The bye week is over and we're about to really learn about this team.
The Eagles (5-4) return to work this week as they prepare for the shorter second half of their season. It all begins on Sunday at home against the Patriots.
Even after a rough start, the Eagles still have a chance to make it to the playoffs, but it won't be easy.
These are the five biggest questions facing them:
1. Will receiver play get better?
DeSean Jackson is on IR after having core muscle surgery, so after weeks of everyone just waiting on his return, we now know that isn't happening. Without Jackson, the Eagles' receivers have been awful. Dropped passes, fumbles, overall lack of production. The only difference in talent is that Jordan Matthews is back and simply adding Matthews won't be enough to turn everything around. The Eagles need Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to play better. There's just no way around that at this point. Both have been major disappointments this season.
2. Will the pass rush continue to get there?
In the last few games, we've really seen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham come on. And now Tim Jernigan is back and Derek Barnett has quietly been very solid for much of the year. But this defensive line needs to be the backbone of the team. Sure, Jim Schwartz will mix in blitzes here and there, but the front four needs to provide most of the Eagles' pass rush. If Cox, Graham, Barnett, Jernigan and the rotational players can get consistent pressure, it would go a long way.
3. Is the secondary really better?
The returns of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby have seemed to solidify a secondary that was in a bad state not that long ago. But we've seen Mills and Darby have their good and bad moments in the last few years, so let's see if their promising play continues. A starting trio of Mills-Darby-Avonte Maddox is probably the best the Eagles have to offer. A few coverage sacks could help that pass rush, too.
4. Late-season magic from Doug and Carson?
In each of the last two years, it's been Doug Pederson and Nick Foles taking the Eagles down the stretch. Now it's time to see if the franchise quarterback can do it. Right or wrong, the credit or blame goes to Pederson and Carson Wentz. We've seen Wentz play at an All-Pro level and we've seen Pederson be one of the best offensive play-callers in the NFL. But can they both hit their strides to get the Eagles in the playoffs in 2019?
5. Will Eagles take care of business in their division?
Four of the Eagles' last seven games are against NFC East opponents. While the game against the Cowboys at home in Week 16 could very well decide the winner of a playoff spot, the Eagles need to clean up against the Giants and Redskins too. The Eagles need to win both against the Giants and their one against the Redskins; just take care of business. If the Eagles sweep their four division games, I like their chances of getting into the playoffs.
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