At the halfway mark of the NFL season, the Eagles have the best record in football.
Obviously that’s a good sign of things to come but there is still a long way to go, starting with Monday night’s Super Bowl rematch in Kansas City.
The Eagles have been blessed with some luck and benefited from good old hard work all season but that’s not going to be enough.
With all that in mind here are four things that went right with the Eagles and four things that need fixing if the team hopes for more than just a Super Bowl rematch against Kansas City.
First, Jalen Hurts is playing beyond any realistic expectations of him for this year. Plus, he’s doing all while barely concealing an injury to his knee that has limited his mobility in and outside the pocket. Hurts has thrown for 2,347 yards this season, which is on pace to surpass his career-best from last season by more than 800 yards.
Meanwhile, even when injured, Hurts is headed toward finishing just under the 760 yards he rushed for last year. Hurts has made big improvements in each of his previous three NFL seasons and he is on pace make yet another big jump as both a leader and a passer this year. Philadelphia has had some special quarterbacks in the past. Hurts could well surpass them all.
Second, first-round draft pick Jalen Carter might have been the very best player in the draft. The Eagles had no qualms about the whispered off-field concerns that made Carter available near the Eagles draft pick. Remember, the Eagles traded up one spot from the 10th pick to grab Carter.
Carter is already demanding double teams from opposing offenses and helping solidify the strongest position group on the team.
Third, coach Nick Sirianni has grown into the job pushing all the right mental buttons with a team that could have taken a step backward after losing a Super Bowl. It’s no accident that the Eagles have been able to hold on, or pull out or find a way to win games that could very easily slip away.
It’s not easy winning eight NFL football games. Sirianni has his team believing in itself and executing at the ends of games to brings home more W’s than any team in the league.
Fourth, AJ Brown has turned himself into one of the most feared and dominant wide receivers in the league. While Miami’s Tyreek Hill has more yards and better press, there’s no receiver anywhere that makes a bigger impact on the game than Brown.
Brown has reached the 1,000-yard mark in just nine games, faster than any Eagles wide receiver ever. His connection with his best friend Hurts, plus the help on the other side of the formation from DeVonta Smith, gives the Eagles an advantage in every game they play.
That’s the good news.
There’s plenty to fix.
First, the offensive line has been in constant flux since the injury to guard Cam Jurgens. After the break Jurgens should be well on his way to returning. Sua Opeta and, lately, Tyler Steen, have filled in ably but there’s no real replacement for a healthy Jurgens in the middle of the offense.
When Jurgens returns, the running game should follow suit.
Second, the Eagles need to survive the loss of tight end Dallas Goedert, who broke his forearm against the Cowboys earlier this month. Goedert has surgery to stabilize the bone in the following days and could be back in a few weeks.
Until then, Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra will have to somehow try to replace Goedert’s contribution to the offense. An increased role for third wide receivers Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus and Quez Watkins could help offset Goedert’s absence in the passing game.
Third, there needs to be some continuity in the defensive secondary. Darius Slay on one side and James Bradberry on the other corner have there most of the year but the nickel corner and safety positions have been a disaster.
The return of Bradley Roby in the slot and more practice time for former Titans safety Kevin Byard should help settle things a bit but eight more weeks of rotating players through the secondary is bound to come at a cost in an important game, sooner than later.
Finally, the Eagles need to play a complete football game. We all got spoiled last year with blowout after blowout, but this year has been different. Nothing has come easily. There have been no breaks.
Still, after watching an Eagles-free NFL week, one thing is crystal clear. No one is having an easy time of it. Everyone else struggles, while the Eagles keep winning.