The Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0.
I want everyone to read that sentence again.
The Philadelphia Eagles are 2-0.
They have played two games so far. They have won them both. They beat two decent, if not playoff-bound teams, one on the road in a hostile environment in a rain storm and the other a 13-win team from a year ago. Since the start of last season, the Eagles are 18-2 in games started by Jalen Hurts, falling to the Commanders in Week 10, and in the Super Bowl.
That’s it. Two losses with Hurts since the start of the 2022 season.
Through their first two games of 2023, it’s clear there are issues. The passing game has looked uneven under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. As the looks teams throw at him become increasingly complex and exotic, Jalen Hurts has been out of rhythm and he seems reluctant to run and absorb contact. That’s led to indecision, too many sacks, too many three-and-outs, and some consternation about the explosiveness of a passing attack that should be one of the best in the league.
And yet, the Eagles scored 34 points last week. They did it thanks to their versatility and sheer strength on the offensive line, and a remarkable performance by running back D’Andre Swift, who gashed Minnesota’s makeshift defensive line for 175 yards on 28 attempts, good for a 6.1 yards per carry average, as the team piled up 259 yards on the ground. Jake Elliott’s early season field goal barrage has been a godsend as well.
There’s certainly reason to fret about Johnson’s first two games calling plays and the struggles Hurts has had throwing the football, but as was the case last year, this Eagles roster is deep enough and diverse enough to alter the gameplan when needed. When the Vikings dropped eight in coverage, Johnson was smart enough to just slam the ball down their throats and stay with it the rest of the way. He didn’t insist on bashing his head against a brick wall, forcing the ball into the air. The Vikings wanted him to run it, so run it he did. And it worked.
This is a good thing. Johnson and Hurts must figure out how to handle complex blitzing schemes, an issue the first two weeks and one that’s sure to be an issue against Todd Bowles’ Tampa defense next week. It’s unsustainable for the Eagles to beat some of the better teams further down their schedule like this, but it’s not like we haven’t seen Hurts and the passing game take a back seat to the run game in the past. In fact, from Weeks 6 through 11 last year, Hurts threw for less than 200 yards four times, three of them wins (Dallas, @Indy, Green Bay). Hurts was running a lot more then, but the point remains— it wasn’t a pass-happy attack.
Through two games, the offense has done enough, even if one aspect of it has been a bit unsettling. The good news is there’s still a lot of meat on the bone.
Defensively, new coordinator Sean Desai has had some challenges to overcome and, so far, has performed admirably. Playing Thursday’s game with Justin Evans, Josh Jobe, Nicholas Morrow, Terrell Edmunds and Zach Cunningham all on the field for more than 90% of the defensive snaps, and free agent rookie Mario Goodrich getting 67%, was not ideal. There’s jut not a lot of experience there, as evidenced by how out of position some of those players were as they allowed Kirk Cousins to throw for 364 yards and 4 TDs.
However, the defense/special teams forced four fumbles and just 28 yards on the ground, and the Eagles had a 27-7 lead at one point. The game was never really in doubt.
An important characteristic about this team should not be lost as the dissection of this team’s 2-0 record charges ahead — the Eagles just win.
Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff have enough good players to figure out a way to get it done virtually every week, especially with Hurts under center. One would think Jalen will run the ball more in the coming weeks, and when he does, it’s likely the passing game will get on track, too. If teams decide to load the box and stop the run, it should be easier to find receivers downfield. He didn’t forget how to play quarterback.
The Eagles aren’t perfect, and they may not be as good as last year, but they are winners. They know how to win. It’s what they do, especially with Jalen Hurts. I have never had more confidence in an Eagles signal caller in my life than I do in Hurts, and confidence should be high he’s going to figure it out. And when he does, the hand-wringing of these first two weeks will seem silly in retrospect.
The Eagles win. It’s really all they do.