This is where I’m supposed to urge you to calm down – to warn that it’s a long NFL season, that the Eagles haven’t yet beaten a quality opponent, that their flaws will be exposed as seasons turn from whatever Sunday’s tropical swelter was to the cruelness of fall and winter.
But I’m not going there. At the risk of touching my finger to the hot stovetop one more time, I’ll say: Get excited, Eagles fans. You’ve got a damned good team.
After five games, the Eagles have one of the NFL’s elite offensive lines. The running game is clicking (4.5 yards per attempt), the wide receiver corps is deep and the tight end is on pace for 102 receptions.
Their special teams are again special, featuring kicker Jake Elliott and rediscovered punt returner Kenjon Barner. And while teams can pass against the Midnight Green, the defense ranks second in the NFL in stopping the run.
The Eagles 4-1 record has occurred largely without their top defensive player (Fletcher Cox), best cornerback (Ronald Darby), and two all-purpose backs (Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood). Some of the injured figure to return soon.
It’s a rosy picture. Doug Pederson didn’t try to temper hopes after Sunday’s 34-7 crushing of Arizona. “Sky’s the limit,” the head coach said. Then he said it a little louder the second time. “They’re starting to believe in each other. Sky’s the limit. ”
Of course, each stat and spot on the depth chart falls behind the QB in importance. These days, everyone around the Eagles – from the GM to the guy nestled in far end-zone seats – grows giddy watching Carson Wentz evolve into one of the NFL’s elite.
Sunday’s storyline focused on his brilliance in converting third downs (he’s at 71 percent for the season) and red-zone efficiency (scoring a TD 66 percent of the time). Wentz was a solid rookie last year. He’s dazzling as a sophomore.
Wentz received a locker-room visit after Sunday’s win from Donovan McNabb, this franchise’s last real QB of consequence. Of course, it raises comparisons. Remember that it was McNabb’s second season, 2000, when he lifted a team with a young, oft-criticized coach to an 11-5 record and a playoff run.
Can this year’s Eagles do that? They’ve already come further, faster than anyone expected.The rest of the division is flawed. Indeed, there doesn’t appear to be one great NFC team this year (blame that on the league’s persistent numbing goal of parity, if you wish). And while injuries have bruised the Eagles, they’ve wiped out other supposed contenders.
I’d tell you this Thursday night is a test, but I expect the Eagles to lose to Carolina in one of those silly mid-week games that put visiting teams at a huge disadvantage. RT Lane Johnson’s apparent concussion is worrisome.
But if Johnson, Cox and others among the wounded start returning, don’t dismiss the Eagles chances to make the post-season and even win a game or two. I’m not predicting the Lombardi Trophy will be touring Broad Street next February, but what you are watching is not a fluke. Allow yourself to enjoy it.