Despite messy playoff exit, Eagles headed in right direction


Andrew Shinkle/

The Eagles’ 2021 season was unexpectedly successful, and placed them in the playoffs during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

   Let’s not talk about what happened on January 16th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

   No Eagles fan wants to relive that embarrassment of a football game; it’s safe to say that this matchup against Tom Brady in the playoffs didn’t go quite as well as the last one.

   While the Birds’ season didn’t end in the fashion that many had hoped, there’s still reason to be excited about where this team is headed in the future.

   For starters, barely anyone expected anything out of this 2021 Eagles team, except for maybe the Eagles themselves. They were widely projected to be a bottom-third team in the NFL, as they were on the heels of an underwhelming 4-11-1 season the year before. In the middle of a retooling effort following the departure of former QB Carson Wentz, 2021 was supposed to be a rebuilding year to evaluate QB Jalen Hurts and other promising players.

   The Eagles then proceeded to finish the season 9-8 and win seven of their last ten games in order to clinch the #7 seed in the NFC. A lot of people underestimated this team, and the Eagles proved them wrong.

   In his first season as head coach, Nick Sirianni bounced back from a 2-5 start in order to lead this team to the playoffs, and there’s something to be said about that. After receiving criticism about his under-utilization of the run game, Sirianni adapted, and helped develop the Eagles into one of the league’s top rushing teams. The Eagles look to be solid in the head coaching department for the foreseeable future.

   Jalen Hurts’ passing game was serviceable this season, but his stats don’t exactly jump off the page. 3,144 passing yards with sixteen touchdowns and nine interceptions is fine play, but he will need to improve in this regard next year and beyond.

   Of course, those stats aren’t entirely his fault. The Eagles’ receiving corps was underwhelming this year, with the exceptions of rookie WR DeVonta Smith and star TE Dallas Goedert. Other players such as WRs Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins left more to be desired, and Reagor in particular has not lived up to the potential that (questionably) made him the Eagles’ first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

   While the Eagles’ running game reached new heights as a team, thanks to the contributions of Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Kenneth Gainwell, lead RB Miles Sanders had an underwhelming year. He only accumulated 754 rushing yards (albeit in 12 games), and didn’t reach the end zone for a touchdown once the entire season. To put that into perspective, Hurts, the quarterback, had thirty more rushing yards and ten rushing touchdowns.

   With one of the NFL’s top offensive lines, the Eagles should be primed for an improvement on offense next year, as long as Hurts continues to develop and improvements are made to the wide receiver room.

   On the defensive front, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat broke out as premier players on the defensive line. CB Darius Slay maintained his superstar play, and should be able to round out his career strong. LB Alex Singleton went under the radar around the league and should be given more recognition.

   Besides these players, the Eagles’ defense was largely average, and it’s the number one area that the team should address in the 2022 NFL Draft. They have three first round picks in the draft, with two of them coming from shrewd trades with the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts. April 28th in Las Vegas, Day 1 of the draft, will be a franchise-altering date.

   The 2021 Eagles made a statement this season. They’re ahead of schedule in their rebuild, and they’re not to be taken lightly going forward.