2023 Eagles Season Preview: Otherworldly Offense Plus Diabolical Defense Should Challenge Chiefs Again

By Chip Bayless (click Howie for more Chip)

 

 

 

If the Eagles aim to return to the Super Bowl and compete with one of the other top teams in the NFL – if not be the top team themselves – they’ll need to be one of the highest-scoring teams again while improving enough on defense to slow down an offense and a QB like Kansans City and Patrick Mahomes.

In 2022, it was the linebacking core and the defensive line who came to the defensive rescue as Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Graham put on a show as Eagle sacks, TFLs, and takeaways were plentiful.

All four of those players cracked the top-16 sack leaders in 2022 with 11+ sacks and at least one forced-fumble each, and it’s no shock that the Eagles led all teams in sacks with 70 (no other team had more than 55).

A direct result of a ferocious pass rush that gave opposing quarterbacks instant erectile dysfunction, Philadelphia was also tied for 4th in interceptions, allowed the fewest passing yards in the NFL, and had the lowest passing yards per attempt allowed (per NFL.com).



Philly’s defense also surrendered the 8th-least total points and the 2nd-fewest total yards, while grabbing the 4th-most turnovers in the NFL (per ESPN).

Adding some more Georgia All-Stars from the 2023 draft to their already almost all-Georgia defense helped, but it is the addition of D’Andre Swift combined with the suddenly elite status of Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ WR core that has propelled this team into Super Bowl (victory)-or-bust territory in 2023.

Swift will be an especially interesting add considering his explosiveness and receiving ability. Considering Miles Sanders has long been knocked for his lack of receiving ability and only caught 20 passes for less than 100 yards last season, Swift will hopefully be a massive improvement in the passing game.

Despite getting inconsistent snaps in the 14 games Swift played in 2022 and surrendering almost all goal-line work to the NFL’s touchdown leader at the RB position, Jamaal Williams, Swift still ranked:

  • 3rd in YPC among all RBs with 90+ carries with 5.5 (per Next Gen Stats)
  • Tied for 7th in receiving TDs
  • 11th in receiving yards
  • 12th in receptions
  • 10th in targets
  • 26th in rush yards over expected per attempt (per Next Gen Stats)

Swift also finished 10th among not just all RBs – but all players – in 2022 scrimmage yards per touch (per Pro Football Reference), trailing Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson in 8th and 9th place.

It will also be interesting to see what Swift does on a team that matches his own talent level for once, as Philly’s offense, quarterback, and team overall is miles away from Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions.

In 2022, the Eagles ranked second to only the Chiefs in total scoring and ranked:

  • 6th in rushing yards
  • 1st in rushing TDs (by 6)
  • 2nd in total first down rushes (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 3rd in rushing yards before contact (YBC)
  • 4th in YBC per attempt

Defenses won’t be able to stack the box against Swift, Hurts, or whoever successfully runs the rock for Philly in 2023, as ignoring Philly’s outside weapons would be like ignoring your friend driving while tripping on DMT.



After all, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith might be the best WR tandem in the NFL, and they certainly have a statistical argument.

Brown plays like Calvin Johnson, with a relentlessness to match his massive frame.

 

In addition to outscoring DeAndre Hopkins, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, and Keenan Allen in fantasy points per game (per ESPN), A.J. Brown achieved the following WR marks in 2023:

  • 13th in receptions
  • 10th in targets
  • 4th in yards per reception (per ESPN)
  • Tied for 2nd in TDs
  • 5th in catches for 20+ yards
  • 2nd to only Justin Jefferson in YAC
  • 5th in YAC per catch (per Next Gen Stats)
  • 10th in catches for 1st downs
  • 11th in total snaps
  • 5th in total fantasy points

 

Among receivers with 50 catches or more, A.J. Brown was second to only Jaylen Waddle in yards per reception. Among receivers with 80 catches or more, A.J. Brown led the NFL in YPR (per ESPN).

Although, Brown had a shocking 41% of all the Eagles’ 2022 Air Yards, third-most in the NFL (trailing only D.J. Moore and Davante Adams), and some of those targets will likely end up going to Swift or Smith in 2023 if the Eagles want to maintain a balanced, deadly offensive attack that forces defenses to defend every blade of grass.

For his own part, DeVonta Smith’s skillset is comparable to the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, as his agility, route-running, and leaping ability top-1o skillsets.

On top of that, Smith has the burners to torch the majority of #1 cornerbacks and the hands to snatch any catchable pass within his ever-expanding catch radius.

Furthermore, Smith’s ball-carrier vision and knack for beating defenders with angles and jukes creates additional yardage and value with every touch.

Last season, DeVonta Smith finished (among WRs):

  • 9th in receptions & targets
  • 8th in yards
  • Tied for 12th in TDs
  • Tied for 9th in catches for 20+ yards
  • 12th in YAC
  • 11th in catches resulting in 1st downs (per ESPN)
  • 20th in yards per target (per Pro Football Reference)

 

It was also Smith, not Justin Jefferson nor Davante Adams, who led all NFL receivers in snaps last season (per FantasyPros), while also rankings 16th in broken tackles on receptions (per Pro Football Reference), 19th in passer rating when targeted, and 15th in receptions per game.

While adding A.J. Brown to pair with DeVonta Smith was one of the most significant Eagles’ storylines of last season, the Eagles have also added significant offensive line help over the past few years in addition to acquiring D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny this offseason.

Given all these pieces, perhaps it is Jalen Hurts who feels the most pressure in terms of 2023 expectations considering he might be the second-best quarterback in the league after Jackson Mahomes’ brother.

After putting up an MVP-caliber season in 2022, Hurts shut down his passing-game detractors while playing like a stronger, smarter, more-accurate Michael Vick when the situation called for it while achieving the following 2022 QB ranks:

  • 1st in rushing TDs with 13 (no other QB had more than 8)
  • 3rd in YPA
  • 3rd in rushing yards with 760
  • 1st among all QBs in rushes for 1st downs & 3rd among all players to only Josh Jacobs and Nick Chubb (per ESPN)
  • 4th in passer rating (per ESPN)
  • 5th in yards per carry
  • 7th in completed air yards per pass attempt (per Pro Football Reference)
  • 10th in passing yards
  • 11th in intended air yards per attempt
  • 12th in completed air yards
  • 11th in completed air yards per completion

Game in and game out, Hurts also demonstrated remarkable consistency like waiting at the DMV.

Hurts threw for at least 150 yards in every game, rushed for 50+ yards in 47% of his games, averaged over two total touchdowns per game, and threw for over 300 yards in just over a quarter (4/15) of his weeks.




Hurts’ decision making and pass accuracy took a significant leap forward last season, and when you combine those skills with his RB-like jukes and spins, you get possibly the best quarterback in the NFL with the exception of Mahomes.

As long as Smith and Brown stay healthy, Hurts is guaranteed to put up another MVP-caliber season like the U.S. is guaranteed to lead the world in military spending, prisoners per capita, and gun violence every year.

If Hurts performs like he’s capable of performing and the defensive line stays mostly healthy, you can count on this team making a deep playoff run again in 2023 – and chalk up some 1,000-yard seasons for A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and De’Andre Swift while you’re at it.

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