PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 24: Trey Burton #88, Corey Clement #30, Carson Wentz #11, and Lane Johnson #65 of the Philadelphia Eagles huddle against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 24, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Giants 27-24. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Eagles are currently sitting with a 3-1 record at the top of the NFC. No matter how good a team is, there is always room to improve.  That is no different for the Eagles.

The Philadelphia Eagles Next Step

Offense Rankings

  • Time of Possession-1st
  • Yards per Game-3rd
  • Pass Yards per Game-11th
  • Rush Yards per Game-tied for 3rd
  • Scoring-7th
  • First Downs-2nd
  • Third Down Conversions-2nd
  • 10+ Yard Plays-1st (tied for first in runs, 3rd in passes)

What Does it Mean?

The Eagles are a top ten, maybe top five offense on paper and on the field. The Eagles have been fantastic on first and third down this year, and have virtually never been in three-and-out situations. A lot of the credit for that goes to coach Doug Pederson. Many fans have been critical of Pederson this year, but he has done a great job. The Eagles move the ball down the field really well, especially over the past two weeks.

Changes

Through Week 2, the Eagles run game looked pitiful. They couldn’t get anything going for the first two weeks. Pederson stepped up and addressed the situation. He didn’t just address the situation, Pederson made the run game elite. A large part of it has been the offensive line play. The Eagles o-line has been the best in the NFL the past two weeks.

Aside from the normal starters, Stefen Wisniewski has been stepping it up after every play. He has played extremely well, between Jason Kelce and Jason Peters. He is big and mobile, which has defined the Eagles offensive line for years. If Pederson sticks with Wiz, he could finish as a top guard in the NFL, rounding out this line very well. The play calling of run plays, running backs, and offensive line have all improved. The Eagles did a fantastic job of handling the situation.

What’s Next?

At the beginning of the year, the problem was the run game. Now, the biggest problem this offense faces is the deep passing game. This off-season, the Eagles went out and signed good, old, reliable Torrey Smith. So far this year, the signing has not worked out. Smith has only 10 catches for 134 yards. However, it’s not just on Smith. Carson Wentz either launches a ball that is right on just to be dropped, or Wentz misses his target. We all saw what it was like in Week 1 to have the deep ball going against the Redskins with Wentz’s launch to Nelson Agholor. When the deep ball is going, another element of the offense takes flight. It completely opens up the field and forces the safeties to play back, which opens up the run game.

Improvements

Nelson Agholor needs to get more involved in the deep game, Smith needs to relax and get back to his old ways, and Wentz has to hit his targets when they are wide open down the field. Smith admitted that he is in a slump in his career. He just needs confidence and to get back to the fundamentals.  Agholor has played really well this year, and he is very fast. He can be a good deep threat.  As for Wentz, he just has to get on the same page as his receivers and stay calm in the pocket. If they can do that, there is no way this offense is not elite.

Defense Rankings

  • Points Allowed per Game-21st
  • Yards per Game-24th
  • Pass Yards per Game-30th
  • Rush Yards per Game-2nd

What Does it Mean?

Well it means one thing, the defense is under-performing. This defense was supposed to be the strongest unit on the team this year, so far that has been true for the first three quarters of each game. However, once the fourth quarter starts, the defense falls apart.  The numbers should be much better than this, and the injuries really do not help. This should be an area that the Eagles will improve on as the season goes on.

Changes

A. Lot. Of. Injuries.

What’s Next?

The next step for the Eagles defense is trying to avoid allowing big plays and late game break downs. The Eagles defense has given up a lot of momentum swaying plays like Kareem Hunt‘s 53-yd touchdown run or Tyrell Williams 75-yd touchdown catch. They need to get healthy so that they can stop these big plays from happening and keep the game in front of them. A lot of this is due to a loss of speed in the secondary and loss of pressure up front. When it comes to the fourth quarter breakdowns, you can sight similar causes. The Eagles are often going into the fourth quarter without key players, such as Jordan Hicks, Rodney McLeod, and Fletcher Cox. If the defense had these key players, it would be a lot easier to control the game.

Improvements

It’s simple, get healthy. The Eagles traded for Ronald Darby just before the beginning of the season for speed and skill in the secondary only to see him get injured in Week 1. Once Darby gets back, it will force the opposing quarterback to hold the ball longer, which will let the defensive line hit home. It will also keep plays in front of the defense because of his elite speed. With Mills and Douglas on the outside, the defense is now very vulnerable to the deep ball and big plays. The Eagles also were missing key players like Cox, Hicks, and McLeod, who will greatly help with preventing big plays and late game breakdowns. With everyone back and on the same page, this defense should be considered elite and help the Eagles be serious contenders this year.

The Bottom Line

The Eagles will be contenders by the end of this year. If Pederson can keep games under control and the defense gets healthy again, then this team has the talent and ability to beat almost any team in the NFL. It’s time for the players to step up and act confident and for the NFL to respect the Eagles as contenders.

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