When it comes to putting together bold predictions, I try to be somewhat balanced.
In each season, every team’s journey encounters times of plenty as well as rough patches to navigate, and no matter how good you feel about the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles (and there is reason to feel very, very good about them), the season isn’t going to be unending sunshine and roses.
Even with the 2017 Super Bowl team, their franchise quarterback suffered a catastrophic knee injury with a month left in the season, seemingly destroying any hopes of a title. That was pretty bad. Thankfully, the good arrived in the form of Nick Foles’ late-season Joe Montana impersonation, and the Birds won it all.
If this year’s Eagles do well, it likely will not be because everything went according to plan. So as I sat down to do my yearly 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season, I tried to think of one or two depressing ones, you know, just to balance out the karma.
But I just couldn’t. The vibes are too strong. The Eagles appear robust at virtually every position. Even at quarterback the odds are better than not Jalen Hurts will show some improvement over last year, even if it isn’t life-altering. So even though I wanted to pump the brakes a bit with this year’s list, I am just too excited about this team’s chances of having a special season in 2022 to invent some doom and gloom.
So, here are my overly optimistic 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season. Enjoy the sunshine.
Eagles Passing Offense Finishes Top-5 in Efficiency
Would it surprise you to learn that even with Hurts’ issues throwing the football last year that the scaled-down passing game still ranked 14th in DVOA? That’s with a full season of Jalen Reagor getting starter’s reps, DeVonta Smith in his rookie season and Quez Watkins in his first full year as a starting wide receiver.
A.J. Brown is the new No. 1 and brings the size and game-breaking ability that should make them dangerous in the middle of the field, with Smith and Watkins doing damage on the outside. Zach Pascal has looked outstanding in training camp thus far, Dallas Goedert should be one of the best volume tight ends in football, and the running backs will catch their fair share, too.
Don’t discount the advantage of Hurts having another full year with the same head coach and offensive coordinator. Consistency is the key to sustainability, and the offense should run even cleaner in their second full season together. Given that, and the additional talent, the Eagles will be a top-five passing offense in the NFL.
Jordan Davis Wins DROY
It’s not often a rookie gets triple-teamed in the first preseason game of his NFL career, but the Eagles’ first-round defensive tackle appeared to be too much for the Jets’ first-string offensive line last week.
I mean, just look at this man.
Conner McGovern (60) and Laken Tomlinson (78) have combined for 171 NFL starts. Tomlinson who tried to come over and help is coming off his first Pro Bowl season.— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) August 13, 2022
Eagles rookie Jordan Davis did this AND finished the play. pic.twitter.com/NBgz54hQZl
Davis may not pile up the counting stats like last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, but he’s likely to make just as big an impact and win this year’s award going away.
A.J. Brown Leads Receivers with 12 TDs
To say Brown has been Hurts’ favorite target in training camp so far is an understatement. Brown and Hurts are developing quite a nice chemistry out there, so let’s imagine what this duo will do in the red zone. Brown’s size and ability to box out smaller defenders gives him a tremendous advantage when the Eagles get down deep, and I’m not expecting a ton of deep ball touchdowns to Smith or Watkins this season, so it would make sense for Brown to lead the team in TDs. His career high is 11, set in 2020 with the Titans, so let’s say an even dozen for Brown here in 2022.
DeVonta Smith & Brown Go Over 1,000 Yards
The last Eagles wide receiver to clear 1,000 receiving in a season is Jeremy Maclin way back in 2014 (1,318), which is pretty nuts if you think about it. So perhaps it’s a bit much to predict that the Eagles will have two receivers with 1,000 or more yards this season, especially seeing as how they’ve never done it in franchise history. But that’s why it’s a bold prediction, and this year, DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown will be 1,000 yard receivers for the Eagles.
Miles Sanders 1,000+ Total Yards
There’s no doubt Miles Sanders is the most talented runner the Eagles have and, as I wrote about a couple weeks ago, the team really needs him to step up in what will likely be his final season in Philadelphia. When healthy, he’s a dynamic runner who could also clear 1,000 yards rushing behind the best offensive line in football. He’s also expected to be featured more in the passing game this season, which could increase his value all the more.
We’re going to see Sanders at his best in 2022 and, if he can just stay on the field, he’ll be the guy we remembered from his rookie season.
Jalen Hurts Joins 3,750+ Passing/500+ Rushing Yards Club
For the record, I’m not sold on Hurts and I think that, realistically, his 2022 stat line could look very similar, if not a little better, than last year’s, when he threw for 3,144 yards and ran for 784. But I also have two Eagles receivers clearing 1,000 yards and Miles Sanders accounting for more than 1,000 combined and Goedert, Watkins and Pascal have to get theirs, so if all that is going to happen, Hurts has to go over 4,000 passing yards, right?
If that happens, there’s no way he throws for that much and runs for the same amount as he did last season, because only one QB in NFL history has thrown for 4,000 or more yards and ran for 750. Josh Allen, last year. And even if we knock back the rushing yards by a bunch in order to account for the increase in passing yardage and make Hurts a member of the 4,000/500 Club, that would be something only five players have ever done.
As optimistic and bold as these predictions are, I don’t want people to consider me insane. So, let’s go with 3,750 passing yards and 500 rushing yards, a feat still so rare that only 11 QBs have ever done it, the first being Randall Cunningham way back in 1988.
That’s still pretty bold, and pretty darn optimistic.
At Least One Linebacker Makes Pro Bowl
Isn’t it fun to watch good linebackers again?
It’s my favorite position on the defense and largely ignored over the last 20 years of Eagles football, but no more. Jonathan Gannon is featuring an array of exciting linebackers for the first time in recent memory, and it’s going to make a huge difference.
Free agent Kyzir White is all over the field making plays, including an interception in the first quarter of their preseason win over the Jets. Nakobe Dean has had a quiet camp but looked pretty spry in the Jets game, too.
Nakobe Dean is that guy, pal. pic.twitter.com/mkEpimp68P— Jon Tweets Sports (@jontweetssports) August 13, 2022
T.J. Edwards is the steady-as-a-rock guy, and who knows how much linebacker Haasan Reddick is going to play standing up. At least one of those guys is going to the Pro Bowl. Book it.
Haason Reddick Notches 12+ Sacks
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Gannon utilizes Reddick in his defense. He’ll see time as an outside linebacker and some time as an edge rusher on the defensive line, but wherever he lines up, he’ll benefit from the push up the middle from Davis, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and Milton Williams.
Last year, Reddick tallied 11 sacks and had 12.5 the year before, but only one Eagle defender has had at least 10 sacks in a season since Cox’s 10.5 in 2015, and no one has reached at least 12 since Connor Barwin’s 14.5 in 2014. So predicting 12 for Reddick feels bold to me.
Defense Finishes Top-5 in Takeaways
Last season, Gannon’s conservative defense had just 16 takeaways in 17 games (4 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions). Only four teams had fewer, but that will change this season.
Darius Slay is joined in the secondary by free agent James Bradberry, who by all accounts is having an outstanding camp, with slot corner Avonte Maddox giving the Eagles perhaps the best corner trio in the NFC. The safety position still has to be ironed out, but an influx of more athletic linebackers and a defensive line that should generate more pressure will lead to more interceptions and forced fumbles, transforming the Birds from a play-it-safe unit to one that can take some chances and force opponents into mistakes.
Look for a big jump up the leaderboards.
Eagles Advance to NFC Championship Game
I haven’t made my official predictions for the 2022 season yet, but this Eagles team feels special to me. They look well-coached. The players seem to have their heads on straight and appear hungry. They have drafted exceedingly well the last two seasons and brought an influx of much-needed young energy to the roster seemingly overnight. There are stars everywhere, too, gamebreakers at nearly every position group, and they are extremely strong in the trenches.
And make no mistake, the NFC is wide open. The Dallas Cowboys subtracted more than they added this off-season and the Eagles are a chic pick to win the division. The Packers’ offense could take a big hit without Davante Adams, the Bucs had a bit of a tumultuous off-season with retirement of head coach Bruce Arians and the un-retirement of Tom Brady, the 49ers have a brand new, unproven QB, Russell Wilson is gone, and as history has shown, it’s awfully difficult for a champion like the Rams to repeat.
It’s all there for the Eagles to make a deep playoff run, and it will all come down to the play of Jalen Hurts. I think he’ll be better in 2022, buoyed by a slew of weapons offensively and a defense that should put him a position to succeed. I predict the Eagles will at least make it to the NFC title game this season, if not go further.
Yep, feelin’ pretty optimistic over here.