Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

Eagles begin title defense with Foles at QB

The Philadelphia Eagles enter the season in a position they have never been in previously, and that is as defending Super Bowl champions.

It was a somewhat lackluster preseason for them as they tried to deal with the championship hangover that tends to afflict teams, all the while dealing with the uncertainty of whether Carson Wentz’s reconstructed right knee was fully healed to allow him to start the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Head coach Doug Pederson announced on Monday that Nick Foles will start against the Falcons.

There wasn’t much to like about the way the Eagles played in their four preseason games. Until they scored a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the exhibition finale against the New York Jets for a 10-9 win, the Eagles were staring at an 0-4 preseason. The last winless preseason they had was 1976 when they went 0-6, which led to a 4-10 regular season under then-first-year head coach Dick Vermeil.

Still, there weren’t many jobs up for grabs on a roster that is talented enough to make a strong push for a return to the Super Bowl. It’s just that many of the first-team players weren’t available throughout training camp, starting with Wentz.

Also missing all of camp were receiver Alshon Jeffery (offseason rotator cuff surgery) and defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle surgery on May 1).

The team also kept the wraps on left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles, both of whom participated in camp but did not play in the preseason. Receivers Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins also did not see much practice time this summer due to injury.

So it will be interesting to see how long it takes the Eagles to get on the same page.

There are also some newcomers to blend in, including defensive end Michael Bennett, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Seahawks, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert looked like the real deal all summer long. Goedert was the team’s second-round draft pick from South Dakota State, and he was the Eagles’ first pick in the draft after trading out of the first round.

A challenging schedule begins right away with the Falcons, a team that nearly upended the Eagles’ Super Bowl run before it left the starting gate.

The Eagles needed to make a fourth-and-goal stop in the final 65 seconds of the divisional round of the playoffs to win 15-10. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, hasn’t had much luck in returning to his hometown, owning just a 1-4 record at the Linc.

SERIES HISTORY: 31st regular-season meeting. Eagles lead series, 16-13-1. The Eagles lost only once on their home field last year on their way to a 13-3 record.