Welcome back to another edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective of Chase’, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite teams season! The Philadelphia Eagles were one of the biggest surprises of the 2022 season, as they broke out into a 14 win team after the acquisition of A.J. Brown and progression from Jalen Hurts. But with both their offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator leaving for head coaching positions, a very old offensive line and several new starters on both ends, will this Philadelphia team be anywhere close to the team they were in 2022? Or will they continue to dominate a weaker NFC, and possibly capture the Super Bowl this time around? Here is everything you need to know about the Philadelphia Eagles going into the 2023 season!
It has to be answered: Will Philadelphia’s defense still be good with several new starters?
The start of the glory year last year for Philly was the 2022 NFL draft. Philadelphia was able to grab Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter in the first round, and then traded their second first round pick for star wide receiver A.J. Brown. For Tennessee, the trade ended up being terrible. Treylon Burks, the receiver that they drafted with Philadelphia’s draft pick, didn’t fully develop, and the Titans won just seven games, and missed the postseason for the first time in four years.
For Philadelphia, it worked out quite well! Brown had a career year for Philadelphia. He totaled close to 1500 yards and 11 touchdowns, while also accumulating the 5th most catches of 20 yards or more, and the third most catches of 40 or more yards. Brown was a key piece in developing Jalen Hurts as well in 2022. Safe to say it has been a lopsided trade thus far.
The Eagles offense was just unbelievable as a whole in 2022. And that all started with Jalen Hurts. In his third NFL season, Hurts threw for over 3700 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions, while rushing for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Hurts totaled the fourth most total touchdowns in the NFL by any quarterback, only behind Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. Hurts had a monster postseason as well, and despite a fumble returned to the end zone, he had 374 total yards and four total touchdowns in their slight Super Bowl loss to Kansas City.
Hurts has proved himself to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game, which is why he was signed to a $255 million dollar deal this offseason, a deal that at the time, made him the highest paid player per year in the history of the sport. Philadelphia should have some comfort knowing they have a franchise quarterback in their hands through 2028!
Miles Sanders had a nice season on the ground, running for a career high 1,269 yards and a career high 11 touchdowns. DeVonta Smith had a very good year two in the NFL, quietly stockpiling close to 1200 yards and seven touchdowns. I expect another great season from Smith in 2023! Also through the air, Dallas Goedert had a nice season, as he had 702 yards and three touchdowns in 2022, proving himself as one of the best tight ends in football!
On defense, they were also dominant. Philadelphia pilled up 70 sacks last season, a mark that ranked them third all time in sacks by a team in a season. What makes this even more impressive is that only three other teams in the 2000’s—this era of rules against hitting the QB—are in the top 25 in that category. Haason Reddick had a lot to do with that, with 16 sacks and an NFL leading five forced fumbles. Three other Eagles had 11.5 sacks as well—Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham—making their defensive line the most dominant in the NFL.
Their secondary was also one of the best in football. Darius Slay is one of the best cornerbacks in football, and had three interceptions and 14 passes defended in 2022. James Bradberry was the only player in Philly’s secondary to make an All Pro team, as he had three interceptions, 17 passes defended and the highest AV (approximate Value) score of his entire career. C.J. Gardner-Johnson on the other hand only played 12 games, yet led the NFL in interceptions with six.
So with all of this talent, Philadelphia made it all the way to the Super Bowl before losing to Kansas City in a tight one, 38-35. But they had many question marks going into the offseason, including ‘Who were they going to re-sign?’ And that list did not end up including Miles Sanders, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, T.J. Edwards or Javon Hargrave. So Philadelphia had some work to do to make sure they stayed one of the top teams in the NFL.
They made sure the quarterback position was locked up, signing Jalen Hurts to a long-term deal, and signing Marcus Mariota, who is the perfect backup quarterback in a system like Philly’s. In the backfield, Philadelphia traded very little, non valuable draft capital to Detroit to get D’Andre Swift, and signed Rashaad Penny to be a 2A-2B running back with Kenneth Gainwell. Swift has always been a very talented running back, with his ability to be a receiving back as well. But, he hasn’t quite stayed healthy and he did only average 38.7 rushing yards per game in the just 14 contests he played in last year. So there is definitely risk there.
Penny is a pickup I really like. In the final five games of the 2021 season, most of the games he started that year, he ran for 671 yards and six touchdowns. He also led the NFL in yards per carry that season with 6.3. However, he only played five games last season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. So Philadelphia was able to pick him up for cheap due to his history, which includes 11 starts in 5 seasons. If he can stay healthy though, Penny could find himself relevant once again.
In free agency, Philly made some smaller moves by singing Nick Morrow, a linebacker who had 116 tackles last year to replace T.J. Edwards. They signed Kentavius Street to add depth to the defensive line, and Olamide Zaccheaus to add depth to wide receiver. But that was pretty much it. They had to spend money to re-sign Graham and Lane Johnson, and obviously gave Hurts a comfortable amount. The one thing Philly didn’t do, even though they took some secondary players in the middle rounds of the draft, was find a replacement for Gardner-Johnson, which is concerning considering he again was the NFL’s interception leader and a key part of their defense.
In the draft however, they just kept adding to the defensive line. Philadelphia traded up from Pick 10 (from New Orleans in Gardner-Johnson trade), to Pick 9, where they selected Jalen Carter. While the Bulldog defensive lineman has some off the field issues that have to be solved, he was projected to be the first overall pick before those issues…and Philadelphia got him at #9! And then at pick 30, Philadelphia decided to take Nolan Smith, another Georgia defensive lineman. Smith should improve to an already very talented pass rushing core. That makes now FOUR Georgia defensive lineman drafted by Philadelphia in the first three rounds of the draft over the past two seasons: Carter, Davis, Smith and Nakobe Dean.
And the final thing Philadelphia decided to do was replace their OC and DC. Their offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen, left for Indianapolis for a head coaching job, and their defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, left for a head coaching job at Arizona. So they had to find their replacements.
Brian Johnson, who just started coaching in the NFL in 2021, is stepping up as the team’s new OC. Johnson was Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach last season, so he knows the system pretty well, and shouldn’t have too hard of a time getting adjusted to that role. On defense, Philadelphia brought in Sean Desai, the Seattle Seahawks Associate Head Coach-Defense in 2022. Desai helped a very mediocre Seattle defense, who had just lost Bobby Wagner, turn into one of the best in the league last year, as the Seahawks ranked fourth in the NFL in forced fumbles, seventh in sacks, eight in takeaways and 10th in opponent completion percentage. He also helped develop Tariq Woolen into one of the best cornerbacks in football. Now he’s going to be given so much more talent and a bigger role to run this defense.
So that caps off a very busy offseason for Philadelphia. New starters. New coordinators. And many questions. Is Philadelphia’s backfield going to stay healthy? Will Philadelphia’s secondary regress significantly without Gardner-Johnson? Will second year starters on the defensive end step up? Will both new coordinators adjust to the system quickly? Their offensive line is older; Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Landon Dickerson. Is there O-Line going to fall off? There are many questions.
But in reality, it shouldn’t really matter. Nakobe Dean and Jalen Carter were dark-horse defensive rookie of the year candidates last year, but just didn’t get the proper opportunity. Hurts can carry the rushing attack. The secondary still has two All-Pro caliber corners. Their OC is already familiar with the system and the DC is working with defensive talent almost no defensive coordinator can work with. Will Philadelphia be a historic team like they were last season? Probably not. But they don’t have to. You don’t have to break history every season. We’ll realize that as long as Philadelphia has a capable system around Jalen Hurts, this team is going to competing for championships, season, after season, after season!
Prediction: Eagles become the 1st team to win the NFC East in back-to-back seasons since 2004, and fly their way back to the Super Bowl (find out what happens in season predictions out September 7th)!