The Eagles are coming off of a Super Bowl defeat and have been spending the offseason ensuring they can go back next year.
The football world has been implying they may take a step back this year due to some of their free-agent departures.
That could not be further from the truth. This team has the potential to be even better than last season. This isn’t to say the Eagles went 14-3 last year and will go 15-2 or better this season.
Let’s be honest; the 2022 schedule was more than favorable for the Eagles.
The strength of the schedule this year is much more challenging. Last year their toughest opponents were division rivals. This year they not only have to play their division but also have to play the Jets, Bills, Chiefs, 49ers, Dolphins, and Seahawks.
Of this year’s non-division games, those are surely going to be the most challenging tasks. The Eagles won’t finish the season with a better record than last year, but the team will be a Super Bowl contender once again.
1) Jalen Hurts Will Continue to Progress
We are not that far removed from Jalen Hurts lining up in the backfield as a decoy for Carson Wentz. To go from that to being the MVP runner-up is more than impressive. Statistically, Jalen Hurts’s improvement from 2021 to 2022 isn’t the type of progress I think he’ll make again this year. If that were the case, he’d be putting up Madden numbers.
He will be better than he was last season, though. Every year since he was a freshman at Alabama, he has grown as a player. There is no reason to believe he won’t continue his improvement in 2023. In another year in Nick Sirianni’s system, most of the offense remains from last season, and Miles Sanders was replaced with a running back that can be a reliable receiver. These will all factor into the MVP year he is going to have next season.
2) Nick Sirianni is Going Into Year 3
Any head coach going into a third season with the core players still on the team is poised to improve. Like Jalen Hurts, Nick Sirianni has improved since becoming the Eagles’ head coach. We saw last season that no stage was too big for him, and that is a great quality for a coach that is coaching a team of this caliber.
He is coming off back-to-back trips to the postseason, with one being a trip to the Super Bowl. Job experience is crucial for a coach who wants to not only get to the Super Bowl but also win it.
3) Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean
Jordan Davis is coming off a subpar rookie season. He was way too one-dimensional last year, and it hurt his rookie campaign severely. It’s evident that he can stop the run, but he needs to tighten up his pass-rushing ability. This is a trait that will improve in year 2. I’m expecting much more from Jordan Davis this year and think he’ll find more success rushing the quarterback.
Replacing Javon Hargrave’s production from last season is one of the most critical aspects of the Eagles’ success. Jordan Davis is capable of helping fill that hole.
Nakobe Dean, unfortunately, saw even fewer snaps than Jordan Davis last season. Letting him sit behind guys like T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White was beneficial for him to adjust to the NFL game. This year he does not have that luxury. Dean’s football IQ is incredible, and it showed at Georgia when he led their defense to a national title.
The biggest concern people have is his size, but he makes up for that with his football IQ. There is no reason to believe Nakobe Dean cannot replicate the season Kyzir White or T.J. Edwards had last year.
4) Impactful Rookies
Last season the Eagles didn’t get much production from their rookies. That was expected with how deep the Eagles’ position groups were. This year’s rookies will not be “redshirting” their rookie year. Jalen Carter has the size and skill to immediately be impactful at the NFL level. He needs to give enough production to help make up for the loss of Javon Hargrave. I don’t believe he’ll be close to Javon Hargrave’s 11.0 sack total from last season, but he can impact the game in different ways.
Nolan Smith is another player who will be impactful as a rookie. He will be joining a pass-rushing group that already has multiple Pro Bowlers. His snap count may be low, but his ability to rotate into the defense will be beneficial. Keeping himself and the other pass rushers fresh will make blocking them an even more difficult task.
It’s unclear if Sydney Brown will have an impact as a rookie, but I’m confident if called upon, he will be up for the job. I firmly believe Nolan Smith or Jalen Carter will be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year next season.
5) The Eagles Free Agent Replacements Could be Better Than Expected
When looking at the Eagles roster this year compared to last year, you can say two position groups may have gotten worse. Losing both C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps at safety is undoubtedly going to hurt the Eagles. I do think they have good options to try and fill that hole.
The other hole is Linebacker. Call me crazy, but I think Nakobe Dean will have an outstanding year as the number 1 linebacker. Nicholas Morrow will give you similar production to what Kyzir White gave you last season. On paper, you could say they downgraded, but I seriously think Dean and Morrow will surprise a lot of people.
The offensive line has been another question mark due to Isaac Seumalo leaving but with Jeff Stoutland coaching that group, I have confidence they are similar to last season. This is still the best offensive line in football.
Lastly, the departure of Miles Sanders was tough to see, but the Eagles made up for that with Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift. If both Penny and Swift can stay healthy, I’ll take that duo over Miles Sanders any day. You can’t count on players getting injured, and right now, I think they will be better at running back.
The Eagles definitely lost some key pieces from last year. That happens with any good team. The acquisitions through the draft and free agency will help fill those holes and potentially even improve those position groups.
The Eagles did not regress.
The improvement we are bound to see from players like Jalen Hurts and young guys is promising to go into next season. The Eagles have a couple of positions that did get worse on paper, but they have position groups that got better too. With the addition of difference-making rookies and players ready to see real-time on the field, I have all the confidence in the world this team could be better than last season.
The tough schedule may not produce a 14-3 record, but this team will be much more battle-tested going into the playoffs.
The experience last year’s playoff run gave the Eagles players will be one of the most significant factors if they can win the Super Bowl this year.
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