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September 26, 2023

The Eagles can dominate battles in the trenches, can it win them the war?

The Eagles' offensive and defensive lines dominated the Buccaneers during Monday night's win in a showcase of why the team always prioritizes the trenches.

Games like Monday night are the ones that a thousand percent justify the Eagles' philosophy of building from the trenches out.

Jalen Hurts was unsteady – might've even had the flu – but it was OK. The Eagles could keep it on the ground, with their elite offensive line blowing craters through the Buccaneers' front seven and leaving the defensive backs left behind them to have fun trying to tackle D'Andre Swift in the open field.

Avonte Maddox is out for at least the rest of the regular season, leaving the Eagles without their starting slot corner when up against Tampa Bay's Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as one of the fiercest wide receiving duos in the league. That was fine too. The answer was in not giving Baker Mayfield even a second to process throwing their way, and a ferocious Philly pass rush was more than up to that task.

The Eagles beat the Bucs 25-11 down in Tampa Monday night, still having yet to play their best and most complete game of football, yet 3-0 on the young season all the same.

And for now, that's OK.

Because for whatever parts of the Eagles that aren't fully clicking yet, the trenches can buy plenty of time or just outright tear other teams apart in the meantime until they do.

It helped them just get by New England in Week 1, jump out ahead of Minnesota in Week 2, and left Tampa Bay with next to nothing to work with until garbage time in Week 3. These are far from the first battles won at the line through the years, and are hardly going to be the last.

But this is why Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham have stuck around as the longtime core of this team, and why general manager Howie Roseman was sure to draft the likes of Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens, Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis and so on over the last few years as the future that's here right now.

In the NFL – in any level of football – the battles are won in the trenches, and in the long run, though it takes a whole lot more, so can the war.

"Shoot...for a long time here, even before, this Philadelphia Eagles offensive line, we've been able to lean on for all my three years and before that," head coach Nick Sirianni said postgame. "It's a special group of guys headlined by, you know, Jason and Lane, who have been here for 13 and 11 years. I mean that's unheard of. And then [O-line coach Jeff Stoutland] does a great job of getting the guys ready. Landon has played outstanding for [two and a half years], [Jordan Mailata], Cam's done a nice job. They've developed into being really good football players ready to step in, and I can't say enough again, how good of a job Howie does of bringing depth in there and understanding how important that is to winning football games.

"Again, going back to no matter what level you're at, it comes down to how you play O-line and D-line."

And the Eagles have been playing both incredibly well.

The Eagles outrushed the Buccaneers 201-41 yards Monday night and dominated time of possession 38:55-21:05.

Swift does deserve a ton of credit there, as he did ring off 130 yards on 16 carries for his second-straight 100-plus yard rushing performance. But at the same time, the Eagles' O-line gave him some massive openings to burst through so he could make those second and third cuts for that extra yardage in the open field.

Take that big 26-yard run that woke everyone up early in the third quarter, for example. Swift took off at full speed straight up the middle with the momentum to hurdle over Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. downfield for a huge gain, made possible from the jump by the line just completely parting the seas for him off the snap.

Then, of course, there was the signature QB sneak later on to cap off that same drive with a Hurts touchdown, which between his and the O-line's strength and coordination, hardly ever fails at this point – much to the rest of the NFL's befuddlement.

As for the defensive side, Carter is only three games into his NFL career and is already one of the most vicious defensive tackles out there, Cox is playing like he's in his prime again because of it, fellow Georgia rookie Nolan Smith got involved in wreaking havoc off the edge too, and on the whole, that just made for a brutal night for Mayfield and Bucs running back Rachaad White – especially after Carter leveled him from behind late in the first half to cause a fumble and was made no better later on when he hit a wall back in his own end zone for a safety.

"It's all about trust," Carter said postgame on how well the Eagles' D-line has melded. "We all trust each other, we all know that we're all very talented and we can go very far with this team we got right here. We just keep pushing every day to get better every day."

Because battles are won in the trenches, and the Eagles have won plenty already, but they want to win the war.

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