The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles are a professional football team. That much we know.
How well this football team will do is anyone’s guess.
Head Coach Doug Pederson likes the offense he’s put together, and is clearly a big fan of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz — big enough that the franchise traded Sam Bradford for two draft picks eight days before the season started.
Pederson likes his defense too, and the entire city seems high on the unit Jim Schwartz has put together. And yet, with all the excitement to start the season coming from inside the NovaCare Complex, those around the city are understandably hesitant to jump on any midnight green bandwagons this year.
Las Vegas has the Eagles at 100-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, tied for third worst in the NFL, while the over/under on wins in Pederson’s first season is down to 6.5 after the Bradford trade.
The future might be bright in Philly, but if the future is now with Wentz starting under center against Cleveland on Sunday (1 p.m., CBS), it’s anyone’s guess how bright it will be, and how fast.
The Eagles should beat Cleveland on Sunday, as the Browns are one of the two teams with worse odds to win the Super Bowl than the Eagles. Cleveland traded the No. 2 pick to the Eagles, so they could bring Wentz to Philly, though the move has left Wentz with a slight chip on his shoulder after members of the Browns organization said this week they didn’t think he was worthy of the second-overall pick.
Is he? We have no idea.
Wentz has thrown a total of zero passes in an NFL game that matters. In one preseason game he played before getting sidelined with cracked ribs, Wentz was 12-for-24 for 89 yards and an interception passing, adding 15 yards on the ground on three tuck-and-runs.
And what’s weird, as inexperienced as Wentz is, he’s not the concern. It’s the lack of experience across much of the roster that should have fans worried.
Pederson only has 52 players on his roster headed into Sunday’s game, one short of the league maximum of 53. When asked Friday if he expects to fill out his roster before Sunday (perhaps by promoting a member of the practice squad or signing a free agent, like recently-cut linebacker Najee Goode), Pederson matter-of-factly said, “Not now. No.”
“You’re always looking to upgrade,” Pederson told said Friday. “You’re always looking to, you know, improve your roster, bring in guys. Again, that competition, that never stops.”
There are currently nine rookies on the 52-man roster, and six second-year players. (There were seven second-year guys until the Eagles traded cornerback Eric Rowe earlier this week for a future pick.)
There are seven players entering their third year, meaning of the 52 players on the roster, 22 have no more than two years of NFL experience headed into this season. The way contracts work in the NFL, it’s likely many rosters skew younger than in years past, but a first-year coach with 41.5 percent of his roster this inexperienced is…telling.
What’s also telling is how the roster is balanced. Or, as it seems, imbalanced.
Currently there are 11 offensive linemen on the active roster, as the Eagles wait for the NFL to decide if/when Lane Johnson will have to serve his 10-game suspension.
The Eagles have 10 defensive linemen on the active roster, a standard number for a team that plans to roll in as many players as Schwartz habitually plays. That said, the defense is certainly front-heavy, as there are only five linebackers, including newly-acquired Kamu Grugier-Hill who was cut by the Patriots last week.
With Rowe’s trade to New England, there are just four corners on the active roster, though some expect rookie C.J. Turner to be promoted to the full roster at some point during the year. The Birds have five safeties, which includes a few special teams-only players listed at safety, to round out the defense.
The bigger concern is on offense. The Eagles are currently carrying five wide receivers, four running backs, three tight ends and just two quarterbacks on the active roster. Of the 10 players on the practice squad, there isn’t a quarterback in the group.
The Eagles enter 2016 with Wentz and Chase Daniel as the only rostered signal callers. Between them, the duo has started two games in the NFL. Daniel is entering his seventh season in the NFL, though has just two starts in his career, coming into 2016 having attempted 77 passes, completing 50. In his career.
At the skill positions, there is a good amount of quality and experience. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are a solid tight end tandem, with Trey Burton adding a dynamic presence to the unit after catching just three balls in Chip Kelly’s offense.
At running back, the team has four options, which Pederson says can rotate into any situation. That unit is led by the solid but oft-injured Ryan Mathews with Darren Sproles filling the change-of-pace role.
Third-year back Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood round out the backs. When asked Friday if all four players will dress in the team’s gameday 46, Pederson said, “It’s not decided yet because we haven’t made the final decisions on that, but they’ve all practiced well this week and we’re still working through those details. We’ll know probably Sunday morning who is going to be down (on the roster).”
That’s coachspeak for ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
The biggest issue on the roster, outside of the questions at quarterback, is who will catch passes at the wide receiver spot. Jordan Matthews has caught 152 balls in his Eagles career, including 85 catches for 997 yards and eight scores last season. But Matthews missed all of the preseason after suffering a leg injury in practice.
Newly-signed Bryce Treggs, who beat out Paul Turner for the unit’s final roster spot, won’t play this week as he recovers from an injury. That leaves Matthews and the trio of Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor.
Combined, those players have 90 career catches.
Though, to be fair, when compared to the stats of the quarterbacks, 90 balls seems downright seasoned.
And so, as the 2016 season begins, there is always some level of optimism with a football team, and there’s a particular level of interest this season in what Wentz can do. But by the looks of the roster, even with the depth on defense, it’s hard to expect too much success from this team.
Or Wentz is the next Aaron Rodgers and the Eagles are headed for the Super Bowl in February. Truly… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.