With the Eagles’ 2023 season set to begin in just over a week, I realized it had been a while since the last mailbag.
We can’t have that.
Let’s get to it:
I’ll get to some of the concerns but let’s start with this: Eagles fans should be very excited about the 2023 season. The Eagles are the best team in the weaker of the two conferences and they have the best quarterback in the NFC. That’s a really good start. Now, that’s not to say you can just pencil them in for the Super Bowl, but there’s no reason to have low expectations for this team in 2023. Nothing I saw at training camp changed my expectations for them either. The Eagles should be very good.
OK, the concerns:
The most obvious storyline this season is about a potential Super Bowl hangover. The real fear is that some players will just want to hit the fast forward button to February and try to skip steps. You obviously can’t do that. It’s a physical and mental grind to make it through an NFL season and if you try to coast through any part of the season, it won’t go well. You hear so much that it’s hard to get back to the Super Bowl, which is true. But it’s also just hard to get to a Super Bowl, period.
The Eagles were great in 2022 but they did have a few things working in their favor. They had incredible injury luck last year with all 22 starters suiting up in the Super Bowl. They deserve some credit for that because they took care of their players’ bodies but some of it just comes down to luck and there’s bound to be some regression toward the mean in 2023.
There’s also the schedule. The Eagles are facing a buzzsaw from Week 9 through Week 14, facing the Cowboys twice, the Chiefs, Bills and 49ers.
And the defense, at least on paper, just isn’t as talented as the 2022 version. The Eagles lost significant starters and are relying on younger players in their spots in 2023. Maybe Sean Desai will be a wizard, maybe all those young players step in with no problem and become solid starters or stars, but that’s asking a lot. If the defense isn’t as good in 2023, it shouldn’t be a shock.
The good news is that the Eagles still have a great offense and that unit might need to carry them a bit more this season. All together, this could be another very fun year.
This is really one of the biggest questions entering the 2023 season. If I had to guess right now, I think the Eagles would like for D’Andre Swift to become the top back in this rotation. He has the type of big play ability and pass catching prowess that makes me think they’re going to feature him atop this committee. And as much as the Eagles trust Kenny Gainwell, they did add Swift and Rashaad Penny after Miles Sanders left in free agency.
Getting back to Gainwell, it’s clear Nick Sirianni trusts him. Even before Gainwell got more snaps than Sanders in the Super Bowl, he was the 2-minute and 4-minute running back all season. For a coach like Sirianni, who stresses situational football over everything, that’s very telling. So if Swift ever does anything to lose the head coach’s trust, Gainwell could get more burn.
I think at this point, we understand what Boston Scott brings. He’s a kick returner and backup running back, who can carry some of the load if there’s ever and injury.
That brings us to Penny. I still have no idea what to expect from him this season because there’s such a wide range of outcomes. His injury history really makes me pause whenever I start to think of him in a large role. But then his production when healthy, especially in the last two years, makes me wonder how good he can be in this offense. My guess is that Penny begins the season as a rotational guy, getting some early-down carries. But if he looks like peak Penny, it’s going to be hard to limit him once the season gets going.
The obvious one to me is still off-ball linebacker. The Eagles kept just three on their initial 53-man roster. And even though Nakobe Dean, Zach Cunningham and Christian Elliss have looked capable, there’s no depth. And if this position really looks like the weak link, maybe Howie Roseman would make a move. The tricky thing is that we know the Eagles don’t see this as a premier position, so I wouldn’t expect a blockbuster move.
If we’re looking ahead to the season, an injury at a premier position could always lead to a trade. We saw that last year. Derek Barnett got hurt in Week 1 and eventually the Eagles traded for Robert Quinn. So if one of the Eagles top-heavy positions like receiver or cornerback suffered an injury — knock on wood — I could see Roseman pulling off a trade. The championship window is open and they can’t let one significant injury can’t stand in the way.
Here’s a look at the latest MVP odds from PointsBet:
Patrick Mahomes: +600
Joe Burrow: +700
Josh Allen: +800
Jalen Hurts: +900
Justin Herbert: +1000
I have to be honest, I like those odds for Hurts. He means so much to the Eagles and we already talked about the Eagles’ defense above. If it’s not as good, the Eagles probably won’t win as many blowouts, which means even more offensive output from Hurts in 2023. And Hurts is coming off a tremendous training camp.
Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be telling you why not. Well, Mahomes is still in the league; and he’s won two of the last five. Also, Hurts has dealt with injuries in back-to-back Decembers when the MVP push really happens. And maybe the gap between the AFC and NFC at the position leads more voters to give it to an AFC quarterback?
No, that’s not how it works. Have there been times when the team isn’t thrilled about a question? Sure. But sometimes you have to ask tough questions or ones about a subject that’s not fun to talk about. I just try to be as respectful as possible at all times. And, for the most part, the people with the team understand we have a job to do.