The Philadelphia Eagles head into the 2022 season with a great-looking offseason (on paper). Howie Roseman and co. managed to acquire a myriad of talented players both through the draft and in free agency. The newest additions join a team with good veteran leadership in players like Darius Slay Jr., and Jason Kelce. The question now is, will all of this be enough to improve from the previous year? After all, the last thing the Eagles would want is another “Dream Team” situation to occur. Let’s take a look.
Philadelphia Eagles Post Pre-Season Concerns for 2022
Long-Term Questions at Quarterback
It’s impossible to find an Eagles article regarding their concerns that doesn’t mention the debate around Jalen Hurts being the long-term option at quarterback. Unable to upgrade with Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson, Hurts remained the best available option for a team looking to build off of their surprise 2021 playoff berth. Considering he is on a rookie deal, it gave the Eagles more flexibility to spend elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is now time for Hurts to take the next step.
On paper, he has one of the deeper receiving corps in the NFL along with emerging star tight end Dallas Goeddert. Paired with a proven offensive line and solid group of running backs, Hurts has the playmakers and blockers around him to improve in year three. All of these additions suggest he should take the year-three quarterback leap, but if his past concerns persist, the Eagles could be in trouble. Previously, Philadelphia fans have put up with lapses in reading the defense, abandoning the pass for the run from the pocket, ignoring the middle of the field, or pre-selecting his target. However, with high expectations in 2022, a struggling Hurts would force the Eagles hand to look at other options for 2023.
Backup quarterback Gardner Minshew II will hope, once again, for an opportunity to start a game this year. While he played well against the Jets in Week 13 last season, it is not enough to convince Head Coach Nick Sirianni to just change signal-callers. Besides, the Jets allowed the third most passing yards in 2021, so it wasn’t as if Minshew proved anything.
If both quarterbacks want the job, they’ll have to play well against playoff-caliber teams. (Note: The Eagles were unable to beat a playoff team last year, and were 1-7 against teams with above .500 records.) Accumulating good stats through garbage time won’t let these two off the hook.
Team Remaining Healthy
Probably the most important thing for any team is player health. The Eagles have depth at the O-line, but will it be enough? Just losing Lane Johnson alone could be a detriment (Note: The Eagles are 12-20 without Lane Johnson, and 59-42-1 with him; 1-2 in 2021). What about Jason Kelce? Cam Jurgens has been impressing everyone in camp, but will he be ready to fill the shoes in for one of the greatest centers in NFL history? The last time Jason Kelce missed a game was in October 2014, but that doesn’t guarantee the iron man’s status for the upcoming season.
And what about positions where the Eagles don’t have depth? The team doesn’t have many options at safety, and even one injury could negatively affect the pass defense. The Eagles were tied for worst opponent passing percentage, allowing nearly 70% of passes last year. While it can be blamed on Johnathan Gannon‘s defensive scheme, which puts too many defenders in a prevent formation, it’s also a sign that the secondary isn’t their strongest position. Let’s just hope Darius Slay Jr. and James Bradberry aren’t affected by the injury bug.
The most notable player when it comes to injuries is Miles Sanders, who has sustained eight injuries since 2020. It’s becoming a question of when, not if, with the Penn State product, in terms of his durability. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t been as explosive since his rookie year, and zero touchdowns in 2021 mean Sanders is on the chopping block if he can’t produce a healthy, productive season. The Eagles seem to be okay with Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott, and with Hurts also running the ball, it makes one wonder if this will be his last season in midnight green. A 17-game season with solid numbers might shut down those thoughts.
No matter what happens, the Eagles must expect the possibility of losing one or two key players this year due to injury, and how they respond will define them as a team.
Johnathan Gannon’s Defense Faltering
Mentioned earlier a bit, but can’t stress the importance of Johnathan Gannon’s need to improve his scheme. While the Eagles defense improved in the latter half of the 2021 season, it was against subpar teams that were either rebuilding or losing players to COVID (i.e. Week 15 vs Washington Football Team). At the beginning of the year, the likes of Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, and even Jimmy Garoppolo were having field days against the Eagles secondary.
While the Eagles weren’t allowing big plays, they were setting up too many defenders in coverage. This made it easier for opposing QBs to throw short and let the receiver pick up a big chunk of yardage. They must learn to diversify the play-calling and not solely rely on zone coverage. Gannon’s defense was good at preventing big plays (something that still haunts Eagles fans from the Chip Kelly era). With CB James Bradberry added to the mix, Gannon can have more faith in his secondary. If he and Slay Jr. continue their pro-bowl caliber play, the defense maybe won’t have to resort to deep zone coverage every play.
He and Sirianni have a good relationship. If the Eagles defense plays well, the two coaches could see themselves spending the majority of their careers together. Otherwise, these concerns about the Eagles defense could lead to Gannon’s hot seat temperature turning up.
Early Return on Rookies
All eyes will be on Jordan Davis, the massive defensive tackle and 2022 first-round pick. He’s an immediate, day one playmaker whose size will wreak havoc against the run game. With Davis clogging up rushing lanes, it will help the edge defenders get after the quarterback.
Additionally, fans cannot ignore interior offensive lineman Cam Jurgens and linebacker Nakobe Dean. Jurgens may see little play time depending on offensive line health, but he has impressed this summer. As for Dean, there are questions as to how much play time he will receive. An undersized, though athletic linebacker, Dean is up against plenty of competition for snaps. He’ll have to compete with Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards, who at the moment are more prepared for NFL action. Then there’s also Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley, who will get a share of snaps. In other words, Dean will need to shine in limited playing time.
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