Last year was a bit of a whirlwind for the Eagles. Between all the staff turnover, QB controversies, and trade rumors, 2021 wasn’t always pretty for the Birds.
Fortunately, with the turn of the calendar and 2022 in full bloom, the Eagles have a chance to shake off a forgettable year and begin building themselves up for a much more fruitful one.
Entering the new year, the Eagles are 8-7 and have a decent chance of clinching a playoff berth this Sunday if the dominos fall their way. Although the team seems destined for the postseason, there are still a few things they can improve on to become a more fearsome playoff threat, so let’s dive into five New Year’s resolutions the Eagles should have on their to-do list.
Eagles New Year’s Resolutions
5. Develop Jalen Hurts as a passer
I recently wrote of Jalen Hurts’ impressive, game-changing rushing ability and how it has morphed the Eagles’ offense, however, his shortcomings as a passer still leave a lot to be desired.
So far this season, Hurts’ 209.3 passing yards per game is the lowest amongst quarterbacks with at least 10 starts. Additionally, his lowly passing output ranks below incumbent starters Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Tua Tagovailoa, and Trevor Lawrence. Yikes.
Again, Hurts the runner is an exceptional, generational type talent, but his inconsistencies as a passer have become a glaring weakness in the Eagles’ offense.
If Philly aims to compete at a high level in 2022 and beyond, they will need to prioritize Hurts’ growth as a passer.
4. Protect Jeff Stoutland at all costs
You simply can’t tell the story of the 2021-22 Eagles without mentioning the huge impact veteran offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has had on this club.
The longest-tenured coach on the Eagles staff, Stoutland has done a superb job of extracting the best from his players. Eagles center Jason Kelce is headed to yet another Pro Bowl and tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata nearly cracked the Pro Bowl roster alongside him. Of course, the players deserve a ton of credit, but the job Stoutland has done cannot be overlooked.
What’s interesting about how impactful Stoutland has been this season is that the veteran coach nearly didn’t return to the Eagles at all in 2021. This summer, shortly after the Eagles supplanted former HC Doug Pederson with Nick Sirianni, rumors began to swirl that Stoutland may leave the nest and head back to the University of Alabama, where he served the same role he does now in 2011-12.
Luckily for Philly, Stoutland downplayed the rumors of a collegiate return and instead opted to continue his tenure in Philly.
“This is the highest level of football that a coach could be,” Stoutland said. “It’s like the ultimate position if you want to coach in the offensive line. There are 32 coaches on the offensive line in the National Football League. That’s it. This is the highest level. I really love coaching in the National Football League but most importantly I love working for the Philadelphia Eagles and I mean that sincerely.”
Jordan Mailata, the former Rugby pro turned premier offensive tackle, was ecstatic about Stoutland’s return and credits a lot of his improvement to the longtime offensive coach.
“Tell ya what,” Mailata said this spring. “I almost had a heart attack when those rumors [of Stoutland leaving] came out.”
“I gave Coach Stoutland a call as soon as that article came out and he reassured us that he was coming back,” Mailata said. “When it was all official and pen to paper, I was just very relieved, man. That’s like my dad.”
Mailata and Eagles fans alike have to be thrilled that Stoutland returned to Philly. Frankly, it’s hard to envision the Eagles being able to turn their season around following a 2-5 start without Stoutland building the offensive line up to the dominant unit it is today.
With that being said, one of the Eagles’ New Year’s resolutions should be ensuring that Stoutland never leaves Philly.
3. No more major draft misses
In the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft, the Eagles boast three first-round selections. And, as a team that is teetering the line between pretender and contender, they really can’t afford to waste any of them.
Of course, the Eagles probably won’t draft a Hall of Fame talent with each of the three picks, but they simply have to avoid whiffing on a can’t miss prospect as they did with DK Metcalf, Justin Jefferson, and Micah Pearsons in years past.
It remains to be seen if Eagles GM Howie Roseman will still be in charge on draft day, but regardless of who is at the helm, the Eagles need to make sure that none of their first-round picks get squandered.
2. Stay Healthy
The Eagles currently have the third-fewest amount of players on injured reserve (7). In 2020, they had the most in the entire league (17).
Liam Jenkins of Philly Sports Network did a wonderful job of breaking down what led to such a steep turnaround in health for the Birds, and if the team wants to continue soaring to new heights, they will need their favorable bout with injuries to continue.
1. Stick to their run-first identity
After scarcely running the ball to begin Nick Sirianni’s tenure in Philly, the Eagles have quickly become one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the league.
Through 15 games, the Eagles have rushed for a league-best 2,448 yards, clearing the second-place Colts by over 100 yards.
The tandem of Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, and rookie Kenny Gainwell has proven to be much more productive than anticipated, allowing the Eagles to morph into a run-first team. In 2022, there is little reason for the Eagles to abandon this style of play, especially with dual-threat quarterback Jalen Hurts under center.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire