Eagles' biggest strength heading into NFC title game is no surprise


In a league full of paranoia, a league where competitive advantage rules, the Eagles have never tried to hide one of their chief roster-building philosophies.

They build through the trenches.

They have for over two decades, beginning when Andy Reid was hired as the head coach in 1999. It’s a philosophy that has helped the Eagles become one of the steadiest winners in the NFL.

And it should be no surprise that as the Eagles prepare to play in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers in 2023, their biggest strengths are still on both lines of scrimmage.

There’s a reason Jalen Hurts and Darius Slay make a point to welcome the big boys to the field before every game:

This season, the Eagles set a franchise record with 70 sacks, 63 1/2 of which came from defensive linemen.

The Eagles also had a top five offense behind a line that boasts three Pro Bowlers, two alternates and is widely considered one of — if not the — best lines in the league.

The Eagles had an NFL-best eight players named to the Pro Bowl this season and half of them play on the line of scrimmage: Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Landon Dickerson and Haason Reddick.

Those lines are already paying off in the playoffs.

Against the Giants in the divisional round, the Eagles rushed for an incredible 268 yards. The Eagles used a ton of read-option in that game but line line cleared huge holes. The Eagles had 157 yards before contact in that game, averaging 3.57 per attempt.


The offensive line also protected Jalen Hurts. He was sacked just one time in the 38-7 win. That’s even more important when you remember that Hurts has been dealing with a lingering shoulder injury.

On defense, the Eagles got after Daniel Jones, sacking him five times and limiting his damage as a runner while doing it. It’s not easy to be hungry and disciplined and the Eagles did it.

What has made the Eagles’ pass rush so great this season is that it comes in waves. On individual plays, there are waves of rushers attacking quarterbacks. And then the depth really takes over. The Eagles rotate for a reason and that depth really pays off in the second halves of games.

All of this is by design. And none of that design is hidden.

So as much love as the Eagles’ skill guys get — and deservedly so — the stars of this show are still the linemen. Aside from positive health news coming out of the Giants game, the play on both lines is perhaps the biggest takeaway.

As the Eagles prepare to face a very talented 49ers team in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles still had an edge in the trenches. And as long as the Eagles have those advantages, they’re going to feel pretty good going against pretty much anybody.

Sure, the Eagles’ offensive line will have a tough test against the No. 1 defense in the NFL in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. But they still have an advantage. The Eagles have the best line in the league with Jordan Mailata, Dickerson, Kelce, Isaac Seumalo and Johnson. And they have the best offensive line coach in the NFL in Jeff Stoutland.

In a way, Reid brought the philosophy to Philly and Stoutland has allowed it to continue. Stoutland was brought to town by Chip Kelly the year after Reid was fired so they never crossed paths in Philly. But Reid would definitely be a fan of Stout’s work. Because it’s hard to overlook the job Stoutland has done coaching that unit for the last decade.

What’s amazing about these two talented lines is that not only did Reid bring that philosophy to Philly but three of his players are still on the team and playing at a high level a decade later. Brandon Graham, Kelce and Fletcher Cox are the three longest-tenured players in the organization and are the prime examples of building through the trenches.

The Eagles organization should forever be grateful to Reid for that.

If things go well on Sunday, they might be able to thank him in person in Arizona.

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