The Philadelphia Eagles started the season in rebuild mode with a rookie coach and untested quarterback. They come into the final month in a position to make a playoff push.
It is progress.
When the Eagles (6-7) come back from their leave, they’ll have no worse than a game delay in a confused NFC wildcard race, or perhaps tied for a spot. With a favorable schedule over the past four weeks, many fans would consider it a disappointment if Philadelphia did not enter the playoffs.
The Eagles have come a long way since the top priority for 2021 was to determine whether Jalen Hurts should be the starting quarterback in 2022.
“Obviously put your body here, but what are you going to do to be 1-0? Coach Nick Sirianni said this week of his team. “It’s kind of the mindset we have about our process, how we spend the week, how we position ourselves to go 1-0 every week, not to think too far, to learn from your past mistakes, your past successes, but not to think about it but to be completely in the present moment.
The Eagles reversed their season after a 2-5 start by turning to the running game. Led by Hurts, they became the NFL’s top rushing offense after a six-game streak with over 175 rushing yards. They’ve had three different top rushers in those games – Hurts, Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard – and four players have had at least one 75-yard rushing performance during that span.
“I think you are constantly evolving and changing to make sure you are doing the best things for your players,” said Sirianni. “I think we’ve definitely changed who we were and who we are, and to find out what we do best. I don’t mean specific games, but our style is to be together, to play together as a team, to be tough and physical. And so that’s kind of the mentality that we have, the identity that we have, of ‘Hey, that’s who we are’, and we’re just trying to adapt things around that to allow these things to. shine – the feel and the tenacity and the physicality of the game. And that’s what I think we’ve been doing for the last two months of the season.
Hurts missed last week’s 33-18 win over the modest Jets with an ankle injury, and Gardner Minshew kept the offense on. But despite a touch from Minshew Mania in Philly, there is no controversy over the quarterback. Injury will be the starting point when they are healthy. He’s still got four games to prove he could be the long-term answer, although it’s possible the Eagles could spend another season evaluating Hurts.
Prior to having his worst game as a pro in a loss to the Giants on November 28, Hurts had steadily improved throughout the season. Questions remain about his accuracy and he has struggled in the pocket at times, but he’s a double-threat talent that puts stress and strain on the defenses.
“He’s played really good football when he’s on the game so when he’s healthy and he’s back he’ll be our starter,” Sirianni said of Hurts.
The Eagles will have three first-round picks in the 2022 draft and there has been a lot of speculation that they will use those picks to trade for a quarterback or acquire a veteran. But Hurts played his part in the conversation. He can bolster his record with a solid finish that helps Philadelphia secure a playoff berth.
The Eagles host Washington (6-6) and Giants (4-8) for the next two weeks. They will visit Washington on January 2 and close the regular season at home against Dallas (8-4). It’s possible that the last game against the Cowboys will be for the NFC East title. It is more likely that Dallas would have secured the division by then.
Either way, the fact that the Eagles are even in the playoff mix at the end of the season is a big step forward for a franchise that was in disarray last year.
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