Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Too Much Hype Around 2022 Eagles?

Eagles mailbag: Too much hype around 2022 Eagles? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Every time we ask for questions we get a ton back. I truly appreciate it and apologize if I didn’t get to yours this weekend.

Yesterday, I answered a bunch about DeVonta Smith, long-term positional needs and more.

Today, we’ll talk about the expectations for the 2022 season, overall schemes and the new Eagles I’m most excited to watch:

You’ve been hurt before. I get it. Eagles fans should enter this season with cautious optimism. I think this is a pretty good team.

The roster assembled by Howie Roseman, on paper, is a good one. Nothing is a given in the NFL, so we obviously have to see how it plays out. But it’s not unreasonable to expect the Eagles to compete for the division title this season and possibly make a run in the playoffs.

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The Cowboys won the NFC East last year but they lost some key players; they look worse now than they did in 2021. But they have a better quarterback than the Eagles and that can make up for deficiencies in other areas. Still, looking position-by-position, I feel pretty confident that the Eagles have the best roster in the division.

There are unanswered questions and they shouldn’t be considered one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, but I have no problem with high expectations as long as the team doesn’t buy into them. They have enough veteran leadership to hopefully avoid that pitfall.

It’s the boring answer but it will probably be somewhere in the middle. To be clear, I give Nick Sirianni a ton of credit for not letting his ego get in the way when he changed to a heavy run attack and when he turned over play calling to Shane Steichen. That humility is rare in the NFL and it helped the Eagles turn around their season in 2021. But Sirianni on his own this offseason mentioned that the Eagles were 25th in passing last year. He knows that’s not good enough.

It’ll be huge for the Eagles to find that balance. Because they ought to be better in the passing game with the addition of A.J. Brown and the expected growth from Jalen Hurts. But that offensive line is still a strength too and they can run the ball. The breakdown of run/pass might change week-to-week, which isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Sirianni loves to play matchups so that would be a sign of things going well.

Since I already wrote about the offensive balance, let’s talk about Jonathan Gannon’s defense. Looking back at the 2021 season, I didn’t have a problem with the theoretical approach Gannon took against elite quarterbacks. The idea was to avoid big plays and count on making some of their own on defense. The problem I had with the approach is that he seemed unwilling to change when it clearly wasn’t working. Would the Eagles have gotten shredded if they were more aggressive against Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady? Yeah, maybe. But we’ll never know because Gannon didn’t try it. The funny thing about that approach last year is that with better players, it might have worked. If the Eagles had Haason Reddick and Jordan Davis and Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean and James Bradberry last season, maybe they’re able to make that strategy work.

The important thing to remember about the aggressive/passive debate is that Gannon went passive against top quarterbacks and the list of top quarterbacks the Eagles face in 2022 is shorter. But they’ll probably face less dreck too. More middle-of-the-road QBs in 2022. With the influx of talent on that side of the ball, I think we’ll end up seeing a slightly more aggressive defense and better results. Imagine that: Better players lead to better results.

This is tough. I’ll go with this order:

1. A.J. Brown: Not only is Brown the biggest addition on that side of the ball but he’s also an incredibly fun player to watch. He’s a legitimate threat to score anytime he touches the ball and he’s not doing it with just finesse. He’ll run over some folks on his way to the end zone.

2. Haason Reddick: The Eagles needed some pass rush and I can’t wait to see if Reddick can put together another double digit sack season. Let him hunt.

3. Nakobe Dean: Like all college football fans, I watched a ton of Georgia last season and Dean was all over the field. I know Jordan Davis was the first-round pick and I’ll want to watch him too. But I’m even more curious to see what kind of impact Dean makes in his rookie season.

Most vulnerable: Defensive end. Sure, the Eagles added Reddick but he’s not going to play the DE spot. That leaves them with Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett and Tarron Jackson as their DEs. The Eagles will rotate at this spot and the only other DE (listed) on the roster is project player Matt Leo. The Eagles could play some other guys at that spot but losing any of those top three would really hurt.

Least vulnerable: Offensive line. The Eagles really have some depth on their OL. Obviously, losing a great player like Jordan Mailata, Lane Johnson or Jason Kelce would sting. But the Eagles on their bench right now have Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Cam Jurgens, Le’Raven Clark and Sua Opeta. That’s real depth.

Can’t speak for Roob, but I don’t. You have to remember that Merrill is talking to a bunch of folks in real time. During a game, the most public-facing thing I do is tweet. The only times on game days I feels nerves are when I’m working quickly to file a story and sometimes postgame. I always get nervous about asking a tough questions in a postgame press conference. Not necessarily about the response it’ll get but about whether or not I’m phrasing it well enough. And it can sometimes be a little nerve-wracking trying to win a question faceoff.

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