Sorry for the wait, Philly. It’s time for you to get NFL offseason recognition.
Excuse us that it took so long. This year, those New England Patriots were amazing. It’s unfair when the Super Bowl champion is the team that has improved the most. But that’s what happened as the Patriots moved away from the rest of the league in a winter and spring that illustrated how smart and how forward-thinking an organization they are.
Yet, buried in the Bill Belichick-run world, the Philadelphia Eagles have spent the offseason getting better. A lot better. Kudos to Howie Roseman and crew.
The Eagles have been so hot his offseason they got better in May when it’s difficult to make an impact addition. Yet, the Eagles continued to stock their offense with the signing of former New England running back LeGarrette Blount. Running back was one of the few remaining problem spots for the Eagles. The Eagles don’t necessarily need Blount to run for 1,161 yards and score 18 rushing touchdowns as he did for New England last season. They just need him to be a reliable, hard runner.
What’s most impressive about the Eagles is they recognized what they needed to do and they accomplished it. In short, this is what the Eagles brass did: it invested in Carson Wentz’s future.
The Eagles traded a load of draft picks last year to draft Wentz with the No. 2 overall selection. The pick of Wentz was considered a gamble since he came from a small school, North Dakota State. Yet, Wentz rewarded the Eagles for their gamble by looking like a polished NFL quarterback. The Eagles started the season with a 5-0 record. Of course, they ended up fading and did not make the playoffs.
Wentz predictably took some lumps as the season wore on. But he always looked like an NFL quarterback. He just needed help. The Eagles gave him help this year.
The big score was signing receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who was considered the best receiving option in free agency. They also signed Torrey Smith, whose outside speed will make Wentz happy.
What Wentz was missing last year were play makers. So adding Jeffrey, Smith and Blount is a recognition of need and a gift for Wentz. With his new weapons to go along with his rookie experience and his natural ability, Wentz should take the next step in his career.
The Eagles also worked on protecting Wentz better in free agency. They signed Chance Warmack and re-signed Stefen Wisniewski.
The Eagles continued to help Wentz in the draft. After concentrating on a strong defense in the first three rounds, Philadelphia got value at skill positions The Eagles took North Carolina receiver Mack Hollins and San Diego State spark plug running back Donnell Pumphrey in the fourth round and added West Virginia speed receiver Sheldon Gibson in the fifth round. The three will have a chance to be rotational players for the Eagles this year.
Defensively, the Eagles were playoff worthy in 2016. While concentrating on offense, Roseman also found time to help that unit. After signing a reliable leader, defensive end Chris Long, in free agency, the Eagles took Tennessee star pass rusher Derek Barnett with the No. 14 pick. They also added a first-round talent in the second round in the form of Washington cornerback Sidney Jones. He suffered an Achilles injury at his pro day. That dropped him in the draft. Yet, Jones is expected to be able to help Philadelphia down the stretch.
Because of the presence of Wentz, a strong defense and a great offseason by Roseman, the Eagles have to be considered contenders in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys ran away from the Eagles in the second half of last season. But with a more explosive offense and better defense, Philadelphia looks like it has the firepower to make divisional noise in 2017.
Will it be enough to overtake New England for total NFL domination? Well, that’s a different story. But the Eagles look like they are on their way to becoming perennial contenders by building around their young, promising quarterback.