2018 NFL season preview: Philadelphia Eagles

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What an incredible season 2017 was for the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the first Super Bowl victory for the Eagles in their history, and it came almost out of nowhere. Quarterback Carson Wentz certainly took his game to the next level, but the team really stepped up in his absence to make the postseason run that ended with the raising of the Lombardi Trophy.

The offensive scheme for the Eagles was generally centered around the running game, which was good enough for 132.2 rushing yards per game. To his credit, head coach Doug Pederson was able to establish a strong rushing attack, which worked in tandem with a very aggressive and opportunistic defense. The running game didn’t feature just one running back, as the team often let multiple backs get chances in a game. That strategy proved very successful, as they often still had fresh legs well into the fourth quarter to put away games. All of LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood got their chances to shine throughout the season. And Jay Ajayi, whom the team traded for mid-season, was also a significant factor in the rushing attack.

All of these guys helped Carson Wentz have much more time to operate, and his receivers were often in single coverage as a result of stacked boxes, which were designed to limit the running game. In 13 games last season, Wentz put up 3,296 passing yards, with 33 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. His strong effort helped the Eagles to an 11-2 record in games with Wentz under center.

Wentz tore his ACL in heartbreaking fashion, which cleared room for backup Nick Foles to take over the starting gig. Foles was surprisingly efficient in his appearances, and he definitely made the most of his chances. Foles helped the Eagles make it to the Super Bowl, where he played brilliantly on his way to defeating Tom Brady and the Patriots, and being named Super Bowl MVP.

In the NFC Championship game, Foles threw for 352 yards, three touchdowns and one pick, against a stingy Vikings defense that had only given up 13 touchdown passes all year long. Then, in the Super Bowl, he had another brilliant performance, to the tune of 373 yards, three touchdowns and zero picks.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles finished the regular season ranked fourth overall in the league. They gave up an average of 306.5 yards per game, which was primarily due to their rushing defense that was ranked number one overall in the NFL, permitting just 79.2 yards per game. They also only allowed seven rushing scores all year.

The 2018 season should be more of the same for the defending champion Eagles. However, despite having a plethora of weapons, including tight end Zach Ertz, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace, this team will need to rely on its defense more than last year. Their division is much more competitive this season, with the Giants suddenly looking like an explosive offense featuring OBJ and rookie running back sensation Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys also get a full season out of Ezekiel Elliott, as well as shedding the weight of Dez Bryant.

Still, the Eagles are justifiably the favorites to win the division. It will certainly be an interesting season in the NFC East.