Now it’s all up to Jalen Hurts.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman worked out a deal to get Georgia’s mammoth defensive tackle Jordan Davis with the No. 13 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and traded the No. 18 choice to the Tennessee Titans for what would be an unknown for a known commodity in A.J. Brown, a 24-year-old, 1,000-yard receiver who will turn 25 on June and the Eagles secured to a $100 million extension with $57 million guaranteed, according to NFL Media.
In doing so, Roseman answered some pressing needs. With Davis, the Eagles now have a sound interior defensive rotation of Davis, Fletcher Cox, Jason Hargrave, and Milton Williams, with new addition Haason Reddick on the outside, athletic linebacker Kyzir White on the inside, and the emergence of Josh Sweat as an edge rusher, the Eagles are remarkably better this season than last year at this time. The Eagles are still in need of secondary help, which will come in the next few days.
The addition of Brown will open the top of the field for DeVonta Smith, and combined, Brown and Smith could arguably be one of the best receiver combinations in the NFL, though certainly in the dubious NFC East.
What Roseman may have done at one fell swoop was jump over the Dallas Cowboys, considering their losses of receiver Amari Cooper, defensive end Randy Gregory, guard Connor Williams and receiver Cedrick Wilson this offseason.
Brown has a relationship with Hurts, much like Dak Prescott did with Cooper, his go-to guy. Consider the following, Prescott was 28-16 in Cooper starts, and the Cowboys averaged over 28 points a game, and in games in which Cooper was not there for Prescott, the Cowboys were 3-6 in Prescott starts, averaging a 20.2 points a game.
Roseman’s moves substantiated the Eagles’ confidence and belief in Hurts, at least for 2022, and told fans that the Eagles are ready to win now.
Washington and the New York Giants are still rebuilding. Neither has the talent that the Eagles currently have—and it’s not settled yet.
In Davis, the 6-foot-6, 341-pound noted run stuffer, there were concerns about an unimpressive seven-sack total during his college career, but his athleticism and ability to bend back a pocket, something he was not always tasked to do at Georgia, will make life miserable for quarterbacks looking to step up in the pocket. The Eagles certainly believe Davis can affect the passing game.
“I think when you see a guy with that type of size, athleticism and explosion who loves to play the game, he did what they asked him to do in their defense,” said Andy Weidl, the Eagles’ team’s vice president of player personnel, in response to Davis’ ability on passing downs. “He fit the bill. He made them strong in the middle of the defense. But you saw the lateral quickness, you saw the range, you saw the ability to get down on the line of scrimmage and run down running backs and hawk down quarterbacks. So, we think he has it in his body, the explosion in his body. We’re excited to get him in here and get him in our program.”
Davis himself addressed the concern, saying, “My get-off is getting faster. I’m getting after the QB, I’m working bags, and I’m just willing to learn. You have great guys in the defensive room that can teach you little tools and can teach you a lot of things. Schematically, we’re similar to what we were doing in Georgia. So, it’s like going into the same place with the same playbook, it’s just different terms. It’s definitely going to be a smooth transition. I just have to get in that playbook and learn the nuances of the game.”
As for Brown, he’s a huge upgrade. The Eagles have not had a 1,000-yard wide receiver (Zach Ertz went over 1,000 as a tight end in 2018) since Jeremy Maclin caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards in the Eagles’ 2014 season, when they finished 10-6 in Chip Kelly’s second year.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had a good dose of him twice a season when Sirianni was an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts.
“Yeah, excited to have him on this team,” Sirianni said about Brown. “He plays with great play strength. This guy, this is a strong man. He’s quick for a big guy, and he catches everything. Those are things that really stick out from his tape. There’s no projection there. It’s like, ‘Well, this is what he’s going to be in the NFL.’ No, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it for three years now. And it’s just exciting to put on his tape and watch him.
“So can’t tell you how excited we are to be able to work with him on that offensive staff and have him on this football team, and he can help us become a better football team.”
Roseman felt compelled to add a story about when he and Sirianni first watched film of Brown together.
“I think we were halfway through the first game, and Nick went like this, ‘I’m good, I’m good. You guys need anything? I’m going to go get something to eat.’ And I go, ‘Coach, can you sit down and finish this?’ And he goes, ‘I will.’ I know this guy,” Roseman recalled. “For us, the conversation’s about was it a priority to get a veteran receiver. It was a priority to get the right players. And this for us was the right player and right fit. I can’t tell you that we were going to definitely draft a receiver in the first round. We had some other players that he was looking at here. But I think we felt like this particular player, this particular person, the fit was really good for what we had and what we were looking for.”
Added Sirianni, “We finished watching the tape, but it doesn’t take long when you put the tape on. It doesn’t take long to figure out what you got there.”
What the Eagles have here is a team good enough to win the NFC East. It doesn’t say much, considering the tattered shape the division is in, but it is light years from where the Eagles were this time last year.
Now with some new shiny toys, it will be up to Jalen Hurts to lead them to a division title.
With the statements made on the first day of the draft, the pieces are being placed around Hurts to succeed now.
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Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.