PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is a lot to like about the Eagles’ chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions—and a few glaring reasons why they may be better, but not repeating this season.
As for strengths, the Eagles have the best offensive line in the game, with all six starters back: Left tackles Jason Peters and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, left guard Stefen Wisniewski, center Jason Kelce, right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson. They’re one of five other teams, joining the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints—all playoff teams.
With Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, plus Darren Sproles returning, their backfield is also strong and deep. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz could make up the best receiving corps in the NFL.
Then add in the best quarterback group in the NFL, led by Carson Wentz, followed by Nick Foles, and yes, Nate Sudfeld, who would easily be a primary backup on most teams, and possibly even a starter on some. The Eagles have the best, most potent offense in the NFL.
The struggle could come defensively, where the last time we looked, New England ran roughshod over them for a Super Bowl record 613 total yards and 500 passing yards, which resulted in 29 first downs, and an average of 8.5 yards per play and 10 yards per pass attempt.
Can that porous defense carry over in the 2018 regular season?
Probably not, but game-changing linebacker Jordan Hicks is coming off surgery to a ruptured achilles, defensive end Brandon Graham had ankle surgery, which could delay his availability at the start of the season, and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will definitely miss a portion of September.
Also, ask yourself this: If safeties Malcolm Jenkins, the team leader, or Rodney McLeod ever get hurt, what will the Eagles do? They would have a very serious problem. Backing them up on the depth chart are Tre Sullivan and Jeremy Reaves, an undrafted free agent who looks like he’ll make the Eagles as a special team player—but nowhere on the level of Jenkins or McLeod, yet.
The other problem that the Eagles may face comes in a positive area: When will Wentz be 100 percent?
When he does come back, there will always be the risk that Wentz hasn’t learned anything from 2017 and still feels the need to tuck the ball and run.
Wentz’s ability to extend plays is what makes Carson Wentz an NFL MVP-caliber quarterback. Without that sixth sense and mobility, how good will Carson Wentz be—and when?
That is the most pressing question that will determine how the Eagles will do this season.