Over 30,000 gathered at Lincoln Financial Field at the one open practice the Eagles held for fans on Sunday. Everyone oohed and aahed at A.J. Brown’s pure athleticism and making Jalen Hurts look good, and at the immense size of Jordan Davis, and how the orchestrated session blossomed into one giant bouquet of positivity.
It’s also rare in Philadelphia.
So, we’re going to borrow some wisdom from the Eagles’ resident sage, center Jason Kelce, when he said recently: “In this city, it feels like every year the media thinks we’re really good, we end up being s—ty. And every year the media thinks we’re going to be s—ty, we end up being really good. So, I prefer not to listen to what everybody thinks we look like on paper. The only way we’re going to be any good this season if we come out here and we work and everyone comes out with the mentality to get better—each and every one of us.”
The Eagles’ first preseason game is Friday against the woeful New York Jets.
No one of any significance will see serious playing time.
The so-called experts have been running around saying glowing things about the 2022 Eagles (the byline is guilty as charged).
But the glaring fact remains: The Eagles have not officially done anything but prove coming off a 2021 season that they’re the best of a mediocre lot.
The Eagles finished 2021 9-9. Yes, 9-8, during the regular season and good enough to snatch the last Wildcard berth, which exposed them for what they were and what they could still be.
The Eagles were 0-7 against playoff teams in 2021.
These are the nine quarterbacks the Eagles beat in 2021 in order (a Murder’s Row to NFL defenses, apart from Matt Ryan, whose a legitimate starting NFL QB): Ryan, Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, Garrett Gilbert, Mike Glennon/Jake Fromm, and Taylor Heinicke. Combined as starters, they were 31-66-1 (.341 winning percentage) last season.
Four of the 10 starters the Eagles beat were winless. Ryan (7-10), Heinicke (7-8), and Bridgewater (7-7) won seven games each, while none of the rest won more than four games: Darnold (4-7), Goff (3-10-1), Siemian (0-4), Wilson (3-10), Gilbert (0-1), and Glennon/Fromm (0-6).
Nick Sirianni has not done anything to prove he’s a great coach. He has shown signs that he is a good coach, willing to adjust, and willing to delegate.
The Eagles have gone backward since winning the Super Bowl in 2017, knocked out by New Orleans in the Divisional round of the playoffs in 2018, and knocked out as a home favorite in the Wildcard round against Seattle.
We still do not know anything about Sirianni.
This year could bring some clarity.
The offensive line is the most stable part of this team. But it also starts a 34-year-old center (albeit the best in franchise history) who is nearing the end of his career, and another keystone piece in 32-year-old right tackle Lane Johnson, whose 821 snaps last season was his highest in three years, since he took 962 snaps in 2018.
Jordan Davis looks like a walking menacing mountain in pads. But who’s to say his endurance will hold up to make him a viable three-down defensive tackle, Nakobe Dean may be a steal in the third round, but who’s to say the 31 other NFL teams that passed on him were wrong?
And the looming question is whether Hurts has improved. Can he make quicker pocket decisions, can he complete passes through tighter windows, is his defensive recognition better?
The Eagles haven’t played a regular-season game yet and some are planning parade routes.
To paraphrase a page from the Eagles’ inner sage, nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.
Certainly not on paper.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin, and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.