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2022 NFC East preview: Can the Philadelphia Eagles build off surprising 2021 season?

The Eagles are now Jalen Hurts’ team. Will they fly with him at the helm, or crash land?

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles are a hated enemy of the New York Giants. The disdain is palpable, and names like Chuck Bednarik, Brian Dawkins, and Herm Edwards lead to a cornucopia of emotions for Giants fans that frustrate and bear blight fruit.

The Eagles have won the adversarial relationship in recent memory. The Giants forced Jalen Hurts to throw in their 2021 13-7 victory in Week 12 - the Giants’ last win of the season, and the Giants also defeated the Eagles, 27-17, in 2020.

However, the Giants only won four games against the Eagles from 2010-2019. Since 2010, the Eagles have 18 victories to the Giants six. The last time the Giants defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia was a 15-7 2013 victory where the Giants kicked five field goals to defeat the Matt Barkley led Eagles.

Philadelphia earned the privilege of playing in the playoffs last season. Despite a lot of pre-season doubt, and a strange opening press conference from new head coach Nick Sirianni, the Eagles clinched the seventh seed with a 9-7 record.

They eventually lost to the Buccaneers, 31-15, in the Wildcard Round, but they overachieved and are now regarded as a possible winner of the NFC East in 2022. Can they replicate their success with the addition of a top-tier wide receiver and several other assets, with Jalen Hurts entering his third season, second as a full-time starter? I guess we’ll have to see!

Key additions: AJ Brown, James Bradberry, Haason Reddick, Kyzir White, Zach Pascal, Jaquiski Tartt

Drafted players: Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens, Nakobe Dean, Kyron Johnson, Grant Calcaterra

Key losses: Hassan Ridgeway, Jordan Howard, Genard Avery, Steven Nelson, Alex Singleton, Rodney McLeod, Brandon Brooks (retired)

2022 outlook


The Eagles continue to maintain their status as one of the more progressive-minded organizations in football. With a new coach and a quarterback with inconsistent passing tendencies, they developed an offense centralized around running the football.

Philadelphia led the league in rushing yards per game with an average of 156.1; the second-highest team was the Colts with 149.4. Quarterback Jalen Hurts and the read-option game was the primary reason for the rushing success, but Siranni’s rushing diversity was easy to appreciate.

The Eagles ran a variety of zone and power concepts with TRAP, Y-Lead, and many more exotic rushing styles to maximize the Eagles’ strengths. The successful rushing attack forced defenses to respect the run, which opened up opportunities down the football field in the passing game.

Even the addition of wide receiver Zach Pascal fits the philosophy of Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen’s rushing offense. Pascal played for the Colts last season and is one of the better blocking wide receivers in the NFL. Philadelphia’s early-down 11 personnel package can now consist of Brown, Smith, and Pascal.

The Eagles have seemingly plugged multiple running backs with different styles into their lineup with success. Defenses focus a ton of attention on Jalen Hurts and the read-option attack, and this effectively eliminates backside pursuit defenders, leading to bigger cut-back lanes. Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott - who was re-signed to a one-year deal - will be in a rotation this season.

Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman entered the 2022 NFL Draft with three first-round selections. He traded one to the Saints in exchange for future draft assets and spent the 13th pick on Georgia defensive linemen Jordan Davis. Roseman then traded the 18th selection to the Tennessee Titans for the disgruntled yet uber-talented wide receiver A.J. Brown.

Until this point, the Eagles have failed to build an effective receiving corps, and it’s not due to a lack of trying. Philadelphia spent a 2019 second-round pick on JJ Arcega-Whiteside and a 2020 first round pick on Jalen Reagor. Both players have vastly underwhelmed.

Elite wide receiver Justin Jefferson was selected one pick after the Reagor choice, which has not aged well. Roseman did trade in front of the Giants in 2021 to grab DeVonta Smith, which seems like a hit. Nevertheless, upgrading the receiving corps was a priority for the Eagles heading into the 2022 offseason, so acquiring Brown can be considered a home run for the 2022 season.

Brown signed a four-year, $100 million extension after the trade; he’ll make $25 million a year, which is the fourth-highest wide receiver contract in the league. One can view this as progressive-minded because the wide receiver market boomed this off-season, and $25 million a year may be viewed as a discount in an offseason or two.

The deal is also backloaded with a potential out after the 2024 season. Brown will earn only a base salary of $986,000 with $4.6 million as a signing bonus in 2022 and $1.1 million in base salary with a $4.6 million signing bonus in 2023. However, Brown’s base salary jumps to $20.25 million in 2024 and would reach $30.25 million in 2026 if he’s still donning Eagles’ green.

The deal maximized a winning window that thrusts Hurts into an opportunistic circumstance. Hurts will have the chance to develop as a more consistent passer, and the Eagles are allowing him to earn the starting gig for the foreseeable future. However, if Hurts struggles, the Eagles have two first-round picks next season.

Hurts has upgraded weaponry, a great rushing attack centralized around his abilities, and a great offensive line. Jordan Mailata is a 2018 seventh-round dart throw that materialized into one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. The former rugby star joins Lane Johnson, one of the most athletic right tackles in NFL history.

Jason Kelce’s replacement - Cam Jurgens - was selected, but Kelce returned for one more season. Landon Dickerson was a second-round pick in 2021, and he figures to start at left guard, and Isaac Seumalo will man the right guard position now that Brandon Brooks has retired.

Brown’s overall effect on the Eagles’ offense will be interesting to monitor. The Eagles finished 29th in passing attempts per game last season (29.8); they finished 31st in completions (18.3 per game). I expect this number to rise and the passing game to run through the trio of Brown, Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert.

Brown’s presence will likely lead to more explosive plays generated through the air. According to Sharp Football Analysis, Philadelphia ranked 14th in explosive plays through the air, but they only threw the football 565 times. They were efficient with their deep passing and ability to create explosive plays; they ranked in the top six.

Their efficiency in creating plays north of 20 yards through the air, combined with their rushing attack, made them the second-most explosive offense in the league, again per Sharp Football Anaylsis. The 25-year-old Brown has a propensity to produce as a big-play threat. That will help this offense, and the fear of Brown’s ability will force defensive coordinators into tough decisions as they weigh the dangers of limiting explosive plays at the expense of surrendering 6 yards per carry. It will come down to Hurts’ ability to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.


If before the draft someone told you the Eagles landed Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, they’d respond believing Philadelphia used both of its selections in the first round on those two Bulldogs. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Medical concerns about Dean forced a slide to the third round.

Roseman is known for not addressing the linebacker position high, and he was able to get a possible first-round talent in the latter stages of Day 2. Furthermore, the trade up and selection of Davis makes a ton of sense for Jonathan Gannon’s defense.

Modern defenses are transitioning to a more multiple-high defense in response to the proliferation of speed and explosive play ability. Allocating defensive assets in coverage functionally limits a defense’s presence up front, albeit there are ways to mitigate the liability.

Brandon Staley of the Chargers - a Vic Fangio disciple - was generally at the forefront of this split-safety style in 2021, after an abundant amount of success as the Rams defensive coordinator. Staley would keep assets back, and in turn, the Chargers’ defense wasn’t gapped out in the box; instead, he’d have a secondary piece be a more vital aspect of the run fit when he wanted to play with three down linemen. Essentially, defensive backs have a more difficult responsibility to fit the run when the box is lighter.

Having a defensive player like the massive Davis, who can occupy space and be a nuisance for offensive linemen due to superior strength and unique athletic ability, is a huge advantage when a defense plays with lighter boxes.

Davis joins a defensive line room with Fletcher Cox, whom the Eagles released but resigned, and Javon Hargrave. 2021 third-round selection Milton Williams joins them - a quick athlete who is 98th percentile or more in the three-cone, 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump. The defensive line is deep, diverse, and talented, and complemented by a good pass rushing group.

Haason Reddick was signed, and Derek Barnett was retained to join veteran Brandon Graham and explosive pass rusher Josh Sweat. The Eagles struggled to generate sacks last season, finishing with only 29 (31st in the NFL). I would expect more pressure this season with the additions made.

Dean will compete for snaps with converted safety and former Charger Kyzir White. T.J. Edwards was arguably the number one linebacker for the Eagles last season. Dean has the potential of overtaking this position and becoming a true difference-maker - something the Eagles have lacked for some time at the linebacker position. However, Dean has injury issues and is undersized.

It was inevitably devastating that the Eagles would pursue and eventually sign Bradberry. The Eagles secondary hasn’t been great, but signing Bradberry to pair with Darius Slay is a massive win for Philadelphia’s defense. Behind the two stars at cornerback are Avonte Maddox at nickel, Zech McPhearson, Jimmy Moreland, Kary Vincent jr., and a few UDFAs.

Tartt and Anthony Harris are joined by Marcus Epps and K’Von Wallace on the backend of the defense. Tartt has a lot of experience in two-read, Cover-4, type of defenses and should figure to fit in well. The safeties aren’t the strength of the team, but there’s enough talent on this defense to make this overall unit respectable.

Final thoughts

The Eagles are a much better team today than they were when the 2021 season concluded. The additions through the draft and the signings of Bradberry and Reddick were tremendous improvements to their team, but adding Brown was a franchise-altering acquisition that could pay huge dividends.

The 2022 Eagles will go as far as Hurts can take them. The weapons are improved, and the Eagles arguably have the best offensive line in the league. With the improvements to the defense, the 2022 Eagles have a real shot at winning the division.