So Different

Posted: January 10th, 2023 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on So Different

The Eagles finished the regular season with the best record in the league, 14-3. That earned the top seed and a bye, but that’s it. When they take the field next week, the score will be 0-0 and all their regular season accomplishments won’t mean a thing. That’s the heaven and the hell of the playoffs. The Phillies struggled to get into the postseason, but then beat teams that had far better years. Everything resets in the postseason. You have to win and prove yourself all over again.

Nick Sirianni hasn’t won a playoff game. Nor has Jalen Hurts. We know they form a great combination in the regular season, but there will be pressure on them to win in the postseason. It’s that way for all new coaches and QBs. Careers are defined by what happens in January and February.

Last year the Eagles lost to Tampa 31-15 in the wild card round. They fell behind 31-0 before adding a pair of TDs to make the score look more competitive. So why should we expect this Eagles team to succeed in the playoffs?

Things are very different.

Let’s start with Jalen Hurts. He is a vastly improved QB this year. He had a legit shot to be the NFL MVP before a late season injury slowed him down. Hurts has been a weapon as both a runner and passer. He finished fourth in the NFL in passer rating (101.6), which is almost 15 points above his rating for 2021. Hurts worked relentlessly in the offseason to improve as a passer. His mechanics are better. His motion is better. His decision-making is better. Hurts is the biggest reason the Eagles had such a special season.

Howie Roseman went out and got some weapons for Hurts. He traded for AJ Brown on draft day so Hurts would have a proven stud receiver to add to the mix. Brown went on to have a special season, setting the franchise record for receiving yards in a season. Brown had the best year of his career.

Roseman got some weapons for the defense. Hurts can’t make plays unless the defense gets the ball back for him. Haason Reddick was the first big move of the offseason and he turned out to be even better than expected.

Reddick finished second in the NFL with 16 sacks and he tied for the lead in forced fumbles with 5.

Reddick was good beyond just making plays. He had a transcendent effect. His pressure created plays for others. Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Javon Hargrave all had career years. The Eagles finished with 70 sacks, the third highest total in league history.

As we know, you don’t get sacks without coverage. The Eagles pass rush didn’t go from 31st to first just because of Reddick. Roseman also added weapons to the secondary. James Bradberry gave the Eagles a playmaking corner. CJ Gardner-Johnson gave them a playmaking safety. CGJ led the league in interceptions with 6. Bradberry finished third in passes defensed with 17. He also had 3 picks.

The Eagles added a lot of impactful firepower in the offseason. These guys can be difference-makers.

As with Hurts, plenty of young players got better from last year.

We knew Dallas Goedert was a very good TE. This was his first season without Zach Ertz and Goedert showed that he truly is one of the league’s best. DeVonta Smith set a franchise record for receptions by a WR and turned into a star. He was good as a rookie, but has taken his game to a whole other level. Miles Sanders just had the best season of his career.

Josh Sweat had his breakout season (11 sacks, 15 TFLs) and emerged as a stud pass rusher. TJ Edwards finally got to start for the whole season and finished seventh in the league in tackles. He gave the Eagles their best MLB play in a while. Marcus Epps finished third on the team in tackles and gave the Eagles a physical presence in the middle of the defense.

It should be clear that the guys on the field are better. This is Year 2 for the coaching staff. They didn’t add any superstars in the offseason, but you can bet they learned a lot from last year, good and bad. The Eagles did not play well in Tampa last year. You could see the Bucs were a more talented team, but they also were a confident, veteran team that simply played better.

I’m sure the coaches have thought a lot about that game. Adding talent was part of the solution. The other part is for the coaches to have the team better prepared and to have better schematic ideas ready. Playoff football is next level. You can’t change from the team you were in the regular season, but you must have answers for when your opponent takes things away.

Tampa took away the Eagles run game last year. The Eagles couldn’t throw the ball effectively until the game was out of hand. The coaches have much better players this time around and hopefully they’ll have better answers if the opponent is able to take away part of the offense.

A lot has changed since last January. The Eagles are a better team and they have a chance to do special things. It will be interesting to see how Sirianni, Hurts and the team handle the moment.


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