In the 2022 off-season, I was very optimistic about the future of the Philadelphia Eagles. As a fan, this season has been fun to watch, and I still believe we’ll go very far in the playoffs. The Eagles finished the regular season 14-3 and have picked up some hugely important wins but have also struggled to beat teams like the Texans and the Colts this season which has me concerned. Some positives and negatives can’t be overlooked going into the playoffs.
Jalen Hurts playing at an MVP level.
The one thing that has shocked me is how well Jalen Hurts has played this season. It helps that he has a top-five receiving core in the NFL, with AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith having 1,000-yard seasons going into Week 18. Hurts has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 22 touchdown passes, and only 5 picks. He is making many good decisions throwing the ball compared to last season. He’s going to have to go to that next level if the Eagles want to win the Super Bowl.
The New Guys in town
This offseason was enjoyable for all Eagles fans, and it all started in the second week of March when Haason Reddick was signed to a three-year contract. That has worked out as Reddick currently has 16 sacks and has forced five fumbles this season, and he has recovered three of them. He is on his way to the Pro Bowl in Vegas. Later in March, Kyzir White was signed to a one-year contract, and he has been a significant impact player who the Eagles should keep around for the coming years.
On Night 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft in Vegas, the Eagles selected Jordan Davis with the 13th overall pick. He has been a run stuffer, and the run defense struggled while injured for four weeks. Almost 45 minutes after picking Davis, they traded the 18th and 101st pick to the Tennessee Titans for AJ Brown, who has exploded playing with Hurts this season. In May, he signed a 4 year $100m contract extension to commit his long-term future to Philly. On Night 2 of the draft, Howie Roseman could wait until the 83rd pick to draft Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean who was widely expected to be a first-round pick. Meanwhile, in August, Roseman acquired Chauncey Gardner-Johnson from the Saints in exchange for draft picks. So far this season, Gardner-Johnson has six interceptions.
AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith both getting over 1,000 yards.
One of the big difference makers this season was AJ Brown. After the Eagles acquired him from the Titans, Eagles fans had a high level of excitement because of the numbers he put up while he was with the Titans. This season, he hasn’t disappointed. He has hauled in 88 receptions for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns. Smith, meanwhile, has hauled in 95 receptions for 1,196 yards and 7 touchdowns. Both have had significant impacts on this season and are a huge reason the Eagles have the one seed in the NFC.
The run defense
There haven’t been a lot of negatives about this season, but one overwhelming negative is the run defense. This is a problem because in the loss to the Commanders in November, the defense gave up 152 yards on the ground and those yards allowed the Commanders to chew the clock and dominate the time of possession. In wins, too, our run defense hasn’t been great. Against the Texans, Dameon Pierce got 139 yards on the ground because Jonathan Gannon waited too long to make adjustments.
Jonathan Gannon refusing to blitz
In the last two years, I’ve seen this far too often. A straight-up refusal by Jonathan Gannon to blitz the quarterback, and then those quarterbacks torched us downfield. Last season, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady (twice), Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, and Justin Herbert were among the quarterbacks who threw the ball easily against our secondary. Prescott torched the Eagles this season in Week 16, including a 50-yard gain on a 3rd & 30. Gannon is considered a favorite for the Texans’ head coaching job, and some Eagles fans (me included) want him to take it.
If the Eagles can clean up their run defense and find a way to blitz opposing quarterbacks and keep them uncomfortable, the path to the Super Bowl seems very clear. However, a first-round exit looks very likely if the run defense continues to be a problem and Gannon continues to fall in love with the zone defense. We’ll see what happens on January 22.