One of the great things about the NFL is that there are always teams that are not expected to dominate the league that come out and impress. It is always fun to take a guess at which franchises are well positioned to make a huge leap forward, and it is also enjoyable to wonder how fans did not see the ascension of a certain team coming.
So far in the 2022 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles are the team that has taken a major step and look to be one of the initial favorites to make a deep run in the postseason. While established teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers came in with better NFL odds, it is the Eagles who might fly the highest this year.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how Philadelphia has enjoyed so much success so far this season:
Trusting Their Backfield
Coming out of college at the University of Alabama and then the University of Oklahoma, there was not much of a doubt as to what made quarterback Jalen Hurts unique. In addition to having a strong arm to push the ball downfield, he had no trouble running for first downs when the play was breaking down. It seemed like a great bet that he would be able to keep this up in the NFL as well.
As a runner, Hurts has been fantastic so far in his professional career. As a full-time starter for the first time in 2021, the coaching staff decided to feature him as their main goal-line threat when they were in position to score. This resulted in ten touchdowns on the ground last season, and 784 rushing yards.
While it is always neat to utilize a quarterback as a primary thrower and runner, that strategy doesn’t always yield the best long-term results. After a while, the focus shifts to protecting your quarterback, and minimizing the amount of hits he takes over the course of a 17-game season.
Hurts will always have the natural ability to make things happen with his legs, but the Eagles have made it more of a priority to get their actual running backs involved this year. After years of sporadic usage, head coach Nick Sirianni appears to have taken the reigns off of Miles Sanders this season, who is off to a fantastic start. The threat of Hurts’ running ability opens so many lanes for Sanders, who is more than capable of taking advantage.
The team is also comfortable slotting in reserves such as Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, who have also shown flashes of ability in their NFL careers. With so many good players behind center, Philadelphia’s running attack will be difficult to contain.
Acquiring A Superstar
Philadelphia’s offense was certainly respectable last season, but it has taken major strides this year due to the acquisition of A.J. Brown. The Tennessee Titans had reservations about paying their star pass catcher, and the Eagles swooped in via a draft night trade in order to get him on their team.
He has proven to be a fantastic fit on the roster. Brown has a proven ability to take the ball the distance on any given play, which forces safeties and cornerbacks to play a little deeper to prevent that from happening. This strategy also allows the box to remain uncluttered for the Eagles’ rushing attack, so his presence is actually pushing the team forward in many ways.
Additionally, it has allowed second year wide receiver Devonta Smith to develop without the significant expectations of fulfilling his draft status. He was pegged as a potential star coming out of college but did not quite live up to the hype as a rookie. With the arrival of Brown, Smith can fit in and find the open areas of the defense as teams gameplan for his teammates.
Rugged Defensive Personnel
It isn’t just the offense that is making a difference in Philadelphia. When they won the Super Bowl a few years ago, they had an imposing defensive line that would control the game. It feels like they are well on their way to recapturing that level of effectiveness this season.
Mainstays Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham continue to provide a veteran presence that all of Philadelphia’s younger players can look up to. The team also picked up linebacker Haason Reddick, who has been a force rushing the passer in the early part of the season.
To make matters even more worrisome for opposing offenses, it looks like Philadelphia’s secondary is also much improved. Darius Slay remains one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL, and is now paired with the talented C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who the team acquired from the New Orleans Saints.