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February 10, 2024

Eagles honors: Best players, performances, and plays from the 2023 season

A.J. Brown carried the offense for much of the season and Michael Clay turned the special teams completely around.

Eagles NFL
021024AJBrown Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Brown

Each year the NFL televises its "NFL Honors" award show, during which they recognize the league's best players, performances and plays from the season. That was a couple nights ago. This will be our Philadelphia Eagles version of that.

Last year, Jalen Hurts was a finalist for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors, and Brandon Graham was up for NFL Man of the Year. This year, the only Eagle who was a finalist for an award was Jalen Carter for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He didn't win.

Many of you still aren't ready to read anything positive about the Eagles after their epic collapse to close the 2023 season, and certainly, I don't blame anyone for that, but we do this every year, so... 🤷‍♂️.

Most Valuable Player: WR A.J. Brown

During the first half of the season, Brown had six consecutive games with at least 125 receiving yards, an NFL record.

  1. At Buccaneers: 9 catches, 131 yards
  2. Commanders: 9 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
  3. At Rams: 6 catches, 127 yards
  4. At Jets: 7 catches, 131 yards
  5. Dolphins: 10 catches, 137 yards, 1 TD
  6. At Commanders: 8 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs

There were plenty of highlight reel catches along the way, like this: 

Brown eventually cooled off when the Eagles' offense as a whole sputtered down the stretch, but for a while when the Eagles' season was going well, he basically was the offense.

Coach of the Year: Special teams coordinator Michael Clay

The Eagles' special teams were a rare weakness for the 2022 Eagles, but they were the No. 1 unit in the NFL in 2023, by DVOA. Clay went from the hot seat to one of the more valued members of the coaching staff in one season.

Comeback Player of the Year: P Braden Mann

There weren't many good options here, so I settled on Mann, who the Jets cut during the 2022 offseason, and who didn't have a job anywhere to start the 2023 season. After the Eagles had finally seen enough of Arryn Siposs (way too late), they signed Mann after Week 2 and he turned in a really good season, finishing eighth in punter EPA.

If this were "Setback Player of the Year," as in, guys who were awesome in 2022 and then not so awesome in 2023, there'd be plenty of options.

Offensive Player of the Year: LT Jordan Mailata

On an offensive line with two future Hall of Famers, I thought Mailata was quietly stellar in 2023, both in the run game and in pass protection.

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Haason Reddick

Including the playoffs in 2022, Reddick notched 19.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles, both of which led the NFL. In 2023, his numbers were way down, as he notched 11 sacks and just 1 forced fumble. He had no sacks in the final four games, though in fairness (a) he did generate consistent pressure whereas the rest of his defensive line teammates were (mostly) invisible, and (b) opposing offenses were able to easily find flaws in Matt Patricia's defensive scheme by showing pre-snap looks that would cause Reddick to drop into coverage.

But clearly, Reddick was the best player on a defensive unit that grossly underperformed in 2023.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: QB Tanner McKee

The Eagles only drafted two offensive players in 2023 — OL Tyler Steen and QB Tanner McKee. Steen had extended action in just one game, against the Cowboys Week 9, and he struggled mightily. Otherwise, he lost a camp battle for the starting RG job to Cam Jurgens, and the team trusted Sua Opeta over him whenever they needed a reserve guard. It's kind of tough to reward that.

McKee didn't play a single regular season snap, but he crushed the preseason, so, uh, we'll go with him, I guess.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DT Jalen Carter

As noted above, Carter was a finalist for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He finished second, behind Houston's Will Anderson:

There was a point in the season when Carter looked like the likely Defensive Rookie of the Year, but he fizzled down the stretch, while Anderson finished with a bang.

Still, Carter's immense talent was obvious at times during his rookie season, and he finished with 33 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. It's rare for interior defensive linemen to put up big numbers as rookies, as we've documented here in the past. But just to show that point again, below is a table of the four interior defensive linemen who were named to the All-Pro team in 2023, and their stats in their rookie seasons:

Player Tackles Sacks FF 
Aaron Donald, Rams 48 
Chris Jones, Chiefs 28 
Justin Madubuike, Ravens 19 
Dexter Lawrence, Giants 38 2.5 

If Carter can keep his head on straight, he has a bright future in the NFL.

Clutch Performance of the Year: Jake Elliott's 59-yard FG to send the Eagles to overtime vs. the Bills

Elliott made a 59-yard field goal in the rain and into the wind to send the game to overtime:

Elliott said postgame that it was the most difficult kick he has ever made.

That was the third monster kick he had made at that point in the season. In Week 2 against the Vikings, he hit a 61-yarder into the wind at the end of the first half, and in Week 4 he hit a 54-yarder in OT to beat the Commanders.

Celly (celebration) of the Year: 🤷‍♂️

Honestly, I couldn't think of any, which maybe is a sign of a team that didn't have a whole lot of fun playing football together?

UPDATE: As pointed out by one of our readers, they did have the poorly executed Dwayne Wade - LeBron James alley-oop reenactment:

That was good.

MORE: The Eagles were 'emotionally tired' during late-season collapse

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