January 31, 2023
Before the start of the 2022 NFL season, the consensus was that the Philadelphia Eagles would be a good football team, but there were very few who picked them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Just like in 2017, the Eagles got surprise performances from a number of players who took them to the next level.
1) QB Jalen Hurts: Duh.
Coming out of training camp this past summer, it was clear that Hurts had made notable improvements in some of the areas where he was deficient in 2021, most notably his accuracy, but also other concerning quirks, such as heavily favoring the right side of the field. Remember that?
Couple those improvements with the fact that the Eagles made major upgrades at wide receiver, and Hurts was primed to have a significantly better season in 2022 than he did a year ago. But nobody could reasonably foresee that he would be an MVP finalist alongside quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen.
The Eagles are 16-1 in games that Hurts has started this season, and the offense has often looked unstoppable when he is at his best.
2) LB Haason Reddick: From 2020 to 2021, Reddick had 23.5 sacks. Only four NFL players — T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson, and Aaron Donald — had more during that span. On the first day of 2022 free agency, the Eagles inked Reddick to a three-year deal worth $45 million, which was a nice pay day, but not type of money that other elite edge rushers have fetched.
During the regular season, the upgrade from Genard Avery to Haason Reddick at the SAM position was on the level as the upgrade from Jalen Reagor to A.J. Brown at wide receiver. Reddick finished with a career best 16 sacks and added five forced fumbles on his way to Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.
But it has been his playoff performances against the Giants and 49ers that have put Reddick in the national spotlight, as he added 3.5 more sacks to his tally in those two games, as well as a game-wrecking sack-fumble of Brock Purdy. If they awarded an NFC Championship Game MVP, it very clearly would have been him.
3) DE Brandon Graham: Coming off an Achilles tear suffered Week 2 against the 49ers during the 2021 season, Graham wasn't expected to be an impact player in 2022. However, he had a dominant summer in training camp, and had his first ever double-digit sack season despite only playing 43 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. There's a good argument for Graham to be the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
4) DT Javon Hargrave: In 2020, Hargrave did not make an impact after he missed most of training camp with assorted injuries. In 2021, he was exceptional early in the season, but faded a bit into November and December. In 2022, Hargrave had his most consistently dominant season, racking up 60 tackles and 11 sacks, laughably getting snubbed for the Pro Bowl along the way.
5) CB James Bradberry: The Giants cut Bradberry in May to save a little over $10 million on their salary cap. The Eagles said, "Thank you very much, Giants," and quickly signed him to one-year deal worth $7.25 million. Bradberry was already a very good player, having made a Pro Bowl with the Giants in 2020, but he had his best season in 2022, as opposing quarterbacks had a 51.6 QB rating when they threw his way, according to pro-football-reference.com.
6) S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: The Eagles traded for Gardner-Johnson 13 days before the start of the regular season. He mostly played in the slot with the Saints, so it took some time to adjust to a new role in a new defensive scheme. Once he became comfortable, Gardner-Johnson picked off six passes in a five game span, and ended up leading the NFL in INTs despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney. He had more INTs this season with the Eagles than he had in his three years in New Orleans.
7) LB T.J. Edwards: Edwards' starting role was at least debatable this offseason after the Eagles signed Kyzir White in free agency and drafted Nakobe Dean, but it became immediately clear in training camp that Edwards was the Eagles' best linebacker. In the regular season, he racked up 159 tackles, two sacks, and seven pass breakups.
8) NT Linval Joseph: The Eagles' run defense struggled at times in 2022, but the 34-year-old Joseph came in off the street mid-season and helped solve many of those issues.
9) S Reed Blankenship: The Eagles' most impactful rookie in 2022 was the undrafted Blankenship, who played well in an important reserve role when Gardner-Johnson and Avonte Maddox were sidelined with injuries.
10) RG Isaac Seumalo: Seumalo is the least celebrated of the Eagles' offensive linemen, but he had a very good 2022 season, as PFF dinged him for just one sack and three QB hits allowed, including the playoffs. If you'll recall during the 2017, Seumalo was benched in favor of Stefen Wisniewski. This year he got to be a part of the Eagles' run as a quality starter.
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