One of the best features of SB Nation is the affiliation with other team blogs. This week we exchanged notes with Adam Hermann of the Bleeding Green Nation, the Philadelphia Eagles blog. Adam answered a few burning questions about what life as an Eagles fan has been like recently and what to expect Monday night. If you want to read the counter story on Bleeding Green Nation, click here.
WCG: 1. The Eagles have started 6 different quarterbacks the six years since Donovan McNabb left after the 2009 season. Take us through the emotions and rationale of the last 18 months of trading Nick Foles and draft picks for Sam Bradford, firing Chip Kelly, signing Chase Daniel, re-signing Sam Bradford, then trading up for Carson Wentz, Bradford demanding a trade, Carson Wentz locking himself in a bathroom, then trading Bradford to Minnesota and committing to Wentz for the opener.
BGN: Hoo boy.
It's been a lot, to say the least. The Nick Foles 27 TD, 2 INT season was a fever dream, but I think most Eagles fans knew it was too good to be true. Chip Kelly's offense still had opposing defenses staggering. This is a flexible, fast-learning league, and he proved to be fool's gold the following season, as did Chip himself. Personally, I supported the idea of trading Foles for Sam Bradford. I didn't like throwing in a draft pick, but it felt like a decided upgrade.
Then we actually got a good look at Sam Bradford, and he got hurt, and he played largely mediocre football with a few good throws, and Chip Kelly's offense was turned into a vanilla wafer with the emphasis on vanilla. Last season was very painful, and it didn't help knowing that Bradford was already a half-decade into an underwhelming career. There was no real future with Bradford; at least, no future that had any chance of winning a Super Bowl, which should always be the front office's sole goal. So trading him was exciting, especially because of what it signaled: the Carson Wentz era was here.
The move for Wentz was gutsy, but Howie Roseman engineered it so that the draft picks surrendered were scattered over two years, and he's gained them back through subsequent trades. It essentially comes out to a wash, which is incredible. I felt good about Wentz himself the first time I met him, when he was introduced the day after the draft. It probably sounds like organization-speak, but he's just a tremendously genuine kid. He seems like the kind of guy who is going to work his butt off until he's good enough to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.
So, considering we began that whole journey with the Foles-ian fool's gold, landing on a 23-year-old who could be very special just 18 months later is kind of incredible.
WCG: 2. Is there a rush to judgment that the future is here with Wentz after dismantling Cleveland? What are your expectations for his rookie campaign?
BGN: Oh, man, is there ever. Philadelphia is ecstatic. On Monday, writers and fans alike tried to reel things in and temper the expectations, but it was pretty tough. He just looked really good.
He was reading blitzes at the line and adjusting protection schemes, and then throwing 27-yard-passes into the red zone on the same play. He was throwing perfect outside-shoulder touchdown bombs from 30 yards out. Sure, he had a few throws intermediate that were off target, and he held on to the ball a little too long a few times. But to be blunt, Wentz had an exceptional first game of his career.
Now, it won't all be like this, and I think fans know this. I certainly do. He played a bad Cleveland team. Joe Haden wasn't 100 percent. The Browns' offense was abysmal, and did its defense no favors. Week 2 should be magnitudes more challenging for Wentz, which I'm excited about. I want to see him face better competition, and really find out what we have here.
I think he'll finish the season around with a completion percentage around 60 percent, throw for 3,300 yards, 25 TDs, 17 INTs, and run for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
WCG: 3. Wentz will be working with high pedigree skill position players with Nelson Agholor, Ryan Mathews, Jordan Matthews, and Zach Ertz all first or second round selections coming out of college. In your opinion, who is the most important guy for this week's offensive game plan against the Bears?
BGN: The Eagles have, in theory, a nucleus of young, athletic, talented-enough skill players surrounding Wentz. The problem, of course, is that two of the guys you mentioned seem to be injury magnets (Ertz won't be playing on Monday night), one had an awful rookie year, and the other is still struggling with bad drops in his third season in the league.
The good sign is that they all played very good football in Week 1, which seems to be something Wentz does: he elevates the level of play of those around him.
If I had to choose one player the Bears' defense will want to be ready for, it would be Jordan Matthews. I think he has a big season coming. He's a big body with good route-running technique and adequate speed. When he holds on to the ball, he's the Eagles' biggest threat by a fairly wide margin, and Wentz wasted no time showing that Matthews is his favorite target, whether he's under pressure or buying time in the pocket. He targeted Matthews 14 times against Cleveland. Expect another day with double-digit targets for Matthews.
WCG: 4. The Eagles boast one of the best front fours in all of football, led by the $100 million man Fletcher Cox. Who else should Bears fans be aware of when Jay Cutler has the ball in his hands?
BGN: Fletcher Cox is terrifying, so get ready for him. But the Eagles have playmakers at the other two levels of their defense, in linebacker Jordan Hicks and safety Rodney McLeod. They combined for an interception in Week 1 (Hicks tipped a pass, and McLeod caught the ball), and they both have a penchant for making plays and creating turnovers.
In his first three years in the league, McLeod had a combined 20 forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions. You might hear some call him slightly undersized for a safety, but it doesn't really affect the way he plays. McLeod's a torpedo of a tackler, he reads passes with a scary omniscience, and he doesn't make many mistakes. He's basically a tank.
Hicks, meanwhile, is the smartest second-year linebacker in the league. He was a huge difference maker in the first half of the season last year before he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. He's a heavy hitter, he's almost always in position, and he's always around the ball. Get ready to see him racking up tackles.
WCG: 5. What are your predictions for this game and the final record for the 2016 Eagles?
BGN: I think the Wentz train keeps rolling, but it'll be substantially closer than Week 1. I say Eagles, 24-20. Wentz finishes with two more touchdowns, he throws his first interception, and Jeremy Langford has a big day catching the ball out of the backfield in the loss.
I said it before the season started, and I won't back down now: I think the Eagles will finish 7-9 or 8-8. Pressed for one answer, I'll say 8-8 because Carson Wentz has me feeling terribly optimistic.
WCG: Bonus: If Bears fans find themselves in the City of Brotherly Love, what steak shop(s) are worth the wait in line and what is the proper way to order?
BGN: Here's the thing: the Philadelphians who tell you to skip the corner with Pat's and Jim's because they're "tourist traps" are just bitter, grouchy residents of a bitter, grouchy city. They make good sandwiches. Pat's was the first place to ever do it. If you've never been, at least stop by the restaurants. It's history.
I personally recommend Jim's on South Street. If you order "wit," which you should, they load you up on onions. Onions are an integral part of any cheesesteak worth its weight. And I always recommend ordering provolone, but you can feel free to go with cheese whiz if you want. Two more recommendations, if the line at Jim's is obscene, which it may be: Steve's Prince of Steaks, where you must order the steak with their white American, and Tommy DiNic's Roast Pork, where you should order the roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone and never look back.
Thank you to Adam and Bleeding Green Nation for the insight!