in February...

2019 roadmap

The competitive urgency index is: THE HIGHEST. There is no reason to have any expectation other than a Super Bowl title. It's not like you're the Cowboys and you hope you can get there. The Eagles are proven winners who should be expected to compete for the Lombardi Trophy.

Will the Eagles be able to ...

Make a run in the playoffs without Nick Foles? As I touched on above, I love Wentz. Philly made the right move going back to him. But his story will always be attached to Foles. In some sense, Wentz is replacing a legend. Kind of like the way Andrew Luck had to come in and replace Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. That might seem somewhat ridiculous when you consider Manning's standing in the hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks (the national perception, not mine), but realize what Foles has meant to this organization. He led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl title and first NFL championship since 1960. There are a good number of fans who believe Philly should have stuck with Foles, given what he's been able to do the last two years. And you know that if the Eagles struggle, there is going to be increasing pressure on Wentz. This is why the competitive urgency index is so high with this team. Because Wentz is now expected to win a Super Bowl. ... 

For 2019 to be a successful season, the Eagles MUST ...

-- Win the Super Bowl.

And if you could, also keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs. In fact, being the only team from the NFC East in the playoffs would be great. But the Lombardi Trophy is the only goal.

In closing

There are some good teams in the NFC, but the Eagles have one of the top rosters (if not the best) in the NFL right now. They are taking a slight leap of faith by going with Wentz, but it feels like the right move to me. Philadelphia is not only going to be a contender for the Super Bowl this season, but for some time to come.  [nfl.com]

How far can the Eagles go?

Staff | NBC Sports Philadelphia

When Ray Didinger talks about the Eagles, you listen. In the below video, Ray Diddy provides his outlook for the team in 2019, saying "they feel like they have something to prove."

[nbcsports.com]

More love for Jenkins

Cody Benjamin | CBS Sports

This offseason, there's been a lot of talk about Malcolm Jenkins, who has made his desire for a new contract well known. Unlike others, Jenkins said he won't skip training camp while he seeks a pay raise to put him on the same level as other top safeties. And that's good news for the Birds, as Jenkins is one of the best in his position in the NFL. Recently, Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports ranked the top safeties in the league, and Jenkins came in seventh overall.

7. Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles

Like McCourty, he's been doing it the right way for Super Bowl contenders for a while now. Jenkins' turnover totals aren't outrageous, but he's good in the clutch, solid all-around and maybe the most versatile of this bunch. A model of both leadership and durability, he's also probably the most underpaid of the group, especially considering ...  [cbssports.com]


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