The Philadelphia Eagles welcome fans to Lincoln Financial Field tonight for the first game of the Eagles’ 2021 season. Granted, it’s a preseason game, but it’s an opportunity for the Birds to start on a high note and get back to winning.
After a disappointing 2020 campaign, Philadelphia has plenty of questions to answer this season. With Carson Wentz gone and plenty of uncertainties on the roster, the Eagles need to adjust if the team wants to get back to the playoffs.
The NFC East is definitely wide open if the Eagles can fix their mistakes. However, a season like last year won’t cut it, even in this lackluster division. Additionally, a division win is worthless if the team can’t compete against other NFC powerhouses.
Here are the five biggest things the Eagles need to do this season if Philadelphia wants to find themselves in the mix for the Lombardi:
1. Get Jalen Hurts comfortable quickly:
Jalen Hurts walks into the starting role after the debacles of the Wentz vs. Nick Foles debate and the Wentz vs. Hurts debate. Now, with the keys to the kingdom, Hurts has all the expectations of Eagles’ fans weighing down on him.
The Eagles passing attack tied for 24th last year with an average of just 334.6 yards per game. While Hurts wasn’t fully to blame – as he only started four games – he did finish with only 919 passing yards in those games (229.8 YPG).
The Eagles need to do everything possible to make sure the new franchise QB is comfortable and thriving. If Hurts struggles early, it will spiral and compound upon itself.
The offensive line needs to protect him, and the offensive weapons at Hurts’ disposal (DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, etc.) need to make sure they perform at their best.
After all the chaos around the signal-caller position, the Eagles need to make sure their new leader has all the possible accessories he needs to shine.
2. Emphasize the run early:
For the Eagles to enjoy great success, they need to start with Miles Sanders and the run game.
Over the last couple of seasons, we have seen the Eagles throw a bit too much and not embrace the run enough. This distortion puts pressure on the Eagles’ passing game and eliminates the ability for the Eagles to be two-dimensional.
The Eagles need to hammer the run to give Hurts the chance to relax. Additionally, this will make defenses respect the rush and help keep those defenses off balance.
Philadelphia ranked ninth last year with an average of 126.7 rushing yards per game.
If the Eagles are not able to make the run a priority and establish it as a formidable option, Hurts’ success will be greatly limited, and the entire offense will suffer.
3. Stay Healthy:
Okay, so this isn’t exactly something you can prepare for, but the Eagles need to keep the roster as healthy as humanly possible.
We have seen how injuries can rear their ugly heads (especially with the offensive line), and just an injury or two can change the entire course of a season.
While every team deals with the injury bug, the Eagles are perpetually hampered by devastating injuries.
Health should be one of the top priorities for the Eagles. This roster can compete with other teams, but one key injury moves this team from contender to pretender.
4. Do the small things right:
When you hear “do the small things right,” it sounds so simple and easy to do. However, it’s a lot harder than you think, and it can be the difference between wins and losses.
There have been too many examples over the last few seasons. It’s not rocket science; everything adds up.
Make every block. Play hard every down. Hit your holes, and run your routes. The Eagles need 53 players firing on all cylinders and gelling with the entire coaching staff for this roster to function.
There can’t be any locker room distractions or grumblings like we have seen the last few years. This team needs to become a cohesive unit with the same goal.
If you want to win the big game in February, it starts with the small plays in August and September.
5. Establish a shutdown secondary:
Maybe the most important thing to watch for this year is how the backend of the Eagles’ defense performs.
Darius Slay is definitely the focal point, but there are plenty of other talented players rounding out the roster. Steven Nelson and Anthony Harris will be other specialists the Eagles rely on to keep opposing wide receivers from exploding.
Ultimately, the Eagles need to make sure the corners and safeties set the tone early so that the offense has time to relax and do their thing. If the defense gives up huge gains, this pressures the offense and rushes Hurts.
The secondary has been a major red flag for the Eagles recently, and the Birds need to show opposing teams that while the Eagles will be flying down the field, they won’t be.