As the Eagles have gradually morphed into a run-first powerhouse, the topic of the team’s identity has been brought up lately. A lot.
From the outside, running the football at a historic clip sure seems like the Eagles’ identity. Everything changed when Nick Sirianni began dialing up 40 to 50 running plays per game. The Eagles began controlling the line of scrimmage, blowing defenses off the ball, dominating time of possession, forcing turnovers on defense and winning games.
And it all started with the running attack.
Jalen Hurts has been asked just about every time he's met with the media over the past few weeks about whether the Eagles’ dominating running game has become the team’s “identity.”
He never really went along with the notion, and post-game Sunday afternoon he finally articulated exactly why.
“I’ve always been asked about the identity of this football team,” he said. “Early on in the season everybody is asking me the question. Whether I answered it or I didn’t answer it, I think identity is not being able to run the ball or ‘we’re a running team’ or ‘we’re a passing team’ or ‘we’re a team that doesn’t give up big explosive plays.’ That’s not what identity is.
“Identity is a mentality. It’s a mentality, it’s an approach, it’s the detail you put in day in and day out throughout the week. It’s being physical, it’s wanting it, it’s effort. It’s all of those things. I think that’s what we want to be. That’s what we’re growing into and what we’re evolving into. It’s being a team that controls what we can and we know when we control what we can.”
Hurts makes a lot of sense.
In a way, the success the Eagles have had running the ball is simply a product of what the team’s identity truly is, a tough, physical team that never wavered, remained positive, stayed committed and kept working under the weight of a series of blowout losses early in the year.
That’s why 2-5 has turned into 5-6 and the Eagles find themselves this week with a realistic shot at a wild-card berth.
All those intangibles start with Hurts, who’s been playing at a high level and leading at a high level.
“We’re a dang good football team and it’s taken some growth, it’s taken a lot,” Hurts said. “And we’re still evolving, we’re still growing, we’re still learning from a lot of different things.”
When Sirianni addressed the team Saturday night before the Saints game, he made a similar point:
“I don’t think it’s about plays you call or defenses you call or special teams calls you call, it's about our team is close," he said. "It’s a close-knit group of guys that connect. It’s a physical group of guys and it's guys that leave everything out there on the field.
“You guys have asked me a couple times about identity, and what I just wanted to say to them is, ‘Hey, our identity is these three things that I just mentioned right there.’ That was really on display” on Sunday.
Hurts and Sirianni both know that if the Eagles are going to finish strong and make a run at the postseason, there are going to be games where they have to lean on the passing game in a way they haven’t over the past month.
And the identity this team is building needs to go deeper than just being able to run for 200 yards a game.
Because when that isn't there, they need to still have an identity.
“We just want to continue to control the controllables,” Hurts said. “Continue to connect with one another and know that everybody has each other’s backs out there in the field, and continue to move forward with that mentality of, ‘Rent is due every day.’ That’s the identity of this football team.”