This season has been a magical one for Eagles players and fans alike. When the season started expectations were tapered, maybe compete for first in the division? Now they’ll play in a Super Bowl next week. They’ve built this team on brotherhood and family. But there’s another undertone at play. Redemption.
When last season ended disappointingly with a 7-9 record it was time for Howie Roseman to get to work. After being ousted by Chip Kelly he was welcomed back, this was his chance to rewrite his story. He helped build a roster built for both long and short term success. Doing that mostly on the backs of players who were seeking redemption.
Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Robinson, and Chris Long all came to town on one year prove it contracts. Jeffery proved that he could still be a dominant receiver, heating up during the second half of the season and earning a long term contract extension. Blount didn’t get any offers until late in the off-season when Philly called. This was after winning a Super Bowl in New England and leading the league in rushing touchdowns. He was thought to not have anything left, he’s the Eagles leading rusher going into the Super Bowl.
Patrick Robinson was coming off a down year in Indianapolis when the Eagles signed him. He played so badly during camp fans were calling for his head. An early season injury forced him into the slot where he’s excelled and exceeded all expectations as he’s graded out as one of PFF’s top corners. He had the momentum changing play against Minnesota. Chris Long was also coming off a Super Bowl winning season with New England when he came to Philadelphia. He was looked at as not a fit there, people were beginning to whisper that he’d lost a step. He’s found that step back in Jim Schwartz’ system, the defensive line’s deep rotation has kept him fresh. He’s made a handful of game changing plays, forcing fumbles and errant throws resulting in interceptions.
Cheater. Selfish. Overrated. Those were some of the words being used to describe Lane Johnson after his suspension last season for PEDs. He felt as if he had let the team down, his impact on the team’s record was obvious. This season he came back better than ever, ready to prove his doubters wrong. He allowed one sack all season and was an absolute mauler in the run game. Johnson graded out as one of the top tackles in the league. His line mate Jason Kelce heard similar rumblings, he was undersized for the position, possibly a trade or cut target due to his cap number. Kelce responded as being the top graded center in the NFL. Guard Brandon Brooks overcame his public battle with anxiety last year to turn in his finest season as a pro, he can state his case as the best lineman on the most dominant line in football.
Nelson Agholor was becoming what all pro ball players fear, a bust. He was having trouble doing all the things he was brought to Philadelphia to do. Catch. Score. Be explosive. It had gotten so bad he admitted to the media that he was inside his own head. An off-season trade of Jordan Matthews gave him a new beginning, he was now the team’s starting slot receiver. Using his speed to create mismatches in space allowed him to get back to what does best, making plays. He’s played with confidence and has become the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon.
Jay Ajayi had been nothing but dominant and productive during his short career in Miami, but they traded him for the cheap price of a 4th round pick. They cited attitude issues and being a poor locker room presence. He came to Philadelphia with the promise of keeping his head down and proving his doubters. He’s done that and then some, he’s integrated perfectly with the other tailbacks and has provided big play runs in nearly every game since he joined the team. He’s now taken the lead back role in the playoffs and has run like a man possessed. If he were to win a Super Bowl that would truly be proving everyone wrong.
After a season under the neglect of Jeff Fisher, Nick Foles was considering retiring from the game all together. It was no longer fun for him and he wasn’t sure it was worth pursuing anymore. After some soul searching he agreed to join a familiar face in Doug Pederson and serve as the backup to Carson Wentz, who went on the have an MVP caliber season before tearing his ACL. Foles had to step in and fill his incredibly large shoes, he struggled to find his rhythm after not having reps with the starters. When fans called for Nate Sudfeld, he kept his head down and kept working. He struggled out of the gate against Atlanta, but found his game during the second half. That confidence carried over to the Minnesota game, Foles absolutely shredded the number one defense in football. He made all the throws, all the right decisions, and led them to a blowout victory. He’s one game away from going from Jeff Fisher cast off to Super Bowl Champion.
I know New England is as tough of an opponent as you can draw, but it’s just another thing for them to overcome in a season full of obstacles. They’ve answered the call every time, and I expect them to answer one more time. Philadelphia feels like the team of destiny. Fly Eagles Fly!