The 2018 season will be remembered as an up and down, roller coaster ride that ended with an odds-defying run to the playoffs. The Eagles won five of their final six regular season games and took down the #1 ranked defense in Chicago to get through the Wild Card round.
Star players started playing their best football of the season down the stretch, young players thrown into the fire stepped up, a Super Bowl MVP at backup QB repeated his 2017 magic.
There were a lot of memorable moments throughout the season. Which players had individual performances that stood out?
Ronald Darby gets the best of Julio Jones in the opener
Coming into a contract season, Ronald Darby had a lot to prove. At least for a week, the fourth year corner looked like he might be worth a lucrative contract extension.
Darby went up against Julio Jones in the season opener, on national television, and had his best game in an Eagles uniform.
At the goal-line with time expiring, Matt Ryan gave Jones a chance to win the game one on one with Darby in the corner of the end-zone.
Just like Mills last year, Darby stepped up and threw Julio out of bounds before Jones could get both feet down.
It was the first sign that the 2018 magic was still running through Philadelphia.
Wentz and Jeffery reconnect in Tennessee
In Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery’s first game back together, the connection looked to be clicking as it was in the middle of the 2017 season.
Wentz finished with 348 yards and 2 touchdowns on top of a 66% completion percentage.
Eight completions went to Jeffery for 105 yards and a touchdown.
The duo connected on the exact plays the Eagles imagined the two making when they signed Jeffery in the 2017 offseason.
The Eagles blew a 17 point lead and the Titans won in overtime but the game instilled confidence around Philadelphia that two of the most important pieces on offense were jelling.
Wentz shuts the door on another collapse in London
Arguably Wentz’s best overall performance of 2018 came against a top tier defense in the Jaguars.
Wentz pulled off many “WOW” plays that Eagles fans have grown accustomed to.
It looked like the Jaguars were closing the gap in the fourth quarter, as teams did against the Eagles defense in 2018.
That was until Wentz took over, hitting Jordan Matthews on key first downs to close out the game. He answered the critiques about his fourth-quarter performances and got the Eagles back to .500 at 4-4.
He wasn’t going to let the Eagles lose that game.
Malcolm Jenkins saves the season against Giants
Down 19-11 with the Giants driving inside Eagles territory, Malcolm Jenkins might have made the season-saving interception to keep the game within one score.
Without this game-changing turnover, the Giants could have gone up by as much as 15 heading into halftime.
At 4-6, the Eagles couldn’t afford to lose.
Jenkins was instrumental in the comeback win. Not only did he break the turnover drought for the Eagles defense with the interception and a forced fumble, but his leadership came through when it mattered most.
Having to start DeVante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan at CB due to the plague of injuries in the secondary, Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. were taking advantage in the first half.
That was until Jenkins went to Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz and told him to make the defensive gameplan simpler.
Without Jenkins coming through in this Week 12 battle, none of the late-season magic happens.
Cox, Bennett, and Douglas step up in Dallas
Despite falling to the Cowboys in what appeared to be a fate-sealing loss at 6-7, three defensive players nearly carried the Eagles to a win.
Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett combined for three sacks while teaming up to take Dak Prescott down, out of field goal range to force overtime.
It may have been Cox’s most impressive performance as an Eagle. Despite playing over 100 snaps (two games worth), he made more of an impact on the field than anybody.
Rasul Douglas was as impactful. Although Douglas was in coverage on Amari Cooper on the game-winning touchdown, the second-year corner was a major reason the Eagles had a chance.
Well known for his play-making ability on the ball, Douglas turned the game around in the first half with a red-zone interception.
— DIE-HARD 🦅 Fans (@Eaglesfans9) December 9, 2018
Douglas saved the Eagles from allowing more points later in the half, forcing a field goal attempt after a big tackle on third down.
Accepting the holding penalty winds up working in Eagles' favor. Rasul Douglas with another tackle on 3rd down and Maher misses the FG. pic.twitter.com/xlbKLrQpJv
— The Bitter Birds (@AdrianFedkiw) December 9, 2018
Alshon and Avonte help pull off the upset in LA
If there was ever a doubt about Alshon Jeffery as a WR1, those doubts were silenced against the Rams.
Jeffery blew up against Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib with 8 receptions for 160 yards.
He consistently made the signature, contested catches that made him a hot commodity in the 2017 free agency class.
— Louie DiBiase (@DiBiaseLOE) January 26, 2019
On the other side of the ball, Avonte Maddox put on a show in his first start on the outside.
The 2018 fourth-round pick made arguably the most impressive turnover of the season on a first-half interception of Jared Goff.
In yet another goal-line stand to win the game, Maddox made the saving play breaking up a contested ball as time expired.
The athleticism Maddox showed with clicking and closing, flipping his hips, making plays on the ball carried on throughout the run to the playoffs.
This performance in LA started a run that just might lock up a starting spot in the secondary for the 2019 season.
Foles and Ertz make history against Houston
In a gutsy Week 16 victory against the Texans, Nick Foles and Zach Ertz found their heroics taking them to the record books.
Both Foles and Ertz set records as they pushed the Eagles down the field and set up Jake Elliott’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Ertz broke Jason Witten’s NFL record for most receptions in a season by a tight end getting to 113 on the year.
He finished with 12 catches for 110 yards and 2 TDs including the final catch of the game that got the Eagles in field goal range.
As for Foles, he threw for 471 yards, setting the record for most yards thrown in a game by an Eagles quarterback.
On top of that, the Super Bowl MVP also threw four touchdowns and made two big-time passes on the final drive despite getting injured.
Outside of the Super Bowl, it may have been both Foles and Ertz’s best game of their careers.
Might have been Foles vs Texans pic.twitter.com/9p3aDEvvtl
— Louie DiBiase (@DiBiaseLOE) January 27, 2019
What do you think? Did we leave any performance off the list?
Let us know on Twitter @LockedOnBirds
Bell over Brown is an obvious choice for the Eagles
It’s almost fishing season in the NFL as all 32 teams look to catch some nice pieces for their roster through free agency, the draft, and the trade market. While the biggest fish don’t always tend to swim in those waters, every year a few big names suddenly become available for a team looking to spend.
This year, it just so happens two of the best at their position are up for grabs, and they both are coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Star offensive weapons in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown will both be in different jerseys next year for the first time in their careers. Bell is set to become a free agent, while Pittsburgh and Brown agreed a trade is in the best interest for both sides.
On paper, the Eagles could make sense for both. Adding weapons around Carson Wentz will always be a priority. However if Howie Roseman and the front office decide they want to go after one of these expensive play-makers, Bell makes much more sense for a number of reasons.
Bell doesn’t come with the baggage Brown does
Don’t let this fool you. Talent beats culture. It is why the Steelers were consistently atop the AFC despite a chaotic locker room. Coaches like Chip Kelly flamed out because they prioritized scheme and a robotic culture.
Despite that, Brown’s antics off the field are a real concern. He quit on his team with the season on the line. Pittsburgh needed a win and a Baltimore loss to make the postseason in Week 17 but Brown was MIA.
The temper tantrums on the sidelines, ghosting your team with the season on the line, that kind of behavior despite six straight seasons of 100+ receptions is eye opening.
Bell doesn’t have that stench to him. While Steelers fans will tell you Bell was selfish and uncommitted to football, it is unfair to say he has character concerns because he didn’t want to risk his long term health in a contract year. He wanted to be paid like the star he is and Pittsburgh wanted to pay the position not the player. Can’t blame either side.
Brown would require trade assets AND a big contract
Some people love to scoff at the idea of paying any significant resource for a star RB like Bell. While it wouldn’t be smart to kill the salary cap for the do-it-all weapon, it is far more reasonable to pay Bell rather than pay Brown big money and give up the trade assets it would take to get him from Pittsburgh.
What sounds better to you? $14+ million a year for Bell or $14+ million a year for Brown and perhaps a 2nd round pick + Nelson Agholor?
Bell, Agholor, and the rookie taken with that 2nd round pick sounds a lot better than just Brown.
The report Bell wants $50 million in the first two years is scary. He turned down a 5 year $70 million deal with the Steelers but perhaps when the market develops Bell will have to temper his expectations.
Bell’s age and position is more attractive to the Eagles
Two other major elements in deciding between Bell and Brown would be age and position.
By the start of next season, Brown will be 31. Bell will be be 27. Bell has four years on Brown.
If Bell could maintain his productivity into his early 30’s, the Eagles could be set at RB for 5-6 years.
Being a running back also makes him a more attractive option. Doug Pederson’s offense is in desperate need of a talented RB.
Having a weapon like Bell in the backfield that can be your top runner, a top receiver, and efficient pass blocker puts this Eagles offense on a level only the Saints and Rams can match in the NFC.
It also makes the offense less predictable. Using a committee with featured grinders like Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajay, and Josh Adams to go along with the clear pass catchers in Darren Sproles and Corey Clement can be a good way to keep your backs fresh, but it is clear what the offense plans to do on 3rd and 4 when Sproles is out there.
It is easier to predict what Pederson will do on 3rd and 2 when Blount was out there. Someone like Bell keeps the defense guessing in any situation.
While the Eagles could use more speed on offense, Brown would be a luxury. A luxury that could cost high draft picks, players, a high cap hit, and potential baggage.
Is that worth it for a team that already has at least four quality receiving options? Can’t imagine Brown would be happy not seeing 13+ targets a game.
History tells us the Eagles won’t go after either Bell or Brown. However with an aggressive front office that has shown a commitment in surrounding their franchise QB with weapons, it wouldn’t be suprising to see one of these two in midnight green. Especially with Roseman’s ability to perform magic on the salary cap.
If they decide to pursue one, it should be Le’Veon Bell.
Offseason Options: Wide Receiver
The Eagles have plenty of weapons for Carson Wentz to throw to in 2019. The WR position, however, could use more speed to compliment the bigger weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert.
If Golden Tate, Mike Wallace, and/or Jordan Matthews leave the Eagles this offseason, what options does Howie Roseman have in free agency and the draft when it comes to pass catchers?
Louie and Gino give some big name options in the draft and free agency, as well as some receivers that could fly under the radar in both offseason periods.
Offseason Options: Running Back
It is time for the Eagles to add some serious talent in the backfield. What are their options if they want to add a big name free agent? What about a high draft pick?
If Howie Roseman sticks to his strategy of lower-priced free agents or draft picks, who could be a diamond in the rough?
Our “Offseason options’ series begins with RB on the Locked on Eagles podcast!
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