Flock of Eagles: Happy on Halloween at the Halfway Point
Eagles games as a young kid used to excite me to no end.
Eagles games in my teens and twenties used to stress me out, even during our finest season of my lifetime, 2004.
Eagles games nowadays have an odd c’est la vie effect.
It could be that I’m getting too old to take losses so hard.
Perhaps the callouses developed from years of crushing disappointments fortify a protective layer.
Or more likely, an inner confidence in this team can primarily be ascribed to one man: Carson Wentz.
As the Birds sit at the mid-season perch at 7-1, recently I've found myself just kicking back and enjoying the ride.
Now all Philly sports fan anxiety is channeled into the health of Joel Embiid.
I have faith in this defense, led by Fletcher Cox playing at superhuman levels, and a faith in this quarterback as unshakable as his faith in Jesus.
So, on Sunday while sitting with two of my DAWGS, Ro & Big Geoff, in their season ticket seats, a trio attending our first game together since 2010’s infamous Tuesday Night “Joe Webb Game”, I didn’t feel any Eagle-esque existential dread.
Not even while Wentz missed wide open receivers, the running game sputtered, and the rain came down as the Birds staked out a meager 3-0 lead over a Niner team they were supposed to bury by two TD’s.
At no point did I feel even a pang of concern, or entertain the possibility that we weren’t going to walk out of the Linc victorious.
There were further similarities between Sunday’s game and the Joe Webb Game: the Eagles riding high in first place, in position for home field in the playoffs, facing off against an unknown backup QB as a double-digit favorite in inclement weather.
But there wasn’t that same muted grumble, or sense of impending doom, inside the stadium that there was that 2010 evening, with a 7-0 lead in the second quarter of that fateful Tuesday night. On Sunday we all, literally and figuratively, saw the light.
On that illuminating note, on everybody's favorite pagan holiday, let’s look at some of the brightest spots in this sunny season so far.
Some darker roads surely lie ahead, with the loss of Jason Peters thus far being the most shadowy turn this 2017 Eagles season has taken, but we at Flock of Eagles forge ahead without fear, for we know faith is what brought us here.
Flock Of Eagles Mid-Season Superlatives:
Offensive MVP-Do I Have to Say His Name!?!
Defensive MVP-Fletcher Cox
Fletcher Cox has always been an asset to the Eagles, since the day he arrived in Philadelphia. But, despite getting locked up for JJ Watt money last year, he’s never been a big sack guy, or the unequivocal leader of a quality defensive unit.
He’s on his way towards being both of those things, even having missed two games in early October. Speaking of missing games, the good word arrived a little earlier today, that he won’t be suspended for this play.
Great news for Birds Fans, having lost Jordan Hicks for the year, with Fletch on the best stretch of his career since returning to the lineup.
Coach of the Year-Jim Schwartz
Head Coach Doug Pederson probably doesn't get enough credit for being adaptable and knowing the pulse of his team. But Schwartz has been this squad’s steadiest hand. Sure, this Eagles defense gets penalized more than most, dances towards the line of what some might call ‘dirty’, while only currently rated tenth in points-against.
But the injection of ‘nasty’, that Schwartz comes with, coupled with the line rotation, has made this team able to lean on its defense all season so far. They're also Top 3 D against the run, and Top 5 in takeaways. The Hicks injury hurts, but the rise of Nigel Bradham, disruptive scheme of Schwartz, plus hopefully a continued resurgence of Mychael Kendricks, can offset that a bit.
Special Teams MVP-Ramblin Jake Elliott
Another guy we once bagged on in this very column, who became immortal with a record-setting, game-winning kick in the Linc a week later. He’s been money since then on field-goals, but oddly enough missed two extra-points on Sunday, which brings him up to three missed extras already in seven games of play. Let’s hope the surprises continue to come in the form of long kicks, not errant extra points, from here.
The Closer-LeGarrette Blount
We once called him late-career LenDale White, but after this run he became Nouveau East-Coast Beast Mode. Since October began, Pederson and this coaching staff have settled into how to correctly utilize him. Blount is not a guy who is gonna be picking up the blitz, catching a lot of footballs, or dancing around corners. But what he can be, particularly late in the game or in critical third-and-short or goal-line situations, is the wrecking ball used to finish teams off.
Best Offseason Acquisition-Alshon Jeffrey
Jeffrey’s numbers don’t jump out at you through eight games. In fact, some not watching might argue he's under performed, based on past numbers with less talent around. But getting Alshon gave this receiving unit an identity and formed a pecking order, two things it didn’t have last year. He’s helped Nelson Agholor make the leap from Rookie Year Disaster to Second-Year Standout. The attention paid Jeffery has provided guys like Mack Hollins space to beat guys down the sideline. He’s been available for every start, something he wasn’t last year due to suspension, or in 2015 due to injury.
This culminated in him making his first iconic play as an Eagle on Sunday. That should quiet the critics a bit. We’re gonna need this guy to do that kinda stuff as games get bigger. Happy to have him here. Alshon's family also inspired our two favorite Eagle profiles written so far this year, by the finest sportswriter in the city, Bill Lyon disciple, the Inquirer's Mike Sielski.
Best In-Season Acquisition-Jay Ajayi?!?
We'll come out and say it, we're not quite as excited as other Eagle Fans seem to be. A 4th round pick in a draft in which you don't have many picks isn't cheap. It's fine if Ajayi performs. But we're not gonna pretend Ajayi is a great back, or that we watch the awful Dolphins play enough to tell you whether Ajayi picks up blitzes well, which is what this Eagle backfield needs more than anything right now.
Full disclosure, we'd have rather they found a way to grab tackle Duane Brown from Houston, to cover for the loss of Peters, but Sneaky Pete beat us to that punch. Still, in the vacuum of this current season, it's a move that can only improve.
True Glue Guy-Malcolm Jenkins
Between a grueling football schedule, working with the NFLPA, interfacing with league officials on the increasingly pressing concerns among players on social issues, plus time spent in the community with the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, we’re not sure how Malcolm has time to sleep, let alone lead a surprisingly strong secondary without the help of marquee CB Ronald Darby, and still find a way to make it on an episode of our favorite show, Desus & Mero. But we appreciate his doing so. Malcolm has overcome the ill-will we typically harbor towards Buckeyes, become one of the most respected voices in the league, and the key veteran leader inside the Eagle locker room.
Unprecedented Display of Selflessness-Chris Long
We knew Chris Long was about that philanthropic life, via his Waterboys clean-well water work in Africa and other worthy endeavors.
But playing an entire NFL for season for free?!?
We don’t know whether that’s a noble act of charity, or an early sign of CTE.
Best Eagle Costume-It's Still Sheldon Brown in the Jason Voorhees.
Just like Sheldon still keeps the "best playoff game soul-snatch" crown until someone adds something more devastating to the upcoming postseason reel. I bet Reggie Bush can still here the chh-chh-chh-POW right now.
Nostrabombus Preseason Philadelphia Eagles Projection: 11-5, NFC East Champs
We’re well ahead of schedule with this team, which makes for a Happy Halloween.
And while we're on the subject, click here to check out, or revisit, last year's Halloween Story Time With Bomb episode.