Under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni, the Philadelphia Eagles found themselves as the last team to gain a playoff spot. Though they got promptly bounced, the young core showed there is a promise for the future. In his second season in the league and first year as a starter, quarterback Jalen Hurts proved he can lead a team and earned the opportunity to become a better passer.
General Manager Howie Roseman and gang sent away draft capital to Tennessee for stud wide receiver A.J. Brown. He is a big-bodied receiver who can threaten the defense vertically and elude tackles with the ball in his hands. Brown gives the Eagles a true WR1 in his prime, something they have not had since Terrell Owens. Going into his fourth season, some have said Brown is coming off a down year.
How A.J. Brown Makes a Difference
Though his basic stats don’t match up to his previous years, he still gained 2.7 yards per route run in 2021, good for 6th in the NFL among players with at least 20 targets. He is going from a run-heavy team that only spent 45% of their snaps in Shotgun (31st in the NFL) to one that spent 83% (4th in the NFL).
Brown is also entering a mutually beneficial relationship with second-year WR DeVonta Smith, who should excel while no longer being the sole focus of the defense. In 2021, the second-best WR for Tennessee was Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who produced 0.7 Total Points per game (TP/G). In comparison, Smith produced 1.8 TP/G, which kept pace with Brown. Smith was in a similar situation last season with Philadelphia’s second-best WR, Quez Watkins, producing 0.7 TP/G.
While the Brown move was a blockbuster, Philadelphia also shored up their weak spots on defense. One look at their SIS Sonar Depth will tell you Philadelphia underperformed at Edge, linebacker, cornerback and safety in 2021.
The biggest headline on defense came from the addition of hometown boy made good, Haason Reddick. Reddick projects to add sack production that was non-existent in Philly. They finished the year with 29 sacks, good for 31st in the NFL. Reddick attained 11 sacks in 2021, which tied him for 11th in the league.
An underrated move made this offseason was the addition of former Charger Kyzir White. In addition to being another lifelong Birds (Eagles) fan, White fits the bill of the modern NFL Will LB. His coverage numbers place him near the top of the league in several key categories.
In 2021, he allowed 3.7 yards per attempt when he was the primary defender of the targeted receiver. That number was good for 5th in the league among LBs with a minimum of 10 targets. He also produced 30 Points Saved in coverage, good for 2nd in the NFL.
With the loss of Alex Singleton, who earned the respect of the fanbase by going from the CFL to starting in the NFL, White will add value to a position asked to do a lot within the defense.
Another move that will increase value was adding CB James Bradberry. In 2021, Bradberry led the league with 11 Passes Defended when in zone coverage. Philadelphia relies on zone coverage, utilizing it three times more than man coverage. He will be an upgrade over last season’s starter Steven Nelson, who produced 1.7 TP/G, compared to Bradberry’s 2.4.
Though Philadelphia did not add a top-tier safety this offseason, it did bring in veteran Jaquiski Tartt. After seven seasons in San Francisco, Tartt is coming off a sufficient season and should compete for a starting job. His 1.4 TP/G last year is better than projected starters Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps, who produced 0.5 and 0.6, respectively.
With a stellar 2023 QB class, two first-round picks and a front office not afraid to go out on a limb, this season has become a prove-it year for Hurts. After adding a true WR1 and addressing the areas of weakness on the defense, he must prove he has taken a step forward as a passer. In a city notorious for lacking patience, the boo birds will surround you sooner rather than later.
Ben Hrkach contributed to this report.