“We recognize the ability of the roster, but that only goes so far,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said after yesterday’s practice. “We have to come together as a team and build a team, not a bunch of individuals. We have the opportunity to do something special, but it takes a lot of hard work.”
By Michael Donovan
Wentz could have been speaking for everyone on the Eagles, who have a big target on their backs thanks to the highest expectations in years.
“Having gone through it a couple years ago, having gone through the adversity we faced last year with the amount of injuries that piled up, I think guys learn,” coach Doug Pederson said. “They learn through that adversity and through that experience. I think that’s what has really so far made this team the type of team it is. The leaders on this team, the veteran players on this team, I challenge those guys to lead. It’s also OK to fail, but if you fail, let’s fail going forward. Let’s fail forward not backward, learn from it, and move on. That’s what this team, this training camp, is all about.”
The Eagles failed to repeat their Super Bowl championship last season, falling short against New Orleans in the NFC divisional round after beating Chicago on the road in a wild-card game. Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP against New England a year earlier, led them again after Wentz went down with a back injury. Foles is Jacksonville’s starter now and Wentz is hungry for his first playoff action.
“There’s always pressure whether it’s this much or this much,” Wentz said. “It doesn’t change how I approach every single day, just block that out and keep getting better. I wasn’t on the field for the Super Bowl, so there’s that element.”
The Eagles should have a dynamic offense with the return of three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the addition of running backs Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders to a unit that includes tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.
“We don’t want to get caught up in a phrase or a word like the ‘dream team’ in the past,” Jackson said. “That’s putting extra attention on you that you don’t really need. We all want to win. We all want to hold up the trophy at the end of the season, but the work has to be put in.”
On defense, there’s been plenty of change and several players are returning from injuries that cut their seasons short. Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Chris Long and linebacker Jordan Hicks are among the key contributors who aren’t back. Defensive tackle Malik Johnson was a valuable addition in free agency, and the secondary gets three starters back: cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills and safety Rodney McLeod.