The first week of the new NFL calendar arrived in Philadelphia with a flurry. The Eagles brought back prodigal son Desean Jackson and added DT Malik Jackson. They said goodbye to Nick Foles, Jordan Hicks and Golden Tate.
Overall, are they better than they were at the end of 2018? I ran a Twitter poll last weekend and 67 percent of the 7,500 respondents said this is an improved team.
That result suggests strong faith in GM Howie Roseman. I think they’ve still got to find a quality running back and bolster the offensive line and pass rush. But here’s the good news: Even if the Eagles are standing still, the rest of the NFC East is going backwards. The boys in green are far and away the class of their division.
Sure, that’s a low bar. Long gone are the days when coaches like Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson dominated pro football; When Lawrence Taylor, Emmitt Smith and Darrell Green were the class of the league. Now it’s the Eagles, and three scuffling squads that look like they’re playing for the prison championship in “The Longest Yard.”
Wait, are those Cowboys fans I hear yowling in protest? Yes, Dallas won the division in 2018 at 10-6 (with a point differential of just plus-15). But the Cowboys are fatally flawed as long as barking seal Jason Garrett remains their coach and owner Jerry Jones remains their personnel director. I believe that Jones keeps Garrett on hand just because Old Leatherface knows he can push the coach around without protest.
The Cowboys have been quiet thus far this off-season, other than pulling septuagenarian tight end Jason Witten out of retirement – a blessing to every viewer of Monday Night Football. They whiffed on signing safety Earl Thomas. And they lost LB Damien Wilson and slot receiver Cole Beasley as free agents. Beasley may be past his prime, but no Eagles fan will mourn him leaving the division.
The two other division teams are in worse shape. Having lost QB Alex Smith to a potential career-ending injury, Washington traded for the bloated salary of Case Keenum, who may be challenged just to beat Colt McCoy for the starting job. This team needs a long-term answer at QB, and isn’t likely to find it in the upcoming draft.
Washington also signed in-the-box safety Landon Collins, earlier cut by the Giants, to a six-year, $84 million deal. I won’t tell you Collins isn’t a good player – he’s certainly an improvement over the slop the Skins started in their secondary last season. But he’s now vastly overpaid and – as usual – Washington finds itself in salary cap trouble.
The Giants, meanwhile, are in every kind of trouble. In addition to cutting Collins, GM Dave Gettleman traded Odell Beckham to Cleveland, signaling a rebuild. Then Gettleman signed Golden Tate to a $23 million guarantee, even though Tate’s best spot is as slot receiver and the Giants have a decent slot man in Sterling Shepard.
New York seems headed toward running Saquon Barkley 500 times in 2019 and sticking with QB Eli Manning until he qualifies for AARP. Their long-term plan is. . . well, they have none. They are the Cleveland Browns of the next decade.
Now, none of this makes the Eagles better as a team – although it does seem to promise four or five in-division wins in 2019. Objectively, the Saints and Rams currently rank ahead of the Birds in any power rankings.
But if the ineptitude of rivals brings you pleasure, these are good times for Birds fans.