PHOENIX — The Eagles arrive in Arizona today for Super Bowl week before they take on the Chiefs in the big game.
The Chiefs this season had the No. 1 offense in the NFL but the Eagles weren’t that far behind. Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen’s offense finished this season ranked No. 3 behind the aforementioned Chiefs and the Bills.
It’s a really hard unit to stop.
As we get ready for a crazy week leading up to Super Bowl LVII, here’s at least one thought on every member of the Eagles’ offense:
QB Jalen Hurts: The 24-year-old leader of the Eagles’ offense put together a season that landed him in a group of five finalists for the league’s MVP award. While Patrick Mahomes is very likely going to win that award, it doesn’t take away from what Hurts was able to do this season. The Eagles are 16-1 with Hurts and he accounted for 39 touchdowns in 17 games. Of course, he is still dealing with the lingering pain from that SC joint sprain in his right shoulder and has admitted that he’s not 100 percent. He won’t be 100 percent for the Super Bowl either but he’ll fight through it. Hurts is coming off a game that wasn’t his best against the 49ers. He missed some throws and looked uncomfortable at times but that was the No. 1 defense in the NFL. He should be able to rebound in the Super Bowl against a defense that isn’t as good in a game where the Eagles are going to need to score a good amount of points.
RB Miles Sanders: Sanders stayed pretty healthy this season and went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, finishing with 1,269. What was even more impressive was that he had 11 touchdowns after failing to get into the end zone at all in 2021. In a contract year, Sanders has probably earned himself some money from the Eagles or another team. He has been dealing with a lingering knee injury since the end of the regular season but he’s played in both playoff games. With big leads in those games, the Eagles were able to limit his snaps. Kenny Gainwell should still have a role next Sunday but Sanders will again be the No. 1 back, the position he’s played all season.
WR A.J. Brown: It’s been a quiet postseason for Brown, who has just seven catches for 50 yards in the first two Eagles’ playoff games. Brown wasn’t thrilled about his usage against the Giants and showed some frustration toward the end of that game but he gets it. The Eagles have had huge leads in the last two games and haven’t needed to pass the ball much. Plus, the run game has been working so well. But Brown is still a huge threat entering the Super Bowl and the Eagles have to like the matchup with him on L’Jarius Sneed. Sure, Sneed is a good player, but Brown is better.
WR DeVonta Smith: One of the biggest luxuries the Eagles have is boasting two No. 1 receivers and two No. 1 corners. Smith would be a No. 1 on many teams around the league but because of Brown’s presence, he’s the 2 here. And that gives him a ton of favorable matchups that he always seems to take advantage of. Smith this season pretty quietly set an Eagles record for receptions by a wide receiver with 95 in 17 games. If Sneed follows Brown in this game then Smith will see a lot of Jaylen Watson. BIG advantage Eagles.
WR Quez Watkins: In the Giants playoff game, Watkins actually had fewer snaps than Zach Pascal for the first time all season. But that was very clearly dictated by the game plan. Pascal is a more physical and better blocking receiver. Watkins’ numbers took a big hit this season as he transitioned from the No. 2 role to the No. 3 receiver option for the Eagles. No one was more affected by the addition of Brown than Watkins. But the third-year receiver has had a really good attitude about it and it really helped that Nick Sirianni made a concerted effort to assign roles for everyone. Watkins knows his role. He is still a big play threat despite what his 10.7 yards per reception average tells you. The Eagles tried a bunch of wonky screens with him earlier in the season. But he still has that 4.35 speed that can blow the top off a defense.
TE Dallas Goedert: It’s such a shame that Goedert suffered that shoulder injury and missed five games. Because he was a slam dunk Pro Bowler this season and you can make a strong case that the only tight end in the NFL who is better is Travis Kelce. But what makes Goedert so special is his ability to do everything. He’s an electric pass-catcher — that one-hander against the Giants was special — but he’s also a force at the line of scrimmage and in the Eagles’ run game. Goedert told me this week he felt a little left out in 2018 as a rookie when the rest of the roster was still celebrating Super Bowl LII. He’s a huge part of the team for this run.
LT Jordan Mailata: One injury this season that was probably under reported was Mailata’s shoulder injury. Mailata missed just one game all season but he probably should have missed more. The good news is that he’s completely healthy now and is coming off one of his best games of the season against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. In his last three games, Mailata hasn’t given up a sack and has given up just two total pressures.
LG Landon Dickerson: In the NFC Championship Game, Dickerson hyperextended his right elbow but is expected to play in the Super Bowl. He returned to practice on Friday with a big brace on his right arm but he’ll play through it. Keep an eye on him in the game, though, because he’ll be facing All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was an absolute menace in the AFC title game. Dickerson made his first Pro Bowl in his second NFL season, which is a big unique. It often takes interior linemen longer to get recognition. And Dickerson has been a little uneven with his play but we really started to see that All-Pro ceiling in 2022. Dickerson is notoriously hard on himself but the rest of us can say he’s played well all year.
C Jason Kelce: He’s 34 now but Kelce is playing about as well as we’ve ever seen. He’s still an absolute weapon for this offense and the way the coaching staff uses him to attack the next level is art. Kelce has already said he doesn’t think the outcome of Super Bowl LVII will affect his decision to return or retire. BAs well as Kelce has played this season, if he wants to come back, you hand him a blank check and shake his hand. He’s still so freaking good.
RG Isaac Seumalo: The forgotten man on the line is Seumalo, who has been incredibly consistent this season. And that’s pretty impressive because he’s coming back from a Lisfranc injury that ended his 2021 season early and because he switched positions from left guard to right guard. That might sound easy but it really isn’t. Five years ago, Seumalo was benched during his second NFL season and Stefen Wisniewski ended up as the starter for the last Super Bowl. Seumalo has come a long way since then and he’s overcome a lot too. He just a quiet guy and doesn’t like to talk about it. But his teammates always rave about him.
RT Lane Johnson: It’s incredible to watch Johnson over the last two weeks and remember that he’s playing with a torn adductor in his groin. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know from watching him. The only two areas where he really feels it is when he’s taking on bullrushes or when he gets into a full sprint. He’s played 57 snaps in pass protection in the playoffs and has given up just two hurries. He’s going to play again in the Super Bowl and there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again. This extra week of rest should help. Johnson will eventually need surgery to repair the injury but if he can pull this off, it’ll go down as one of the most amazing playoff runs for any player in the history of Philadelphia sports. And if he adds another ring, it will only help his growing Hall of Fame resume.
QB Ian Book: The former Notre Dame quarterback was active for the Dallas game and the Saints game but didn’t get in. He’s been inactive for every other game this year. Hard to know what the Eagles have in Book because he arrived after training camp. But he’ll be back for camp in 2023 so we’ll see if he can grow into a backup role or if the Eagles need to find a Gardner Minshew replacement elsewhere.
TE Grant Calcaterra: As the third tight end on a team with a ton of offensive weapons, the sixth-round pick hasn’t really done much this season. He had 5 catches for 81 yards in the regular season. In the playoffs, he’s played 22 snaps in two games.
WR Britain Covey: Covey hasn’t played on offense aside from opportunities late in blowouts. And he was also stripped of his kick return responsibilities. But as a punt returner, Covey rebounded from a rocky start. He ended up averaging 9.3 yards per punt return, which ranked 17th in the NF out of 37 players who had all least 10 returns. Not great but not as bad as you might thing. And from Week 11 through the end of the regular season, he averaged 12.7 yards per return. He has safety fair caught seven punts this offseason.
OL Andre Dillard: Once expected to be the future left tackle in Philly, Dillard has become a valuable backup. The Eagles have an interesting setup because Dillard is the backup on the left side and Jack Driscoll is the backup on the right side; that includes tackle and guard. And in moments where Dickerson has come out of games, like in the NFC Championship Game, Dillard has looked completely fine at left guard. The former first-round pick will hope to sign with a team in the offseason that gives him a chance to compete for a starting job and he’s good enough to start. But Dillard’s value has risen this year by adding another position to his repertoire.
OL Jack Driscoll: Driscoll isn’t a great player and maybe he’ll never be a starter in the NFL. But you need a Driscoll, a guy who can come into a game at any moment and play multiple positions. Of course the Eagles are better with Johnson out there at right tackle but Driscoll isn’t a complete liability when he plays. And in these playoffs, considering Johnson’s injury, Driscoll just has to be ready to go. I spoke to Driscoll a few weeks ago about that weird mindset of wanting to play but also not wanting to play. Because if he’s out there, something went wrong. Life of a backup in the NFL.
RB Kenny Gainwell: One of the stars of this Eagles short playoff run has been Playoff Kenny. After averaging just 24.1 scrimmage yards per game in the regular season, Gainwell is averaging 97.5 in the two playoff games this year. Some of that is because he’s playing more in blowouts but Gainwell definitely belongs in the rotation, even beyond his typical role of third-down back and 2-minute drill back. I asked Gainwell how he manages to not let these big moments get to him. “I was just born like that I guess,” Gainwell said. Yeah, I guess.
C Cam Jurgens: The Eagles backup center has been dealing with a hip injury recently and was held out of practice last week for precautionary reasons. The Eagles hoped when they drafted Jurgens in the second round that he wouldn’t play much in his rookie season and that ended up happening. But behind the scenes, Jurgens has been learning to play guard. If Kelce decides to return in 2023, perhaps Driscoll could end up starting at right guard for pending free agent Seumalo before eventually taking over for Kelce at center.
QB Gardner Minshew: The Eagles were hoping that Minshew would be able to win one of his two starts this season to avoid playing Jalen Hurts in Week 18. Didn’t happen. Minshew played really well in Dallas but the Eagles still lost and then Minshew had a really bad performance against the Saints the following week. Minshew admitted it’s tough to struggle in that situation because his opportunities are so limited. Minshew will be the backup in Super Bowl LVII but then he’ll hit free agency and try to find a spot that will let him compete for a starting gig.
WR Zach Pascal: Entering the playoffs, I caught up with Pascal to figure out if he had any regrets about signing in Philly. Sounds silly because he’s part of one of the best teams in the NFL but his role is a limited one. And Pascal’s numbers dropped significantly coming to Philly. Remember, he signed before the addition of Brown during the draft. But Pascal really has no regrets. He’s played his role as a special teamer and has done a nice job on offense when he’s been out there. Pascal has played 47 offensive snaps in the playoffs and has just one catch for 4 yards. But he’s been an important blocker and his 32 snaps on special teams have been important ones.
RB Boston Scott: Sanders and Gainwell are pretty solidly at the top of the Eagles’ running back pecking order but Scott makes the most of his opportunities too. He has 12 carries for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns in the playoffs and has now scored a rushing touchdown in three straight games. Scott has also given the Eagles a boost as a kick returner, averaging 27.1 yards per return. That ranked 6th in the NFL this season among returners with at least 10 attempts. And his average of 27.1 was much higher than Covey’s 20.6 average earlier in the season.
RB Trey Sermon: Sermon has a ton of fans in Philly. I know this because I get a ton of questions all the time asking my why Sermon doesn’t play. It’s not about anything Sermon is or isn’t doing. The Eagles just have a good thing going with their three backs and that offensive line. There just wouldn’t be opportunities for Sermon even if he was active. The Eagles brought the former third-round pick in on waivers before the season so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in training camp in the summer.
TE Jack Stoll: Stoll leads the Eagles in snaps played among players who absolutely no one is talking about. The Eagles’ No. 2 tight end 574 offensive snaps (49%) this season and was the No. 1 tight end for five weeks when Goedert was on IR. He had just 11 catches for 123 yards but it’s not like the offense is exactly running through him. Stoll’s job is to block and play special teams and he’s done that.
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