While it’s not the exact halfway point in the season, the Eagles bye week falls as close to the halfway point as it could.
Through 9 games the Eagles are 8-1, and currently leading the NFC East. For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have started 8-1 in back-to-back seasons, and they are looking primed for another Super Bowl run. Before the second half of the Eagles season kicks off Monday night in Kansas City, let’s take a look at the different aspects of the team from the first 9 games.
New Coaches Shine
The biggest question coming into the season for the Eagles was how well new coordinators Brian Johnson and Sean Desai going to perform. While there have been a few hiccups, it’s impossible to deny that both of these coaches have done a great job. First impressions are hard to shake, and many Eagles fans have not been able to shake their first impression of Brian Johnson as a coordinator. While he had some growing pains in week 1, he has done an excellent job with this offense. The Eagles offense is currently 3rd in points per game, and 5th in yards per game. The one knock on the offense has been their struggles to score in the red zone, which seems to be working itself out. Hopefully, Eagles fans can reevaluate their stance on Johnson because he has really turned it around.
What Eagles fans wanted in a defensive coordinator was someone who is willing to adjust, and play well against good Quarterbacks. While that is not an easy feat, Desai has been able to accomplish that so far this season. Against the Miami Dolphins and their number one offense in the NFL, the Eagle’s defense was able to hold their offense to just 10 points. This game was a big test, and they rose to the moment. While they have had their struggles, Desai has done a great job of making second-half adjustments. Against the Cowboys and the Rams, the defense was getting shredded in the first half, but in both games, the Eagles’ defense held the other team down in the second half. The Cowboys were held to just 6 points in the second half of last week’s game. This is something that coordinators have not done in the past, and with the tough schedule coming up it must continue.
The Eagles are creating franchise history week after week, and that is a credit to Nick Sirianni. One of the toughest things to do in sports is lose a championship and get back the next year. While it remains to be seen if the Eagles will make it back to the Super Bowl, they are starting off on the right track. The 2022 and 2023 Eagles are the first team in franchise history to start off back-to-back seasons 8-1. While some may knock him for not calling plays, he has built a great culture in that locker room and has brought in a culture of winning.
At the halfway point of the Eagles season, Jalen Hurts is the co-favorite to win NFL MVP alongside Patrick Mahomes. Another one of the biggest questions coming into the 2023 season for the Eagles was if Hurts could do it again. To this point, the answer is yes. Even though his running has been hampered by his knee injury, Hurts has excelled in the passing game. So far Hurts has thrown for 2,347 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is on pace to shatter his passing yard and passing touchdown numbers from last year, and there has been a visual improvement in his passing. It seems that this year he is making more tight window throws than he did last year. Hurts has improved his accuracy every year since entering the NFL, and this year he has solidified himself as an Elite QB.
The one concern on Hurts this year has been the turnovers. Hurts had a reputation for taking great care of the ball, but this year he has turned the ball over 11 times. While he has gotten it under control recently, if there is one thing that could come back to bite him in a big game is the turnover. Unfortunately, we saw it happen last year in the Superbowl, so hopefully he keeps the positive momentum going for the rest of the year.
Star Receivers Carry Offense
The best player on the Eagle’s offense during this first half has been A.J. Brown. Brown has caught 67 passes for 1,005 yards and 6 touchdowns. It was not long ago that the Eagles had a drought of 1,000-yard receivers, and now we have players doing it in just half a season. Brown has been everything the Eagles could have ever dreamed of when they traded for him from Tennessee, and he has not shown any signs of slowing down.
Devonta Smith has been a little overshadowed this season, but with 42 catches and 533 yards, he is on pace for another 1,000-yard season. Smith makes some of the most unbelievable catches we have ever seen, and while the numbers may not show it, he is doing a great job this year.
The Eagles’ running backs have been up and down this season. D’andre Swift had a hot start to the season including back-to-back 130-yard or more games rushing, but he has slowed down. His struggles recently have matched up with Guard Cam Jurgens‘ injury, but either way, he has not been as good since 5. Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott have not done much this season, and the rushing game as a whole has not been very good. This may also be because Hurts has been injured, and not a threat to run. What made the Eagles’ rushing attack so dangerous in years past was that the defense had to respect Hurts’ ability to take off. With his recent knee injury, he has not been much of a threat to run, and the run game has struggled.
The Eagles’ offensive line has been good this season, but not great. They struggled early in the season to pass protect, but it seems they were able to get that figured out. The biggest problem right now is the run blocking. With Cam Jurgens coming back this week hopefully, it will help to fix the running game, but there is no guarantee.
The biggest concern for the Eagles going forward is the secondary. In last week’s game against the Cowboys, the secondary really struggled in the first half but played better in the second. They held the Dolphins to just 10 offensive points, but then let up over 30 to Washington. With some very good teams coming up the secondary just needs to be consistent. We all understand that they are going to struggle at times, but they just need to do enough to keep the Eagles’ offense in the game. So far, they have done that. Hopefully, during the bye week, the coaches were able to get new Safety Kevin Byard up to speed, and he can be used more.
The strength of the defense through 9 games has been the defensive line. Jalen Carter, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Fletcher Cox have all been making a massive impact. While they may not record as many sacks as last year, they have done an amazing job against the run. One of the biggest reasons the Eagles lost the Super Bowl last year was because their defensive line was neutralized. The line this year is younger and deeper, and I think it’s very unlikely a team will be able to neutralize them for an entire game.