In less than a month, the National Football League offseason will end for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team will gather together on the other corner of Broad Street and Pattison on July 25 when rookie and veterans report for training camp ahead of the 2023 season. The Eagles will be preparing to defend their NFC championship and take the first steps to a return to the Super Bowl.
With that in mind, here are the biggest things to look forward to, when the 2023 Eagles officially come together for the first time.
Easing the veterans back into the groove
Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson are entering their 11th season as teammates and will have a combined 30 years under their belts by season’s end. Graham arrived first as a first-round pick in 2010.
People hoping to see a lot of this foundational foursome in July and August will be disappointed. Oh, they’ll all be there through camp but there is no reason for any of them to do much more than break a sweat. Their biggest preseason role will be leadership and allowing the younger players who will eventually take their places to get up to speed.
Bring out the Bulldogs
Last year it was Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis. This year it’s Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo. All from the University of Georgia. The Eagles have drafted five players from the most dominant defense in recent college football history in the last two drafts.
This is the year that strategy will begin to pay off. Davis and Dean played important but limited roles in the Eagles defense last year. Davis, Carter and Smith are expected to bolster a record-setting pass rush this fall. Dean is in the mix for a completely revamped linebackers unit. Ringo will add depth to the defensive backs room.
Separately, each of the five would be a welcome addition to any team. The Eagles are banking that, collectively, they can make up the core of a defense that will make deep playoff runs for the foreseeable future.
The running back room
The Eagles don’t do the star running back thing. Miles Sanders was a brief exception to that rule. Ultimately, though, despite helping lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl, Sanders was allowed to leave in free agency.
The Eagles are reverting to a tried and true method of replacing Sanders, with volume. Before the draft the Eagles signed Rashad Penny away from Seattle, then made a draft-day trade for the Lions’ D’Andre Swift. Each of those additions has shown flashes of brilliance but occasional difficulty staying healthy.
Together, they could easily spread the load that Sanders took on last year.
Don’t forget that Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott return to the fold. Kennedy Brooks, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted free agent, figures to battle for a spot on the practice squad.
If you find yourself still missing Sanders, remember these names: Jay Ajayi, Kenjon Barner, LeGarrett Blount, Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood. Those guys all have Eagles Super Bowl rings.
Hurts for the win
Maybe Carson Wentz was onto something. When Jalen Hurts was a surprise draft pick for the Eagles, it sent the team’s franchise quarterback into a tailspin that two teams and three seasons couldn’t fix.
Hurts has made quantum leaps in each offseason he’s been a part of the Eagles roster. The latest leap made him the highest-paid player in NFL history, at least briefly. More importantly, Hurts has shown that he’s not willing to rest on his accomplishments.
Hurts’ toughness, leadership and growing skills have won over his teammates, this town and the rest of the league. There’s no limit to how much better Hurts can be.
Let Howie cook
The Eagles roster won’t look anything like it did in the Super Bowl and it won’t look much like it does as June turns to July. General manager Howie Roseman is far from done mining the rest of the NFL talent pool for impact players.
Players like Chris Long, CJ Gardner-Johnson and James Bradberry were all acquired long after the draft and helped make the Eagles one of the most successful teams of the last decade.
With Roseman always looking to make the roster better, there’s no telling what or who will happen next. ••