One of the most shocking things about the way the NFL season has shaped up is that the Eagles actually have a winning record and have a real shot at making the playoffs. If you had told me that this would happen four months ago, I’d probably just laugh at you. On paper, the Eagles looked like they would be entering a rebuilding year after getting a new Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator. They switched from a 4-3 defense to the 3-4, had their starting QB get hurt multiple times, and had a starting WR tear his ACL even before preseason started. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, but instead it’s become one of playoff contention. There are many reasons for their surprise success, and I’ll focus on a few of them.
Nick Foles has started more games than Michael Vick
Going into this season, I knew that the Eagles were doomed if Vick started every game. Now, I knew (yes I said knew, not guessed) that Vick would get injured at some point, but to see Chip Kelly eventually name Foles as the starter while Vick is healthy was a huge step forward in the future. Vick is just too old at this point to lead a team with this much talent because he still tries to do too much. Even though Kelly runs a spread offense that favors Vick’s skill set, Foles has learned it very well and is running it better than most could. The Eagles were 2-4 in games that Vick appeared in; in fact, only one of those wins was because of Vick. One win in six games is about what I predicted the Eagles to get if Vick played (I had them at 4-12). Foles is 7-4 in games he’s appeared in, but two of those losses he came in for one drive or less in a random situation and don’t actually count against his record. So hey, 7-2 isn’t bad for a guy who hasn’t played much…
Nick Foles played a significant amount of games last year
This may seem irrelevant because it doesn’t have to do with this season, but it actually has a huge impact. Had Foles not gotten 7 games of NFL experiences under his belt last year, there’s a good chance he would’ve had to spend this year struggling to adjust and the season would’ve been lost. This is why the Eagles needed to just move on from the beginning…had Foles started the whole season, there’s no telling how much better the Eagles’ record could’ve been. But either way, the fact that he could come in this season with a solid amount of experience allowed him to jump right in and start winning football games.
Almost nobody has gotten injured during the season
After three people tore their ACLs in training camp, there was nothing I could do but laugh because it seemed typical of the Eagles. They were coming off a season in which injuries had plagued them significantly, so it made sense that they had a bunch more to start the season. But during the season, there have been very few injuries, and none of them significant enough to cripple the team. Vick getting hurt was a blessing in disguise, so I’m actually glad that happened. Safeties Patrick Chung and Earl Wolff have missed some games this year, but the safety position has been a struggle for the team all year and therefore hasn’t affected anything too much. And a couple people have missed a game here and there, but nothing too serious. Even the entire offensive line has stayed healthy all year, a rare feat. Staying healthy is imperative when trying to compete late in the season.
The Eagles are running the ball…a lot
The departure of Andy Reid and the entrance of Chip Kelly obviously suggested that they’d be running the ball more often, but I certainly didn’t expect this. While the offensive line staying healthy has a big impact on it, LeSean McCoy has been a monster out there, leading the league in rushing by over 100 yards and averaging 5.0 YPC, the second highest among RBs with over 100 carries on the season. He also has 7 rushing TDs and only 1 fumble. Because of this, the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, something that I never thought I’d see happen.
There are other smaller reasons, such as the explosion of DeSean Jackson this season and the big run by the defense where they gave up 21 or less points for 9 games in a row, but the ones I went into detail with are the most important ones. Despite this success, they still might not make it into the playoffs. Not that I saw this coming ahead of time, but it’d still be great to see them back in the postseason so quickly.