With a first-time head coach and an inexperienced signal caller, the Eagles were a team of unknowns entering 2021. And through seven games, the experiment was not going well. The team found themselves with an uninspiring 2-5 record and utterly devoid of an identity. Rather than answer questions, they were inciting more, all while inflaming discontent among the fan base.
At this critical junction, Nick Sirianni opted to pivot from a pass-centric scheme to one that featured the mobility of his green quarterback. The Eagles exploded from an average of 116.7 rushing yards per game in this opening stretch to nearly double that mark with 189.8 rushing yards per game over the final ten games. The change in philosophy got the team back in the win column. Philadelphia posted a 7-3 record down the stretch and secured a wild card playoff berth.
This offseason has been busy for the front office, who seem intent on forcing Jalen Hurts into a growth mindset. Not content for him to simply be a ‘running quarterback,’ the team has steadfastly accumulated offensive weapons in the hopes of unlocking him as a dual threat.
In contrast to 2021, Philadelphia enters this season with an established track record and expectations of success. However, like last season, the head coach and his young quarterback will again be central to capitalizing on soaring projections.
More than any one individual, Hurts’ performance will largely determine the fate of the 2022 Eagles. As he goes, so go the Birds. And while that may be a fair statement to make of nearly any starting quarterback in the NFL, Hurts will be even more under the microscope.
Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed great success from a fantasy perspective last season, largely leaning on his athletic traits as a scrambler. However, the Eagles are an analytics-driven organization that insists on a dominant passing game. Ownership will not be content to revisit an offense with a league-leading 52.7% run rate. Hurts will need to pass to thrive and ultimately define himself as the franchise quarterback.
That means progressing through his reads, developing more calm in the pocket, and accurately hitting receivers. The addition of A.J. Brown will no doubt help him develop as a passer. Heck, any quarterback would improve with that type of talent around them. But be cautious if you expect the same style of quarterback play that made believers go Konami gaga in 2021.
If Hurts can take the next step as a passer, he will likely repeat as a QB1 in 2022. However, if read and accuracy issues plague him, the fantasy community could be in for a rude awakening.
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Waiting in the wings of the Eagles quarterback depth chart is fun-loving, fan-favorite Gardner Minshew. Minshew is in many ways the polar opposite of Hurts. Gardner makes up for what he lacks in athleticism and size with keen recognition. Minshew will work his progressions to perfection and find the open man with regularity. He has enough arm strength to succeed but does not possess a power arm. It will be interesting to see if the coaching staff caters their game plan to Minshew’s talents if Hurts is forced to miss significant time.
Sanders is a difficult evaluation for 2022 and beyond. Once considered an ascending asset, his value has stalled in recent seasons. Last year was particularly enigmatic, as Sanders maintained an impressive yards per carry average of 5.5 and did not make a single trip to the end zone. Since being drafted (and across two coaching administrations), the Eagles have capped his per-game touches, indicating his perceived fragility. Facing a contract year and a muddled depth chart, it is hard to count on Sanders as anything more than an RB3 for your roster in 2022.
Gainwell is the hot name in the Eagles backfield. The hand-picked back of the current coaching staff, he showed some real potential in his rookie season. At 5’9” and 200lb, he provides the receiving talents you’d expect from the back of his profile. However, somewhat against type, Gainwell has also established himself as a stalwart pass protector and a trusted player in goalline situations. Expecting him to eclipse Sanders in touches is probably bullish, but look for Gainwell to continue establishing himself in the Eagles’ offense in 2022. He is the type of rising player you want to be slotted at RB4 on your dynasty roster.
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Barring injury, Sanders and Gainwell stand to consume the majority of touches for the Eagles backfield. Philadelphia established a fairly consistent two-back rotation in 2021, and there seems to be a reason to suspect that they will deviate from that. However, Boston Scott is a name to keep at the top of your waiver lists in the event of an injury to the top tandem. Scott is a capable, well-rounded back that can give your lineup some pop if given an opportunity. And look out if that spot start happens against the New York Giants, a team he’s absolutely destroyed.
The headliner of the offseason, stud receiver Brown comes to the Eagles courtesy of a draft night trade with Tennessee. Brown signed a four-year, $100 million extension upon his arrival in Philadelphia, indicating that the team intends to grow their passing attack. Brown brings an alpha personality to the wide receiver room that the Eagles have arguably not had since Terrell Owens donned the wings. Look for him to dominate the passing targets. His success in 2022 will be directly tied to his close friend and teammate, Hurts. If you believe in Hurts, draft Brown with confidence as a WR1.
Some have uncertainty about the availability of targets, but I would argue that, aside from Hurts, no player on the Eagles benefits more from the addition of Brown than Smith. In addition to being a tone-setter, Brown will also draw coverage from Smith. As a rookie, he established immediate chemistry with Hurts pulling in 64 receptions for over 900 yards in a run-first offense. If the Eagles are successful in expanding their passing game, I see no reason why Smith could not repeat this level of success in 2022. According to ADP, Smith is coming off the board as the 36th receiver. And, priced as a low-end WR3, he feels like a value to me.
Watkins is a vertical slot receiver on the current Eagles depth chart. He will not be a featured component of this offense and may struggle to stay relevant from week to week based on his limited targets. However, he makes an incredibly attractive late addition as a best ball player. After beating a 4.35 second forty time, Watkins has the afterburners to blow the top off a defense. And though he might be most frequently called upon as a field-stretching decoy, it only takes one big play to make a difference. I would hate to try to guess when to insert him into my lineup, but lurking in the background of a best-ball roster is an ideal spot for Watkins.
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Zach Pascal stands to get a fair amount of play, perhaps platooning with Watkins for slot reps. Pascal contrasts Watkins as a stout veteran who can do the dirty work in the middle of the field to extend a drive. He could be a worthy waiver addition in the event of an injury to the top 3 wide receivers.
Additionally, largely disappointing Jalen Reagor remains in the far reaches of the Eagles’ depth chart. As the fifth receiver for Philadelphia, Reagor offers little to no value. However, stay plugged into any trade rumors, as a fresh start might allow the once promising wideout to resuscitate his career.
In 2021, the Eagles made an October deal to ship Zach Ertz to Arizona. This move allowed Goedert to emerge from the shadow of a franchise icon and finally establish himself as a top player in his own right. Goedert made the most of the opportunity by amassing 56 receptions for 830 yards and four touchdowns on the season. In the five games before the trade, Goedert averaged 3.0 receptions and 43.2 yards per game. Without Ertz, those numbers ballooned to 4.1 receptions and 61.4 yards per game. He is now a featured part of the Eagles’ offense, and a security blanket that Hurts repeatedly looks to in moments of duress. With the potential for 1,000 receiving yards at tight end, Goedert is firmly entrenched in that secondary tier of TE1 players amongst players like T.J. Hockenson, Dawson Knox, and Pat Freiermuth.
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The tight end is an area where the Eagles are uncharacteristically thin. Goedert is a top-five candidate, but should he sustain an injury, the options for a replacement would be somewhat bleak. Jack Stoll is the primary backup. As an undrafted free agent out of Nebraska, Stoll left such an impression on the team that he unexpectedly forced his way onto the 2021 roster. However, as a gritty blocker and special teams ace, he moves the needle more as an NFL asset than as one for your fantasy team. Converted quarterback Tyree Jackson and late-round draft selection Grant Calcaterra are tight ends with pass-catching upside. Still, both are long shots to significantly contribute to the stat sheet in the short term. Thus, these players should be added only in the deepest of formats with an eye towards continued development.
The 2022 Philadelphia Eagles are a team with many possible outcomes.
Hurts has been given every opportunity to elevate his game and lead this team to its seemingly limitless potential. With weapons like Brown, Smith, and Goedert, a conquest of the division seems entirely reasonable. And, with a top-heavy NFC, this team could make a significant playoff run.
However, if their fledgling field general cannot unlock the passing game and utilize his exemplary support staff, the outlook could be far more austere. It’s not hard to envision a scenario where Hurts struggles with progressions and pocket presence, and the Eagles revert to the form that saw them falter to a 2-5 start in 2021.
From a dynasty standpoint, the pass catchers are currently the most solid investments. The Eagles are now financially linked to Brown for several seasons, and they have DeVonta Smith locked into a rookie deal. This tandem is poised to deliver top-notch production for the next few seasons, regardless of who is delivering the ball. Similarly, Goedert profiles as a TE1 and seems insulated from any potential quarterback uncertainty.
It will be fascinating to watch how the Eagles handle the burden of expectations in 2022. Management has set them up for success and made Philadelphia the darling of every preseason prognosticator. But, football games are not won on paper. Will Hurts have the Eagles soaring come January? Only time will tell, but I cannot wait to find out!
I thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this piece, and would love to continue the conversation on the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles. Please feel free to comment below or contact me @Spydes78 on Twitter. And also, stay tuned to @DynastyNerds for a steady pipeline of content from our eminently qualified staff to carry you through your offseason. Enjoy the grind!