Sept. 6 awaits.
By Dave Spadaro
Sept. 6 and a glorious opener to the NFL season waits for the Philadelphia Eagles who, as dutiful defending Super Bowl champions, host the kickoff game of 2018, lower the championship banner at Lincoln Financial Field and then they play football.
The general effectiveness of the offense, one that led the league in scoring for much of 2017, is just about as unknown to the coaching staff at this very moment as it is to you.
“The offense shouldn’t change much no matter who the quarterback is,” All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We just roll with whoever is back there.”
No doubt about that. The Eagles rolled to a win in Super Bowl LII with Nick Foles after Carson Wentz was injured seven weeks prior, and the points mounted on the scoreboard.
This year, though, with Sept. 6 bearing down, the offensive picture is about as unsettled as a defending Super Bowl champion can have for one reason, and one reason only: Injuries.
Wentz, rehabilitating from knee surgery to repair his torn ACL, has not yet been cleared for game action and nobody really knows when that clearance is going to come. If Wentz can’t go, then Foles gets the call to start the season. Beyond the quarterbacks, there are more questions that add to the muddy outlook.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hasn’t stepped on a football field since the Super Bowl. He’s recovering from a torn rotator cuff and is a question mark to be there for the opener.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor is “day to day” with a lower-body injury, according to head coach Doug Pederson, and likely won’t play for the remainder of the preseason. Second-year receiver Mack Hollins is in the same boat as Agholor, without the resume built from a superlative 2017 campaign.
Furthermore, left tackle Jason Peters, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7 of ’17, hasn’t and won’t play in the preseason. Pederson thinks that Peters is such a special player and so on track in practice that he doesn’t need preseason to get sharp for the regular season. Certainly, Peters has the career portfolio that would suggest he can pull that off, but he’s 35 years old and, as they say, with age comes uncertainty.
Running back Darren Sproles is also on the comeback trail after his 2017 season ended in Week 3 when he went down with a torn ACL and a broken arm in the victory over the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. He isn’t going to play in the preseason as the Eagles bank that his experience and the explosiveness they’ve seen on the practice field will translate to Week 1.
Those are a lot of “ifs” for a team built for high octane. In the time crunch that are the final weeks before Atlanta comes to town, Pederson has a lot on his plate. Just how much offense can the Eagles expect early in the season? Can they knock all the rust from players who haven’t seen much, if any, preseason action?
Will the defense have to tow the offense along early in the season until the Eagles find their stride with the ball in their collective hands?
We’re at the point in the preseason when the only thing that matters is preparing for the regular season. How quickly can the Eagles put all of the offensive pieces together? It’s a puzzle that needs to come together very quickly for the Eagles to get off to the kind of start they want in the regular season. ••