By Connor Thomas
With the Eagles regular season opener just over 2 weeks away, it’s officially the time of year for predictions on how the birds’ season will go. It’s practically a national holiday in Philadelphia, rivaling Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July, but unfortunately this year, the expectations are mostly low. Most sportsbooks have the Eagles’ win total at 6.5 this year, which with the extra 17th regular season game places them at either 6-11 or 7-10. It’s not the worst outlook in the NFL, but for a team that won the Super Bowl just 4 years ago, it’s a clear indication of the drop off that has occurred since the 2017-18 season. Believe it or not, though, Philadelphia can actually tend to be overly negative sometimes. I know, that’s very shocking news. Take a second to collect yourself if you need it. The “Negadelphia” mentality has already started to show itself, and while it’s warranted considering the state of the franchise, there are still some big reasons to be positive about the upcoming Eagles season. It may not ultimately be enough to outweigh the bad, but if you’re looking for optimism, there are certainly still things you can find to be positive about when looking forward at the 2021-22 NFL Season.
First of all, there is basically a brand new coaching staff with some really exciting potential in Philly. Nick Sirianni is getting his first shot at a head coaching position, but has already drawn good reviews from players, media, and coaches alike. Some guy named Belichick even paid him a compliment last week. Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon is highly regarded league wide, and is finally getting a chance to show his chops as a DC. You also have a new young Offensive Coordinator in Shane Steichen who helped turn Justin Herbert into the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season as the OC of the Los Angeles Chargers. There should absolutely be optimism about his ability to help Jalen Hurts’ progression. Sure, this staff is young; the youngest in the entire NFL in fact. But youth doesn’t always mean inability. There are plenty of things to look forward to with the new staff.
The other obvious bright spot when it comes to the 2021 Eagles is their talent in the trenches. The lines on both sides of the ball are often touted as where football games are won, and the birds look like they have built their team with that in mind. Just look at their potential starting offensive line: monster of a man Jordan Mailata at LT, a serviceable player at LG in Isaac Seumalo, and then you have former All-Pro players at C, RG, and RT (Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson). That is one hell of a unit, if they can stay healthy.
*Please stop here and find some wood to knock on*
The defensive line is also talented in their own right, anchored by an elite player in Fletcher Cox. Brandon Graham seems to still have gas in the tank at DE, and Josh Sweat has shown a lot of promise at the same position. Derek Barnett is in a prove it year, and veteran Ryan Kerrigan will have something to show as well in his first year with the birds. Throw in a hopefully healthy Javon Hargrave and that unit could very well be top 10 in the league.
Those positives may not be enough to overcome all of the troubles that the Eagles will inevitably face this year, but the last thing to be positive about is the lack of expectations. Sometimes, the best things come when you expect nothing at all. It would be very fair to expect nothing special from this Eagles season, and that should be all the more reason to look at it positively. If they have a rough year, well, we are truly in the middle of the rebuild that we thought we were. If they show flashes of ability, or miraculously make some push for the NFC East, it will be an unexpected bonus. Either way, with tempered expectations, this season could be one of the least stressful of the past 20 years in Philly. Would we rather have a good football team? I think the answer would be a unanimous yes. But in a year with lowered expectations, there are certainly still some positive things to focus on when it comes to the Eagles.