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Consecutive wins for Saints, who host Eagles on Sunday

Cause for concern

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 4

Complacency.

Super Bowl hangover.

Whatever you want to call it, the question comes down to whether the Eagles are ready to defend their crown as Super Bowl champions.

We’ll begin to find out the answer Thursday when they host the Falcons in their season opener, but I suspect the answer is no – at least to start the season.

This isn’t some media-created consternation or worrywart hand-wringing. The Eagles themselves have expressed some concern.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the first one to bring up complacency, indicating that he spent a little too much time celebrating the Super Bowl victory and not enough time getting prepared for the season.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins recently complained about the “Super Bowl champions” sign in the team’s locker room. Jenkins, a team leader, said that this year’s team hasn’t won anything yet. Head coach Doug Pederson had the sign removed.

Jenkins has a point. This isn’t boxing or UFC, where you’re the champion until someone beats you. The Eagles enter this season with the same status as every other team. Yes, they want to repeat as champions, but they aren’t defending the championship in the same way as a boxer or MMA fight would.

The Eagles, however, seem to be acting as if they’ve got the title belt around their collective waists. The preseason was abysmal, yet there didn’t seem to be any sense of urgency surrounding the team.

The conventional wisdom was that the Eagles were immune from the Super Bowl hangover because so many key players didn’t participate in the victory. Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks suffered season-ending injuries and weren’t able to participate in the Eagles’ championship journey – at least not on the field. Their hunger to climb to the top of the mountain themselves was supposed to suppress the Super Bowl hangover.

But we didn’t seen Wentz, Peters or Sproles in a game during the preseason. What we saw was a first-team offense that stumbled and bumbled its way to zero points. We saw Nick Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP, miss targets repeatedly and cough up the football.

I’m not going to attack Foles – and not simply because he has achieved well-deserved folk hero status. Perhaps he was just shaking off rust during the preseason.

On the other hand, Foles is a rhythm quarterback. How is he supposed to find his timing if his receivers aren’t available? Alshon Jeffery didn’t play during the preseason due to shoulder surgery that will cause him to miss at least the first regular-season game. Mack Hollins was sidelined for most of the preseason and won’t play in the season opener. If Foles and veteran Mike Wallace, signed as a free agent, established a connection during preseason, I must have missed it.

What we have is Foles, a rhythm quarterback, entering the season opener with having timing established with any of his receivers except Shelton Gibson. Without time to work with his receivers you can’t expect Foles to simply flip a switch and look like his Super Bowl self.

It’s also unrealistic to expect Peters, Sproles to perform as if they haven’t missed any time. The same is true of Wentz and Jeffery when they return. We can throw in defensive end Brandon Graham, who didn’t play in the preseason after offseason ankle surgery. Looking through a pair of green-tinted glasses is the only way one could expect all of these players to click on all cylinders in their first game in 7-11 months.

But the Eagles seem to think that’s what will happen. Pederson said he didn’t need to see Peters or Sproles during the preseason. He’s confident they will be fine when the season begins.

The Eagles deserve some benefit of the doubt after winning the Super Bowl, but I have some doubts after watching the preseason and looking at their receiving corps.

Perhaps my doubts are much ado about nothing.

We’ll find out Thursday.

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