PHILADELPHIA — The pressure is on second-year Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman upgraded the offense via free agency and bolstered the defense through the draft.
Pederson is charged with combining newcomers such as wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, running back LeGarrett Blount and rookie defensive end Derek Barnett with holdovers such as quarterback Carson Wentz, tight end Zach Ertz and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox into a team that will challenge for the NFC East title this coming season.
Even Pederson said during an interview last month that expectations for this season are considerably higher.
“There has to be improvement this year,” Pederson said. “I get that. I’m not naïve to that or anything. But it’s hard to put a number on (what qualifies as a successful season). There are a lot of factors that go into it. I’m not going to put myself in a box that way. It’s still a game-by-game mentality.”
Pederson endured an up-and-down rookie season as Chip Kelly’s successor. The Eagles opened last season with three wins and were 4-2. But then they fell apart, going 1-7 before closing with two victories.
The Eagles have missed the playoffs for three straight years and have not won a playoff game since the 2008 season.
Pederson and Wentz are expected to end that drought this year.
“We have high expectations,” Wentz said Thursday during an interview on Philadelphia sports talk-radio station 94.1 WIP. “Going 7-9 is never good enough. I never want to be done after the regular season again. That doesn’t sit well with me, and it never will. Our goal is to win the NFC East, and we believe we have the guys to do it.”
Wentz spent most of last week in Fargo, North Dakota, where he hosted Jeffery, Torrey Smith and seven other wide receivers for an informal passing camp.
The goal was to form some chemistry on the field and develop an off-the-field bond.
“Had a blast this week with the (wide receivers) being in FARGO!” Wentz tweeted. “Got some good work in, had some fun, & ate some great food ... Fargo, y’all were great!”
Pederson spent a few days in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where he participated in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.
Next week, Pederson, Wentz and the rest of the coaches and players will reconvene at the NovaCare Complex for training camp.
Quarterbacks, rookies and selected veterans will have their first workout July 24. The first full-team practice is scheduled for July 27, when Pederson and company will continue the process of building a team that will be ready to contend when the regular season begins at Washington on Sept. 10.
“You acquire all this new talent through the draft and free agency, always having roster moves,” Pederson said. “But you just don’t know (how it will come together) through training camp. When the dog days of summer (arrive) and that heat hits, how well are these guys going to battle together?”
Pederson, 49, is dealing with a much more settled situation this year.
When the Eagles entered training camp last July, Sam Bradford was the starting quarterback. Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, was slated to be a third-stringer behind Bradford and Chase Daniel.
Pederson had spent the offseason assembling his coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Frank Reich, plus establishing a practice schedule for his first training camp in charge.
“Going into my second year, situations like this are not as intimidating as they were a year ago, quite honestly,” Pederson said. “Being able to set the offseason schedule for coaches and players and knowing exactly what we’re doing because we’ve been through it before is big.
“And then just overall football knowledge, having been through a year of calling plays and coaching the team and managing games. It all falls under the umbrella of having more confidence now.”