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By Connor Thomas

 

Last week in Denver, the Eagles put together their first performance since their week 1 win in Atlanta where these takeaways came out more positive than negative. Well, it didn’t take 9 more weeks for it to happen again. The Eagles controlled the Saints seemingly with ease yesterday afternoon on the way to their first home win of the 2021-22 NFL season. Just like against the Broncos, all 3 facets of the game were dominant at points, and despite some conservative play calling from Nick Sirianni in the final quarter, the 40 points put up were plenty to dispatch the shorthanded Saints. Now, the focal point of the season shifts from draft picks to standings. Here are 5 big reasons from Sunday that played into that turnaround in Eagles expectations:

  • 1.) Jalen Hurts will be the Eagles starter next year

    The debate, at least when it pertains to next season, seems to be over. Jalen Hurts should 100% be the starting QB of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022, and this week’s performance against New Orleans was further proof that the birds shouldn’t trade or draft a new signal caller for next season. Does this mean that Hurts is the franchise QB of numerous future seasons in Philly? Not necessarily, not yet. But just look at what he did yesterday against a strong Saints rushing defense: 18 carries for 69 nice yards and 3 touchdowns. He wasn’t transcendent through the air, completing only 13 of 24 passes for 147 yards and no TDs, but he did more than what the Eagles needed him to do to secure a win. I would argue that Lamar Jackson down in Baltimore is still not an elite QB, but rather he is an elite FOOTBALL PLAYER. When you look at Jackson’s ability as a thrower, there is still some to be desired, but no one in Baltimore really cared when he hoisted the NFL MVP Trophy back in 2019. That is essentially what Jalen Hurts is doing for the Eagles this season, not to an MVP level, but it’s similar to Jackson’s style of play. Is he a great QB? Maybe not, but is Hurts a great football player? It looks like he is. Couple that with his leadership and other intangibles, and he absolutely has earned the starting nod for at least next season.

  • 2.) The Eagles Offensive Line is elite

    If my memory serves, I had a very similar takeaway to this when the Eagles took down the Falcons in week 1, and it may have been a little premature then. It certainly isn’t now. The Eagles O-Line has played incredibly well over the past couple weeks as the team has gone through the process of re-balancing their offensive game plan. Jordan Mailata has turned into an exceptional Left Tackle, and he’s now taking defensive linemen off their feet with 1 arm. Jason Kelce is still exceptional at Center, at points pulling all the way down the line and cleaning linebackers and safeties in one play. Lane Johnson has been spectacular since returning from his personal absence from the team. Landon Dickerson has looked strong at Guard, especially for a rookie. Jack Driscoll has been serviceable again, especially for a late round selection. Top to bottom, the offensive line has been the strength of this Eagles team, and it’s thanks to 5 of the scariest men in the NFL right now.

  • 3.) Darius Slay is 100% a pro bowler

    If it seems like every week for the past month Darius Slay has made a huge, game changing play, it’s because he has. “Big Play” has re-earned his nickname over the past month, and he made another yesterday with a huge pick 6 right before the end of the 1st half. Slay has been strong this year in general, locking down opposing WR1s seemingly with ease, but he’s gone to another level in the past 4 weeks. Since week 8, Slay has scored 3 TDs. His former team the Detroit Lions have only scored 3 combined TDs in the same time frame. He’s the first Eagles defender to score 3 times in a season since Eric Allen did so back in 1993, and Slay has done all of his scoring in the past 4 weeks. Not only have the impact plays been a huge part of his claim to a pro bowl nod, but he has done the little things well too. He’s tackled well this season, covered well in both zone and man, and on top of all that he’s now shown off the highlight takeaway ability that he was known for earlier in his career. Frankly, he may even enter the All-Pro discussion at corner if this continues, but for now, the Eagles will be plenty happy with the pro bowl type performance they’re getting from their premier defensive back.

  • 4.) Nick Sirianni still has some learning to do

    There is very little negative to take away from yesterday’s win against the Saints, but if there is one, it’s the conservative play calling from Nick Sirianni in the second half. Sirianni has come a long way from the coach we saw in the first month or two of the season, but he is still learning. One of the things he showed Sunday was that he is not used to the game calling with a manageable lead late in games. The Saints made a bit of a 4th quarter comeback thanks to some very conservative run plays by the Eagles offense, and Sirianni came out postgame and admitted that he got too cute with the play calling down the stretch. The good news is that he made the adjustment in game and the Eagles still ended up with a comfortable 40-29 victory. It’s just important to remember that, despite the growth we’ve seen from Nick Sirianni as a play caller and head coach in the past few weeks, there will still be learning moments as the Eagles finish out the remainder of this season.

  • 5.) The Eagles are a playoff team

    Not because of their schedule. Not because of a weak division. Not because of a week conference around them. The Eagles have the talent level of a playoff team. It might seem crazy to read, and trust me, I feel kind of crazy typing it, but the Eagles have shown over the past month that they are talented enough to be a wild card playoff team. Just take a look at what the Eagles have done against the Saints, Broncos, Chargers (even though they lost) and Lions. They have run a very balanced game plan offensively. Their defense has been outstanding and has forced crippling turnovers. Jalen Hurts has been an expert game manager, and a play maker when they need him to be. The running game has been one of the best in the NFL. Over the past month they have outscored their opponents 138-75, averaging 34.5 points per game during that span. They’re just a solid, good football team, and even though it took them some time to get there, it’s very possible that they end up a playoff team because of it. The easy schedule certainly helps, but the Eagles are talented enough, regardless of schedule, to earn a spot in the NFC playoffs. Now, they just have to take care of business over the next 6 weeks to make that a reality.