“Obviously it’s early,” he said, “but you look around the locker room in terms of talent, I’ve never been on a team like this.”
And yes, that includes the 2017 Super Bowl squad, on which Ertz played an intricate role.
This is not an uncommon take inside the building. It’s not spoken with bluster. This is not like when Vince Young regrettably called the hastily assembled and ultimately dysfunctional 2011 Eagles squad the “Dream Team.” Rather, it comes off as sober analysis from players and coaches who recognize that talent is a great start but nothing more.
“Talent-wise, yeah, I mean, I would say that it’s pretty good,” said coach Doug Pederson, when asked if this is the best roster he’s had to work with since taking over in 2016. “I would say that from a skill position [standpoint] on offense, it’s probably the best we’ve had going into my fourth season. From a depth standpoint, I think it’s equivalent to what we had going into the 2017 season.
“But listen, all that can change in a heartbeat, as we know. This is a violent sport, violent game, but by no means — and I’m not going to sit here and make predictions and put our team in a box that way — but we still have to go coach and play games, obviously. But on paper, it appears that way.”
Pederson highlighted the skill position players on offense, and rightly so. This might be the best supporting cast quarterback Carson Wentz has had. He has DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor as his primary receivers, Ertz and the emerging Dallas Goedert at tight end, and an overhauled running back group that includes Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles behind him. They’re loaded.
The offensive line is as deep as any in the league. There is firepower along the defensive front led by the defensive tackle duo of Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson. The secondary is anchored by veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, and there is good depth at cornerback.
Pederson mentioned lingering injuries as his biggest concern entering training camp, which opens Thursday at the NovaCare practice facility in South Philly. Cox is coming off foot surgery. Corners Jalen Mills (foot) and Ronald Darby (ACL) spent this spring on the mend. McLeod (knee), standout right guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles) and defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder) are all coming off season-ending injuries of their own. And this is a veteran-laden roster. The Eagles ranked as the sixth-oldest team this offseason with an average age of 26.4, per the Elias Sports Bureau. With 12 projected starters who are 29 or older, it’s fair to wonder how well this team will hold up over the long haul.
Also critical to the end result is how well this team meshes. Locker room chemistry varies from year to year. There are a lot of mouths to feed on offense and just one ball to go around. A star-studded team is going to have to harness a good deal of humility if it wants to turn all this promise into something real.
“The talent that we have on this roster is second to none since I’ve been here,” Ertz said. “But in terms of executing, coming together as a team, building the chemistry, that’s what really separated that team when we won it a couple years ago, how close we were on and off the field. So that’s still coming, it’s still early. That’s why we have training camp. That’s why we have mandatory minicamp, and that’s why we hang out off the field, to build that team chemistry with one another and hopefully execute when it matters.
“Because everyone here is focused on just winning games. No one is focused on stats or anything like that. I think that is what everyone is so excited about.”