Fifth in a series looks at how just about the entire Eagles roster has put them on the cusp of a title.

Part V: THE CORE IMPROVES

The Eagles cut ties with 2014 first-round bust Marcus Smith in training camp. His 2015 counterpart, Nelson Agholor, seemed headed for the same fate.

Agholor's break, however, came in the offseason when he was given extended work as a slot receiver while Jordan Matthews sat out with knee tendinitis. Agholor looked so good there that the Eagles felt emboldened to gamble on trading Matthews for cornerback Ronald Darby to try to bolster that shaky position.

Matthews this past season played 10 games for the Bills and had just 25 catches before being needing knee and ankle surgery. Agholor had 62 catches, three more than his first two seasons combined.

[Bob Ford on Nelson Agholor's revival]

The Eagles also saw improvement from Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who stepped in capably at left tackle when Jason Peters went down with a torn ACL and MCL. Stefen Wisniewski took over for Isaac Seumalo and has been terrific at left guard. Right guard Brandon Brooks was named a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career. Lane Johnson is arguably the best right tackle in the league. Linebackers Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham have helped compensate for Jordan Hicks' midseason Achilles' tear.

Brooks is an interesting example of the contributions throughout the roster. He has an anxiety condition which crippled him last year to the point where he missed games. But with therapy and treatment this season, Brooks has been as reliable as a Swiss watch. Though he still pukes before games.

"(Jan. 21) was probably the first time in a long time where I was like, 'This is what it's like to play in the NFC championship; it's the biggest game I've ever played in my career,'" Brooks told our Les Bowen. "Usually, I wake up on game day, and I throw up. I didn't, so I was wondering: 'Am I going to throw up today?' Sure enough, right before I went out [for the opening kickoff], I threw everything I had in my stomach up. That's really what I needed, to be honest."

Carson Wentz's growth was the most obvious reason for the Eagles stunning season. But improvement throughout the lineup turned what largely was projected as maybe a 9-7 campaign into 13-3 reality and a berth in the Super Bowl. Dog masks all around.

"I'm happy that my embracing of this opportunity has allowed me to be a part of something special," Agholor said, "which is this year's team."

Up next: Howie’s Offseason

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