Eagles Good, But Are They Great?
PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Eagles are out to their first 4-1 start since 2014 after hammering the Arizona Cardinals 34-7 on Sunday.
The Eagles dominated every aspect of the game. The offense put up 21 points in the first quarter. The Defense limited the Cardinals to just 31 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Special Teams contributed with a 76-yard punt return as well as a blocked field goal.
Equally impressive is the way the Eagles offense has squeezed the life out of its opponents in the fourth quarter by eating up massive amounts of time. Those long time of possession drives are also ending with points.
There is a fine line in the NFL between good teams and great teams. So, where does this 2017 Philadelphia Eagles team sit on that spectrum?
"We are 4-1," Safety Malcolm Jenkins chuckled. "You can't determine whether you are good or great until you get to the end of it and we are far from the end. We like the progression we are making, but none of us signed up to only win four games. None of us are drinking the Kool-Aid yet."
"It is too hard to evaluate right now," Center Jason Kelce stated. "The best teams continually get better each and every week. We still have to keep improving."
While the players are grounded, it is time to start giving this team some credit. They were the only NFC East team to win each of the last two weeks. That has asserted them as the team to beat in the division. They area also among the league leaders in multiple categories on all three sides of the ball:
- 1st in the NFL in Time of Possession (35:32)
- 1st in the NFL in 3rd Down Conversion Percentage (53.8%)
- 2nd in the NFL in Rush Yards Allowed per Game (62.8)
- 2nd in the NFL in Avg. Yards per Punt Return (18)
- 3rd in the NFL in Yards per Game (397.8)
- 5th in the NFL in Rush Yards per Game (138.8)
- 5th in the NFL in Opponents 3rd Down Conversion Percentage (35%)
Perhaps the biggest difference from the solid start a year ago and this one is the way the team is winning these games. The offense has controlled the clock in key moments late in the game. In Los Angeles against the Chargers, the Eagles got the ball leading 26-24 with 6:44 remaining and managed to run out the clock. Against the Cardinals on Sunday, the Eagles went on a 13-play drive covering 58 yards while eating up 9:14 off the clock. That drive ended with a Jake Elliott 28-yard field goal.
"There are certainly times when you really want time of possession, especially when you are holding on to close leads late in the game," Kelce said. "That is where that stat becomes huge. We have been very, very good at that recently and hopefully we can keep on doing that."
This defense also appears to take it personally every time the opponent crosses the goal line. With a 34-7 lead and less than two minutes remaining, Safety Rodney McLeod did everything he could to keep the Cardinals out of the endzone. He came streaking towards the sideline and delivered a huge hit on J.J. Nelson jarring the ball out of his hands and through the endzone for a touchback.
"When we stepped on that field at the end of the game, we could’ve easily just been like, ‘whatever’," McLeod stated. "But everybody was all in, everybody was locked in and everybody’s held accountable. So I was just there to help.”
"At the end of the game for them to score right there would’ve meant nothing," Jenkins said. "We could’ve easily given up on the play. But I think it kind of shows the fight we have as a defense and the mentality we have. As long as the ball’s in play, we’re going to go hard.”
The Eagles are on the right track. They clearly appear to be a team trending in the right direction in all aspects of the game. They have also weathered some injuries to key players. Some see this potentially being a special season on a special team.
"Every team I am on I am always thinking great team, but I love the characteristics of this team as far as how we react in pressure situations," Defensive End Brandon Graham said with a smile. "That is the mindset that we keep talking about on the sideline. That is what we didn't have a lot of last year as much as we wanted it. Now we are doing that."
"I think we definitely have the ability [to be great]." Wide Receiver Torrey Smith stated. "There is no doubt about that. I thought that before I came here. The way these guys work and the way these coaches work you see it each and every day. That doesn't really matter if you don't go out there and handle your business on Sunday. But, it has the look of it and the make of a team that can be very successful."
The Eagles have won three straight. Their next test of adversity will be dealing with a short week of preparation for another team on a roll. The 4-1 Eagles will visit the 4-1 Carolina Panthers Thursday night.