Only rarely in the first half of their season did the Philadelphia Eagles resemble the NFL’s most recent Super Bowl winner. Call it a Super Bowl hangover. Attribute it to having to work quarterback Carson Wentz back into the lineup. Whatever the case, more is expected when your Lombardi Trophy is still glistening.
With the Eagles returning from a convenient midseason bye, the NFC East remains there for the taking. There is still time for them to enter the running to be the NFC’s best. Nothing has been lost — not yet. But if the Eagles are going to be a threat to defend their title, the time for them to get moving is now.
“It’s kind of right there for this football team to go attack and try to capture,” Coach Doug Pederson said. “So I’ll just remind them each and every day of that.”
The Eagles are 4-4 heading into their Sunday night home game against the Dallas Cowboys. They trail the division-leading Washington Redskins (5-3) by a game.
“I think over the years, sometimes you come out of bye weeks . . . a little slow and everything,” Wentz said this week. “And that’s something we’ve already talked about and emphasized for really starting today at practice fast, just coming out fast, coming out swinging right away on Sunday. That’ll be big for us.”
Wentz spent his bye week duck-hunting in North Dakota with baseball star Mike Trout, a New Jersey native and devoted Eagles fan. It had been a long time without a meaningful break for Wentz after he spent the offseason working his way back from the knee injury that cut short his 2017 season.
“The bye week was great for really the entire team,” Wentz said. “It came at a perfect time — middle of the season. You couldn’t ask for a better bye week than that, to be able to get away and refresh my mind. The rehab and everything that’s been going on the last offseason, this was a big break for me both physically and mentally.”
Wentz has played six games since taking his job back from Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP who started the first two games of this season before Wentz was deemed ready to play. The numbers have been fantastic for Wentz: 13 touchdown passes, two interceptions and a passer rating of 109.6. He has demonstrated again that he can move around nimbly and make improvisational plays when needed.
But those eye-catching numbers have not translated to consistent offensive production. The Eagles rank 14th in the league in total offense and 21st in scoring offense. With the defense ranked second in rushing yards against and tied for fifth in points allowed, the offense needs to do its part.
Help arrived via a trade-deadline deal with the Detroit Lions for wide receiver Golden Tate.
“I love it,” Wentz said. “Any time we can add weapons and guys like Golden with big-play capabilities, I think it [gives] us the potential to be much more explosive and just keep building, trying to find ways to get big plays and those types of things. I’m always excited any time we can add weapons like that.”
Tate was on course for a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season. He gives Wentz one more option as the Eagles try to overtake the Redskins.
Philadelphia faces Washington twice in December, part of a challenging closing schedule that also includes games at New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams. Pederson and Wentz need to work Tate into the offense quickly.
“It’s going to take a little time,” Pederson said. “They’re going to have to spend a little extra time either during or after practice and getting some extra throws possibly, just to kind of get a feel. I think as a quarterback you want to do that, and the same way with Golden. [Lions quarterback] Matthew Stafford throws it probably a little differently than Carson does, so getting used to Carson is just something he’s going to have to do. But we’ve got to do it fast — like now.”
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