Eagles Win Over Cowboys Ends 2016 Campaign
The Eagles season ended yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field in winning fashion with a 27-13 victory over a playoff-bound Cowboy team. The Cowboys, who came into the game with a 13-2 record and a lock on the number one seed in the NFC, rested the majority of their starters throughout the course of the game. Ezekiel Elliott, the mercurial rookie and leading rusher in the NFL, sat out the game for the Cowboys, who started Darren McFadden in his place. Dak Prescott, both a viable candidate for rookie and MVP of the year, played two series before giving way to Tony Romo. The Eagles, who trailed 10-3 after Romo engineered a scoring drive (3-4, 29 yds, TD), tied the game on a 6-yard pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz going into halftime. The Birds benefited by the ineptitude of quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was picked off by Jordan Hicks to give the Eagles great field position to set up the drive. It was Sanchez’s 2nd interception of the half. The positive momentum would continue for the Eagles in the second half where they would outscore the
Boys 17-3 after intermission, highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Wentz to Ertz. The score would put the Eagles up 17-13 in the 3rd quarter. Wentz, the potential franchise quarterback the Eagles drafted with the 2nd pick in the first round in April, finished 27-43, 63%, for 245 yards and 2 touchdowns (both to Ertz), 93.7 QB rating. Wentz overcame some erratic throws earlier in the game and finished the season on a high note. Ertz, who some think has underachieved during his tenure with the Eagles, was the primary target during the course of the game, finishing with 13 catches for 139 yards and two scores. Ertz showed fans and the NFL establishment as a whole over the course of the last quarter of the season why the Birds selected him in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. He finished the season with 78 catches for 816 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Cowboys and Eagles are headed in opposite directions as the NFL regular season comes to a close. Dallas, who has earned a first-round bye in the NFC, serves as a blueprint for the Eagles heading into the offseason. They have established lines on both sides of the ball, seems to have found their QB of the future and have a stud, 3-down back that can punish defenses, especially late in games. The Eagles, who have found the most important piece of the puzzle in Wentz, now need to use the offseason to build around their quarterback. Wentz, although up and down during the course of the season, had a solid rookie year, throwing for more yards (3,782) than any other rookie QB, trailing only Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston in that category. He also threw 16 TDs, with 14 interceptions and ran for 150 yards with 2 TDs on the season. There are some mechanical issues that both coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich will have to work with Wentz on, but the kid has all of the tools to be a franchise QB. Now the hard part begins for the Eagles during the offseason. With limited cap space (close to $4 million when considering dead money against cap), the Eagles will have some hard decisions to make roster-wise to open up cap room. They will need to use both free-agency and the draft (Eagles have 8 picks, including a 1st rounder acquired in the Sam Bradford trade) to bolster their roster and build talent around Wentz. It’s an offseason priority to not come back in the 2017 season with the mediocre cast of wide receivers and corners on this team.
In no particular order, here are positional priorities that the Eagles will need to upgrade this spring:
Wide Receiver- Need to find a number one with speed
Cornerback-To pair with Jalen Mills on the other side
Running Back-Need a 3-down back
Offensive Line (Future starter(s) and better depth)
Defensive End (Bolster a underachieving pass rush)
In the upcoming weeks and all throughout the offseason, we will provide insights and profiles of the top draft prospects and available free agents that fit the above referenced blueprint. It’s imperative that Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and the personnel department show their value in March (free agency) and April (Philadelphia hosts the 2017 Draft) to get the Eagles back into the conversation in 2017 and beyond.