Something special is brewing: Don’t count the Eagles out in 2021
With NFL training camp kicking off in just three weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles season is just getting started on a new era of football in Philadelphia. Alongside the Eagles returning to NovaCare, preseason takes have started to come out of the woodwork. This past week saw some of the most egregious opinions on the Eagles from both a national and local standpoint. From Jalen Hurts to Miles Sanders and several others, nobody was safe.
Looking at the national media, it all began when Jalen Hurts was disrespected by Phil Simms’ son, who did not rank him amongst the top 40 quarterbacks in the league, and his reasoning didn’t justify the placement whatsoever. Alongside Simms, others from across the country attacked the Eagles roster too. Longtime Philadelphia hater Maurice Jones-Drew ranked Miles Sanders as the 27th best running back in the league for reasons beyond comprehension. Jones-Drew cited his receiving ability while in reality, MJD just doesn’t like the Eagles because they’re “mean” to him.
Now I wish it was just ESPN and whoever is saying these things because they’re out of touch with the team, but it wasn’t. Across the board, there have been outlandish takes across Twitter timelines. Some claim acquiring Darius Slay for a third-round pick was a horrible trade and provide the most obscure metrics to back their reasoning when the most simple stats prove otherwise. Even with that, the numbers don’t even need to be brought into play. It’s very clear the Eagles’ secondary would be one of the worst in the NFL in 2020 and 2021 without Slay’s presence and that doesn’t include all the off-the-field things he provides.
The Eagles have always run Philadelphia with everyone always rallying behind them no matter the roster. But for once, it feels like the city is sleeping on them a bit. Now, I know there will be several reasons one could use to dispute that they won’t be good. But to me, it feels like something special is brewing.
When fans criticize the Eagles, the first thing they will point to is almost always their secondary. Cornerback is by far the weakest point of Philly’s roster, but if cap space opens up by moving Ertz, hopefully, they’ll target someone via free agency before the season begins.
Adding somebody like Steven Nelson to pair alongside Darius Slay creates a pretty decent cornerback duo. The depth is where the secondary gets concerning, but starters-wise, with Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod over the top, it doesn’t look too bad. This group won’t be one of the NFL’s best, but it should be able to get the job done for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.
If the secondary wasn’t your gripe, the linebackers almost certainly were. With limited cap space and a weak market, the Eagles did the best they could and under a new scheme, could possibly thrive for the first time in a while. Adding Eric Wilson and a hybrid OLB in Ryan Kerrigan were solid additions and the group of Bradley, Taylor, and Singleton have another year of experience under their belt.
Even if I’m wrong with how the Eagles will perform this season, this offense is going to be electric without a doubt. Speed is the name of the game for Philadelphia and the offense is going to perform a lot better than expected. There is so much versatility with what Nick Sirianni can run with Jalen Hurt under center.
Read options could be killer for this Eagles offense. The best thing Doug Pederson did for this offense was instill RPOs over the last several seasons. Philadelphia was at the forefront of the RPO movement and is in a perfect position to utilize it in 2021. While the majority of the offense wasn’t around when Pederson ran them heavily, it will be quick to install. The offensive line is the toughest to install RPOs for, but they already have experience from several years of playing together. For the backfield, it’s just a read option, nothing difficult there.
For those not who don’t fully understand what an RPO is, it’s very basic. A breakdown of a run-pass option doesn’t require a 20-minute video or a 2,000-word essay that still would inaccurately describe it. The quarterback makes a read on whoever is covering the designed route, usually a linebacker or corner, and depending on their movement, throws the ball or hands the ball off.
For example, say you have a linebacker over the middle and your route is a slant, if the linebacker jumps the slant, Hurts will just hand the ball off. If the backer steps up expecting a run, Hurts will throw the slant. Very simple and to the point, no need for a deep analysis.
To add on top of the options, the Eagles have so much speed on their hands. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor will almost certainly be used on speed runs as well as screens. Across the board, the Eagles are too talented and versatile that they will have to try to lose.
But even without the talent and game planning, something else trumps all of that. Nick Sirianni has done something really special with this group. After Philly fans have had to endure Ben Simmons and many claiming his unwillingness to work and better himself, the Eagles young guys are doing just the opposite.
Jalen Hurts boasts about his love to better himself on the practice field, he brings his receivers everywhere he goes so everyone gets more work in. At practice, the whole team is competing and wanting to better themselves despite so many counting them out before the season begins. Nick Sirianni is pulling in nearly full attendance when often a team in this situation players would be looking for excuses to not participate. These guys want to win and be the best football players they can be, and their head coach is right by them with the same mentality
Do you know who scares people the most? The one with nothing to lose. The Eagles are already expected to finish amongst the league’s worst. ESPN, PFF, their own local outlets, are all saying the same thing. That doesn’t phase this Eagles roster. They have been putting the work in when they could easily make up excuses as to why they weren’t. But let me ask you one final question before I let you go, what happened the last time the Eagles were considered underdogs?
Mandatory Credit: Kiel Leggere Philadelphia Eagles