After another disappointing season in which they failed to get past the Wild Card round, the Philadelphia Eagles are getting a little more attention this offseason. A number of pundits have predicted that Philadelphia is looking like the favorite to win the NFC East in 2022 and some have suggested that they could have an impact in the playoffs.
The sportsbooks all seem to be rating the Eagles highly in their NFL lines, where they are generally being found among the top ten Super Bowl contenders. They are also close behind the Dallas Cowboys in the betting markets for the NFC East, which they last won in 2019.
No More Growing Pains for Hurts
Much of this optimism is based on Jalen Hurts and his projected development. As the full-time starter in Year 2 and now in his second year under head coach Nick Sirianni, pundits are predicting that the quarterback will make great strides and lead Philly to the Divisional title.
However, there is clearly some work still to do. Last year, Hurts averaged less than 210 yards per game, passing for 3,144 yards overall in 15 games. If Hurts wants to advance in his development as a starting quarterback, those figures surely must rise. He isn’t yet at a stage where the Eagles can rely entirely on his arm, as the Chiefs can on Patrick Mahomes’ and even Dak Prescott’s is by the Cowboys.
Hurts needs to be trusted more regularly in Philly’s passing game. Last season, he attempted 28 passes each game on average, and that figure has to rise. For their respective teams in 2021, Prescott and Mahomes averaged 37 and 38 attempts.
In my opinion, Hurts shouldn’t be throwing that much, but Siriani’s offense needs to get him close to those stats, or at least over the 30 passes per game mark. Although it’s excellent that he can make plays with his legs, in a league where passing is the key to success, his arm strength will be more important than his footwork for the season ahead.
He will also have extra support in the form of A.J. Brown, who joined the Eagles in an offseason deal with the Tennessee Titans. The development of second-year receiver Devonta Smith should also provide more options for Hurts to throw the ball.
Revamped Defense Needs to Step Up
The crucial area where the Eagles need to most improve is obviously their defense. Last year, their defense allowed the 10th-most yards overall and they were merely middle of the road when it came to forced turnovers, recording 16 in 17 games, enough to rank 16th in the NFL.
Any defense needs to force more than one turnover per week to have a realistic chance of winning consistently in a league where nearly half the teams average more than 25 points per game, especially if they don’t have an excellent quarterback.
However, the Eagles were able to sign outside linebacker Haason Reddick from the Carolina Panthers. Over the last two seasons at Carolina and Arizona, Reddick recorded 23.5 sacks. Philadelphia needs assistance in that area, as they only recorded 29 sacks in 2021, ranking 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL. Any extra pass-rush assistance will be significant.
Another potential defensive improvement came in the first round of the Draft, when Philadelphia selected Georgia interior defensive lineman Jordan Davis. In the Eagles’ offseason practices, he has already made an impression and has the potential to significantly improve the defense in his first season.
Schedule Leaves No Room for Excuses
The third factor that is in the Eagles’ favor, is the relatively easy schedule that they have been presented with for the 2022-23 season. The Eagles have been estimated to have one of the easiest schedules, according to many experts, with some even suggesting that theirs is in the top three most straightforward.
They can probably count on four wins from their games against the Giants and the Commanders, and there are other winnable games scattered throughout their schedule. Of course, the main obstacle to a Division win is the Dallas Cowboys. But, it is worth remembering that the Cowboys have not won back-to-back titles since the 1990s, and their capacity for implosion has become famous in recent years.
The pressure will once again be on Dallas and that will work in the Eagles’ favor. Emulating the LII Super Bowl success will likely be beyond the Eagles, at least in this season, but they have a great chance of returning to the top of the NFC Division by the end of 2022.