The Patriots couldn’t have picked a worse opponent for their opening game of 2023. The Philadelphia Eagles are the defending NFC Champions and gave the Kansas City Chiefs a heck of a game in the Super Bowl.
|QB||Jalen Hurts||Marcus Mariota||Tanner McKee|
|RB||D’Andre Swift||Rashaad Penny||Kenneth Gainwell||Boston Scott|
|WR||A.J. Brown||Olamide Zaccheaus|
|WR||DeVonta Smith||Charleston Rambo IR|
|TE||Dallas Goedert||Jack Stoll||Albert Okwuegbunam||Grant Calcaterra|
|LT||Jordan Mailata||Jack Driscoll||Roderick Johnson IR|
|LG||Landon Dickerson||Sua Opeta|
|RG||Cam Jurgens||Tyler Steen|
|RT||Lane Johnson||Fred Johnson|
I rely on Warren Sharp’s Annual Football Review for the analysis of each team. In the NFL, 79% of the TDs scored came from inside the 20-yard line, the Red Zone. The Eagles had a Top 10 overall Offense, Top 10 Pass Offense, and Top 10 Rushing Offense last year. However, inside the Red Zone they were ranked 24th in efficiency scoring inside the 10-yard line.
Can they improve in 2023? The answer is a simple yes. Jalen Hurts will have another year under his belt, and the third-year player will be a candidate for the MVP award. The Offensive Line in Philadelphia is considered one of the best in the league. Perhaps the problem was the running backs. The Eagles traded with the Lions to acquire De’Andre Swift, 5’9”, 208 lb. back out of Georgia. The 2020 2nd rd. (#35 overall) selection has never lived up to his high draft position. In each of his three years, he has never played more than 14 games. He did have a 5.5 yard per carry average last year.
They also signed Rashaad Penny from the Seahawks. He is a 2018 1st round (#27 overall) selection. Penny is a big back at 5’11”, 220 lbs. and should help in those inside the 10-yard line situations. Only 27, he is in his 5th year, but just can’t stay healthy. Last season he ran for 157 yards in week 4, then broke his leg in week 5 and was out for the remainder of the year. In 2021 he ran for 749 yards in just 10 games with 6 TDs. His YPC was 6.6 in 2021 and 6.1 in 2021. Kenneth Gainwell is a very good third-down back. The 3rd year-back should have closer to 50 receptions out of the backfield.
The O-line is outstanding, led by RT Lane Johnson and Center Jason Kelce. Kelce (34) is entering his 13th season in the league. He may be more susceptible to injury now in his mid-30s. He is a 5-time All-Pro and 6-time Pro-Bowl lineman. It’s easy to say that he is a future Hall of Famer. Johnson (33) will enter his 11th season in the league. He is a two-time 1st Team All-Pro and 4-time Pro-Bowl player. LT Jordan Mailata is a great story. He is a massive 6’8” 385 Tackle. He played Rugby in Australia up until 2018. The Eagles acquired him through the International Player Pathway Program and drafted him in the 7th round of the 2018 Draft, having never played Football. Mailata actually fainted while playing for the Under 18 rugby team in 2014. He required surgery to repair the upper and lower chambers of his heart. Incredibly, he has recovered from that surgery to become an anchor at LT.
Landon Dickerson and Cam Jurgens man the Guard positions. The 6’6” 333 lb. Dickerson was an All-American Center at Alabama who was taken in the 2nd round (#37) in 2021. He will eventually take over for Kelce when he retires. Dickerson was selected as a Pro-Bowl player in 2022. Jurgens, a 6’3”, 303 lb. guard from Nebraska was a 2022 2nd Rd (#51 Overall) selection for the Eagles.
Have you seen a trend here? The Eagles have invested in their Offensive Line. They also drafted Tyler Steen a 6’6”, 325 lb. Tackle. Steen met all the Patriots’ requirements for an OT. He was a 5-year starter in the SEC (4 at LT for Vanderbilt and 1 at LT for Alabama). He may push Cam Jurgens for playing time at Guard.
The wideouts are very good, but there is a lack of depth. DeVonta Smith was a 2021 1st Rd (#10) who fell in the draft because the scouts were concerned about his slender frame. The 6’ 170 lb. receiver was an All-American at Alabama and one of Mac Jones favorite targets. He had strong performance against Florida in the 2020 SEC Championship in which he reeled in 15 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Jones was no slouch either, eclipsing 400 yards, 77% completion and five touchdowns with one interception.
Can he hold up? AJ Brown is the other terrific wideout for the Eagles. Philadelphia paid a lot to get him, swinging a trade with Tennessee for the 6’1”, 226 lb. speedster. The Titans had selected Brown in the 2nd Rd (#51) of the 2019 Draft. The Eagles paid a high price to get him of a 1st Rd and 3rd Rd picks in the 2022 Draft. He was worth it. The two-time Pro-Bowler and All-Pro honoree had a fine season in 2022, with 88 receptions for 14 96 yard (16.5 YPC), and 11 TDs. After the two stars they are thin at the backup positions. Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus are the backups.
|Defense||Base 4-3 D|
|LDE||Brandon Graham||Patrick Johnson|
|LDT||Jalen Carter||Jordan Davis||Kentavius Street||Moro Ojomo|
|RDT||Fletcher Cox||Milton Williams||Marlon Tuipulotu|
|RDE||Josh Sweat||Derek Barnett|
|WLB||Zach Cunningham||Christian Elliss|
|MLB||Nakobe Dean||Shaun Bradley IR||Mario Goodrich|
|SLB||Haason Reddick||Nolan Smith|
|LCB||James Bradberry||Avonte Maddox||Josh Jobe Q|
|SS||Terrell Edmunds||Justin Evans|
|FS||Reed Blankenship||Sydney Brown|
|RCB||Darius Slay||Kelee Ringo||Eli Ricks||Isaiah Rodgers Sr. SUSP|
The Defense got hit hard by Free Agency. They were able to bring back Fletcher Cox for one last swing for a ring. The 6’4” 310 lb. interior lineman is a force in the middle. Cox has received 6 Pro-Bowl honors and 4 All-Pro awards. He is 32 years old and for a lineman that is ancient. Can he hold up for the season? They lost Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to Free Agency, but they have Jordan Davis (Georgia) and drafted Jalen Carter (Georgia) and have very good edge rushers in Hassan Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and Nolan Smith (Georgia). This is the best group of edge rushers the Patriots will face all year. If they are playing inexperienced Tackles against them, it could be a long afternoon for Mac Jones.
Linebackers a T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White left in Free Agency. Nkobe Dean (Georgia) was considered a third-round steal, and he is going to have to prove it now. The Eagles had signed Nicholas Morrow to a one-year deal as a veteran presence but cut him and re-signed him to the Practice Squad. Zach Cunningham the former Texans and Vanderbilt linebacker was signed in August and will be the other starter. The Eagles have very good cornerbacks in both James Bradberry and Darius Slay. Their Slot Corner Avonte Maddox is an established player at that position too. They went out and got former 1st round pick Greedy Williams to serve as a backup.
Of all the positions in the Eagles Defense, Safety might be the weakest. They lost CJ Gardner-Johnson to Detroit in Free Agency as well as Marcus Epps. That duo played 99% of the snaps for the Eagles Defense. Signed to replace them was former 1st round pick Terrell Edmunds. He has not lived up to his high draft position and can be suspect. Reed Blankenship and Undrafted Free Agent from Middle Tennessee State who was signed in 2022 after the draft will be the starting Free Safety. Blankenship was a player I had my eye on for the Patriots to draft late on day three.
|PR||Quez Watkins||Olamide Zaccheaus||DeVonta Smith|
|KR||Boston Scott||Kenneth Gainwell||Quez Watkins|
The Eagles do not have a punter on their 53-man roster. They cut Punter Arryn Siposs and re-signed him to the Practice Squad. I suspect he will be called up for the game. Siposs is a former Australian Rules Football player. The 30-year-old from Melbourne, Australia had a shanked punt in the Super Bowl last year and his job was in jeopardy. Jake Elliott is one of the most consistent kickers in the league. However, in 2022 he was ranked 29th in Field Goal Attempts with only 23 and made 20 of those.
Elliott is a victim of his team’s efficiency in scoring TDs. Britain Covey was the teams PR last year, but he was cut and signed to the Practice Squad. Don’t be surprised if he is elevated from the Practice Squad.
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