The Philadelphia Eagles have played the first half of their regular season games and have just come off their bye week. So before the team kicks off the 2nd half of the season against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, let’s give out some 1st Half Awards to the team.
“All We Got, All We Need” Award (Most Valuable Player): Alshon Jeffery
A very good argument could be made for Zach Ertz here. He’s been consistent all season long for us and is on pace to have a record-setting type of season for a tight end. He’s just as deserving for this award. But I’m going with Alshon Jeffery as the team’s MVP 8 games in. It took a while last season for Wentz and Alshon to build some chemistry with each other, but this season they’ve been clicking right from the get-go. Alshon has also looked even better this season now that he’s fully healthy. He’s been phenomenal as always at the catch point making 50-50 balls look more like probable receptions, and he looks more explosive in both his route running and after the catch ability. Alshon’s been as trustworthy of a weapon for Wentz as Ertz, but the difference with Alshon is that his impact as a threat on the outside has opened up so much for the rest of the offense, especially with the loss of Mike Wallace.
“You suck!” Award (Least Valuable Player / Most Frustrating): Jalen Mills
I feel like I always have to throw this disclaimer out there whenever I talk about Mills and I end up sounding like a broken record, but I’ll just say it again: I like Jalen Mills. He’s got great intangibles. He’s confident and a great leader. He plays physical, which you can’t always say about cornerbacks. It’s hard not to root for Mills. But the reality is that he’s been the biggest liability in the secondary for the majority of the season. Part of his struggles have to do with Schwartz’s Cover 3 defensive scheme for sure. Constantly leaving a guy like Mills, who has his athletic limitations, on an island against some of the league’s top wide receivers is not ideal. However, that doesn’t excuse Mills from being who he is. His aggressiveness is always going to make him susceptible to the double move, he doesn’t have the recovery speed to make up ground, and he doesn’t have the ball skills to force interceptions. For some reason though, the coaches are reluctant to move him from the outside to either the slot or safety (I do believe Mills would be a good safety). We shouldn’t have to go into every game knowing and expecting Mills to get beat at least once, if not more, on a big play.
“Philly Philly!” Award (Best play): Philly Philly, Week 1 vs Falcons
I named the award after the damn play, so I really can’t go anywhere else with it. There really haven’t been as many highlight-reel plays this season compared to last, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been some great plays made still. The 2 goal-line stands against the Falcons and Colts, Sidney Jones’ “one-handed” effort against the Colts, and Avonte Maddox’s forced fumble against the Jaguars are just a few that come to mind. But my vote goes to the “Philly-Philly” play (not to be confused with the “Philly Special” that was called in the Super Bowl”). The offense was struggling to that point of the game and was in need of a spark. Leave it to Doug Pederson to call a play that was similar to the infamous one they scored on in the Super Bowl to prove that spark. “Doug wouldn’t call a pass play to the quarterback two games in a row, would he?” Oh yes he would, and he did.
“What the f**k are you doing?!” Award (worst play): Corey Graham on 4th & 15 against the Titans
This play is one of those plays that I’ll never, ever forget, and not in a good way. It’s one of the most egregious defensive plays I’ve ever seen from an Eagles player. The Eagles had the game in hand, they only needed to prevent the Titans from converting an improbable 4th and 15. Corey Graham, lined up on the boundary side in coverage, only had one assignment on the play, and that was to make sure Taywan Taylor didn’t get behind him and past the sticks. But for some reason that’s exactly what he did. This play certainly wasn’t the only reason why the Eagles ended up losing the game, but it was definitely the one that stood out the most.
“Go Birds!” Award (Best Moment): Carson Wentz’s return in Week 3
From the moment Wentz went down last season with that knee injury, this was what we’ve all been waiting for, to see our franchise quarterback finally take the field again. In my article leading up to the game, I spoke about why Wentz’s return means so much to this fanbase. When it comes down to it, we’ve never had so much of our hopes for this team ride on the shoulders of a single player. That’s how great Carson already is and how much greater he still can be. And even with the team at 4-4, there’s still hope for this season because #11 is behind center.
Now that the awards have been given out, it’s time to make some predictions for the 2nd half of the season.
Nelson Agholor will have a more productive 2nd half than he did the 1st half with the acquisition of Golden Tate.
Many people think that Tate’s arrival in Philly means that Agholor will be sort of the “odd man out” and lose out on a lot of opportunities. While a decline in targets is certainly possible, or even likely, I think the acquisition of Tate is going to help free up Agholor on a lot of plays. I’ve been saying since the trade was made that I see Tate taking over the role as the primary short & intermediate receiver, while Agholor will now get more routes in the intermediate & deep areas of the field. So instead of seeing stat lines for Agholor like “7 catches for 40 yards”, we might start to see more of “3 catches for 88 yards”. Don’t underestimate him as a deep threat. He might not have elite speed, but he does have really good explosiveness and is a great route runner. Agholor knows how to get separation downfield, and I see Doug Pederson utilizing those skills more.
Rasul Douglas (if he gets time as a starter) will be become the most divisive player on the Eagles.
With Jalen Mills out with an injury, we’re finally going to get a good look at Rasul Douglas. Many people have been wondering why the former 2017 3rd round pick hasn’t been getting more playing time over guys like Jalen Mills, Corey Graham, Avonte Maddox, and Dexter McDougle, which is cause for concern. He’s flashed some outstanding playmaking ability and a nose for the football, so for good reason fans have wanted him to get more opportunities. However, here’s what I’m worried about: in the short amount of playing time he’s had, even dating back to last season, Douglas has also shown a knack for giving up some big plays, whether due to lack of athleticism or a lack of mental processing. He had a couple of mental lapses and blown coverages against the Jaguars in Week 8 that might have shown why the coaches have been hesitant to play him. There’s a good chance that they just don’t think he’s proven to be reliable enough in practice to earn more playing time over the other guys, which is saying a lot considering who I mentioned. But at this point with all the injuries in the secondary, avoiding Douglas isn’t an option anymore for them. Maybe Douglas is a better gameday player than he is a practice player. And maybe his ability to force turnovers will offset his breakdowns in coverage. But I can already see half of the fan base yelling “Douglas has been playing great! He makes plays on the ball!”, while the other half of the fan base yells “He has so many blown coverages that you’re either not seeing or just choosing to ignore!”. Here’s to hoping he won’t be as bad as I’m worried he’ll be.
Shot 4 – Saw a lot of reps from Rasul Douglas in this game after the Jalen Mills injury. Some good and some bad from Rasul, plenty to like and plenty work on for the second-year corner #Eagles pic.twitter.com/1VqFeEC1d5
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) October 29, 2018
My final prediction: Eagles are going to finish with a 9-7 record… and win the NFC East.