Philadelphia Eagles: Here’s a recap of 2018’s first half

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 and quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles walk down the tunnel headed for the field before playing againt the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field on October 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 and quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles walk down the tunnel headed for the field before playing againt the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field on October 21, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The first half of the Philadelphia Eagles’ season is in the rear-view mirror. Where do we head from here?

As we head into the Philadelphia Eagles Week nine bye, the defending Super Bowl champs find themselves sitting at an even .500 record (4-4). That’s good enough for second place in the NFC East, or as some critics would say the NFC “least” behind the Washington Redskins who hold a mark of 5-2.

Just like every other reigning champion, Philly had an enormous target on their back coming into the 2018 season. The Eagles wanted to prove to the rest of the league last year wasn’t a fluke and that this team is a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

A rough beginning…

In a league where the motto is “on any given Sunday”, it is difficult to remain the best team from one year to the next. Injuries are almost unpreventable in a major contact sport such as football.

Philly started the season with a bevy of players sidelined because of injuries or suspension. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was asked to remain the starting quarterback while Carson Wentz recovered from a torn ACL and MCL, which he suffered in Week 14 last season.

Additionally, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was place on PUP (physically unable to perform) list following offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Then, there’s linebacker Nigel Bradham, who was suspended for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons because he violated the NFL‘s personal conduct policy.

The receiving corps took a significant hit as well. Alshon Jeffery was recovering from surgery on his torn rotator cuff. Mack Hollins was placed on the IR with a groin injury prior to Week 1, and Mike Wallace also placed on the IR after suffering from a fractured fibula during the first half of the Week 2 contest versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Our hero returns while others vanish.

Wentz finally returned in Week 3 for a home game against the Indianapolis Colts, but he was short on receivers to target. The Eagles narrowly won 20-16 with the defense coming up with a last-minute stand. That brought the overall record to 2-1.

With Wentz’s return, it seemed like things were heading in the right direction, but following the victory, Philly had learned safety Rodney McLeod would be out for the season with a torn ACL.

The ensuing week, Jeffery returned to in-game action as the Eagles traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to take on the Titans.

In his first game back Jeffery recorded his best as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. He caught eight passes on nine targets while accumulating 105 yards and one touchdown.

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While Wentz, Jeffery and the rest of the offense put up 23 points the defense couldn’t close the game. Philly had a 17-3 lead halfway through the third quarter but ultimately lost in overtime by a score of 26-23.

The defensive collapse had Eagles fans around the world concerned that this team may not have the same spark as they did last season. Philly’s defense ranked 19th  in the league after four weeks. Additionally, they allowed 271.5 yards per game through the air.

In Week 5, the Eagles returned home to face the Minnesota Vikings in another rematch of a 2017 playoff game, a 38-7 rout to send Philly back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 13 years.

For the second week in a row, the Eagles defense had a lackluster showing, allowing Kirk Cousins to complete 30 out of 37 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown.

Offensively, the Eagles shined in the passing game, but did nothing in the running game. Philly ran the ball 17 times for a total of 81 yards with the longest run being 13 yards by Wendell Smallwood.

Later that week, to make matters even worse the Eagles learned that star running back Jay Ajayi tore his ACL and was out for the season. The news was first broken by a league source who told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

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This news made the Eagles running back room thin, seeing as how Darren Sproles had been sidelined with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 1. He hasn’t been seen since.

On a short week, Philly was slated for a Thursday night matchup with a divisional rival, the New York Giants. This was the Eagles’ first and only game against an NFC East team during the first half of the season. From the moment this one kicked off, Philly had the game completely under control, and they left MetLife Stadium with a 34-13 victory.

The Giants have been struggling all season. As a matter of fact, they have a record of 4-21 since the yacht party with R&B artist Trey Songz which was held prior to their 2016 playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

A log season continues.

Philly had 10 days to rest up and prepare for their next matchup, one versus the Carolina Panthers. The rest seemed to help the Eagles for the first three quarters, but when the fourth quarter rolled around, everything just unraveled.

The Eagles had a 17-0 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the game and proceeded to give up 21 unanswered points. Philly had one last chance to score with a little over a minute left in the game. A defensive pass interference call placed them just outside of the red zone with a chance to walk away with a victory.

A horrendous sequence of plays followed. Wentz nearly threw a pick. He threw an incomplete pass into double coverage, completely missing a check-down route to Smallwood for a first down. An ugly lost fumble would end the game.

During the postgame interview, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said, “this was the worst loss I ever had because we were up 17 points, and they came back and kicked our (expletive).”

Derek Barnett was lost for the season as well after that one.

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In the final game before the Eagles found their way to their bye week, they flew to London to play another underachieving team in the Jacksonville Jaguars. This was a critical one for Philly as they wanted to head into the bye week with some sort of momentum.

Both teams played pretty well throughout, but Philly’s defense stepped up at the end while Wentz and the offense came up with key first downs to send the Eagles back home with a win.

Philly hasn’t played up to their full potential yet, and they have many holes to fill both offensively and defensively.

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Now what?

Earlier this week, right before the trade deadline, Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ vice president of football operations, worked his magic to help Philly land wide receiver Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a third-round pick.

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According to Reuben Frank, sports columnist for NBC Sports Philadelphia, Tate has seven catches of at least 60 yards, since 2013. Only five active players have more than him. Frank also mentioned the 30-year-old Tate is exceptionally durable. He’s only missed one game since the start of the 2011 season.

That makes him the only NFL wide receiver who hasn’t missed more than one game over the past eight seasons.

The acquisition of Tate opens up so much for the rest of Philly’s offense. The ability to stretch the field, which the Eagles have missed all season, will have opposing defenses respecting the deep ball. That should also open up easier running lanes for the running backs.

We’re unsure as to whether or not Tate will make his debut versus Dallas, but fans are hopeful

Speaking of the Cowboys, the second half of the season for the Eagles is filled with NFC East matchups. As mentioned earlier Philly, has only played one game against a division opponent. That means five out of the remaining eight games are against division rivals.

Here are the current standings:

As a whole, the NFC East is not as strong as it once was, so while the Eagles played .500 football through the first eight games, they control their own destiny as the NFL season heads into the home stretch.

Philly is hopeful to get key players back during the second half. That could be Wallace, Hollins, Jernigan, Sproles or Sidney Jones . Whether any of that happens or not, expect ‘The Birds’ to make a strong push towards the playoffs come January.