How the Philadelphia Eagles have soared to new heights in 2022
Even though there has been a five-year gap between the last time the Eagles made the Super Bowl, a lot has happened in between to get this point once again.
From new coaches, new players and new game plans, Philadelphia has been able to adapt to the changing landscape of the NFL and it may just lead to the ultimate success.
When Jalen Hurts was picked in the 2020 Draft with the 53rd pick by the Eagles, there was a lot of peculiarity in Eagles GM Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson’s decision, using a second-rounder on a quarterback when they already had Carson Wentz who appeared to be the guy that the Eagles were building around.
They had just signed Wentz to a four-year deal worth $128 million which had $108 million in guaranteed money after their Super Bowl win in 2018. Plus, Hurts’ ability to be a dual-threat quarterback didn’t appear likely to work within their offence which was pass-first oriented.
However, after Pederson was sacked after the 2020 season and soon after Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, newly appointed head coach Nick Sirianni was putting his faith in the second-year QB to take the reins of the offence.
Last year showed signs that they were going in the right direction with Hurts and Sirianni after turning a 2-5 start to the year to make the playoffs with a 9-8 record with Hurts showing glimpses of the talent that he displayed in college. Whilst some felt that in a couple of years that they would be ready to contend, the Eagles front office decided that now was the time to go for Super Bowl glory.
In this latest off-season, the Eagles would build upon their list to get them into Super Bowl contention. They would trade a first and third-round pick from this year’s draft to the Tennessee Titans to pick up wide receiver A.J. Brown, who is now paired with DeVonta Smith, who they had drafted last year to form one of the best wide receiver combinations in the NFL, which was shown by both receiving for a combined 2692 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Haason Reddick was signed as a free agent from Carolina and has had an immediate effect on the defence with his leading contribution of 16 sacks for the regular season. This saw him become one of four players in the Eagles to contribute 10-plus sacks in the regular season – an NFL first, that saw them record 70 sacks for the season. The next-best team total was 55.
They also traded for safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson from New Orleans who is equal-first for interceptions despite only playing 12 games for the regular season, as well as picking up guys like James Bradbury who was selected 2nd All-Pro and veteran defensive tackles like Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh during the season to provide defensive depth and support for the Eagles.
It seems that every move that Roseman made this year has had a positive effect on the team’s performance, resulting in a 14-3 record – good enough for the first seed in the NFC.
What has also helped them go to the next level is the emergence of running back Miles Sanders as the No.1 option for running the ball. Sanders has had a career-best season for Philadelphia, finishing the regular season with 1269 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, giving the Eagles another player able to run the ball besides Jalen Hurts.
With Sanders’ improved performance, it saw the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 32, well clear of the rest of the competition with the next closest being 24. With less reliance on Hurts, it has freed him up to improve his passing game and improve his quarterback play.
Philadelphia has expanded its offence through Hurts by adopting a run-pass option-based offence. The run-pass option allows Hurts to adapt the offence to either a run or pass play, based on how Hurts himself sees how the defence is set up.
Increasing the prevalence of the RPOs in the offence has better suited Hurts as a dual-threat quarterback, providing him with more opportunities to rush within the game which makes him harder to stop as a result. It has now become their most relied-upon play type with Philly leading the league with 185 completions in RPOs.
And now that he has gotten better with his passing throwing for 3701 yards (which was a 557-yard improvement), it provides an element of unpredictability for opposing defences who no longer can just blitz him and pressure him into making mistakes with the football.
Philadelphia’s defence has also been important in getting them to the Super Bowl. On average, the Philly defence concedes 301.5 yards per game which is the second-lowest in the competition. They are best suited to stopping the passing game which will be important considering their opponent in the Super Bowl will be the Chiefs.
On average again, they only conceded 179.8 yards per game – the best in the competition. Include their 17 interceptions and 85 passes defended for the season and it certainly will make it tough for the Chiefs to get their passing game going as well as it does. The weakness within the defence is preventing the run game which sees them ranked 16th overall for rushing yards allowed per game with 121.6 yards.
With the history between Philadelphia and ex-coach Andy Reid who now coaches the Chiefs, it should make for an interesting clash between the No.1 seeds in each conference.
Throw in some sibling rivalry between brothers Jason Kelece (Eagles) and Travis Kelece (Chiefs) and it certainly makes for some intriguing viewing on the 13th of February.
While many did not expect Philadelphia to get to this stage at the start of the year, they deserve to be here on the NFL’s grandest night and possibly history may repeat itself with the Eagles and may see the second Lombardi Trophy in five years go back to the City of Brotherly Love.