Nick Sirianni’s comments aren’t going to stop me or any other journalist worth his or her salt from trying to guess how the 2023 campaign pans out. The Eagles are the reigning NFC champions who came up three points shy of getting fitted for Super Bowl rings. They return a loaded roster helmed by an MVP candidate at quarterback. It should be smooth sailing once again, right?
Here are 10 Things I Think I Know About the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles:
1. Jalen Hurts Wins MVP
Look, it would be very easy to predict a regression for the triple-threat quarterback (arm, legs, mind). No one goes from almost being replaced to MVP candidate in one offseason, right? Jalen Hurts does. He has increased his accuracy by 14.5% since grabbing the starting job, jumping from 52% in 2020 all the way up to 66.5% in 2022. Hurts is arguably the most focused and dedicated player in the game today.
2. Jalen Carter Wins Defensive Rookie of the Year
It’s hard not to look at his first snap of the preseason and not drool over the potential of the Georgia standout who probably would have been the No. 1 overall pick if legal troubles hadn’t surfaced ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine. Carter is going to eat in Sean Desai’s aggressive scheme. I got him down for 11 sacks, which would be two more sacks than Aaron Donald got in his rookie year.
3. D’Andre Swift Stays Healthy and Wows:
The biggest question mark surrounding the former St. Joseph’s Prep star has been his health. He has missed 10 games over his first three seasons. Not good. However, Swift has still racked up 1,680 rushing yards and 1,198 receiving yards along with 25 total touchdowns during that span. How good is that? Well, the 24-year-old ranks No. 5 among all running backs in the NFL in receiving yards and No. 30 in rushing yards (1,680) since 2020 despite only playing in 40 games. He’s in for a huge year.
4. No Punter, No Problem
There is a growing sense the Eagles may forego rostering a punter in 2023. They stashed Arryn Siposs on the practice squad with the tentative plan being to call him up prior to gameday. They can do this three times assuming no one else poaches the middling punter. After that, they could pick up someone off waivers and repeat the madness six times over the course of a 17-game schedule. Howie Roseman has stated his desire to set trends. Look for rival franchises to follow this one if it works.
5. Buy High on Quez Watkins
I was high on Quez Watkins before a hamstring injury shut him down for the rest of the preseason. It’s a tad concerning, although the organization (at least publicly) is saying it’s nothing to worry about it. Whatever the case, Watkins was balling out in the practices I watched and putting in the work with extra time on the JUGS machine. He’s out to shut his doubters up. And, for all his concentration drops and questionable tweets, Watkins still won 33% of his routes in 2022 while giving Jalen Hurts an 89.9 QB rating per target. Slot God.
6. Derek Barnett Gets Traded
The former first-rounder has already been looking for suitors if reports are to be believed. He wants a more meaningful role and he isn’t going to get it in Philly. The Eagles might showcase him early – likely against less mobile quarterbacks like Mac Jones (New England), Kirk Cousins (Minnesota), Baker Mayfield (Tampa Bay), Matt Stafford (Los Angeles) – then unload him at the trade deadline on October 31. Keep an eye on Cleveland as a possible landing spot for the Jim Schwartz reunion.
7. Growing Pains for the Defense
It won’t all be Ron Popeil (click here if you don’t get the reference) for the Eagles in 2023. It’s never easy replacing two coordinators. I think the transition from Shane Steichen to Brian Johnson will be more palatable due to Nick Sirianni’s influence on the offense plus Johnson’s lifelong relationship with Jalen Hurts. Meanwhile, the defense will experience some growing pains. There were bumpy moments at camp. That being said, Sean Desai is a smart dude, and the defense should get rolling just as the leaves start changing colors.
8. Marcus Mariota is Fine
Yes, rookie Tanner McKee clearly outplayed veteran Marcus Mariota in the preseason. You don’t have to be a stump on the Bill Walsh coaching tree to see that. It wasn’t close. However, Mariota is the backup quarterback and he’ll be fine. Why? He can run the RPO game and rely on a dynamic and loaded backfield if something were to happen to Jalen Hurts. Because, let’s be honest, if Hurts goes down then the Eagles aren’t going back to the Super Bowl.
9. DeVonta Smith Outplays A.J. Brown
Remember when DeVonta Smith told the world that he thought he as a top-10 receiver in the NFL? It was a bold statement considering he isn’t even the best pass-catcher on his own team. A.J. Brown is. But, Smith was right. He might lack size but he has all the intangibles, plus he’s the best route runner in football. Smith increased his incredible rookie production by 31 receptions (95) and 280 receiving yards (1,196) in 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Slim Reaper hit 105 catches and 1,500 yards in 2023. And those numbers beat out Brown in 2023.
10. Jason Kelce Finally Retires:
This is a gut feeling. I’m not claiming to have inside information, although I do know Jason Kelce a little bit from interviewing him over the years. I think I know how he thinks. The future Hall of Famer returned for one reason: Kelce believes this squad is talented enough to win a Super Bowl. I believe he rides off into the sunset with his legacy attached to two rings. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kelce announces his impending retirement on his upcoming Prime Video documentary set to air on September 12. Talk about a rallying cry!