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February 16, 2023

10 closing thoughts on this Super Bowl-losing Eagles season

From Jalen Hurts' triumph to the need for a new slot receiver and more, here are 10 final thoughts on the Eagles after their Super Bowl loss.

It's four days later and Philadelphia is still coming to grips that this football team they watched all season wasn't the one hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end. It's weird feeling in this city. Maybe Patrick Mahomes is just He Who Remains. 

Anyway, here are 10 closing thoughts on the best regular season Eagles team I've ever seen and what's in store for the franchise going forward:

1. Jalen Hurts is a true franchise quarterback. There is no hedging. There are no "but.." and "what if..." remarks here. He is. He's going to get paid a gigantic contract extension that will likely pay him around $50 million per year and that's what you have to do after watching this guy ball out on the sport's biggest stage. The rushing prowess was obvious his whole pro career, but watching him barrel for three TDs in the Super Bowl along with a gutsty-as-anything two-point conversion to tie things at 35 in the fourth quarter had a superhero quality to it. 

The passing bonafides finally match the intangibles and his ability with his legs. The road back from a Super Bowl loss is brutal, but Hurts is clearly the NFC's best quarterback and will be better positioned than any signal-caller in the conference to be in Las Vegas next February. 

2. I need to see more from Jordan Davis. When he's out there, he needs to be the player I, along with Howie Roseman and tons of football fans out there, believe him to be. Davis was adjusting to the NFL game this season a rookie after his dominant college days at Georgia. I get that. He was playing in the NFL's deepest defensive tackle rotation in 2022. That's understandable. The Eagles traded up for the guy in the first round to be a game-wrecking interior player. He can be that and needs to be going forward. 

Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox are both free agents. I have doubts both, if either, will be back in midnight green next fall. 2023 has to be a year where Davis is not talked about a player of great potential, but where he's seen on the field as one. He's capable of being that and more for the Eagles. 

3. The Eagles need an upgrade at slot receiver. No, this is not a reactionary take on Quez Watkins' second-half Super Bowl deep ball drop, but something that became clear as the regular season wore on and, especially, when Jalen Hurts was missing from the lineup. In three pro seasons, Watkins has out-performed his sixth-round pick billing. That's a fact. He wasn't as good in 2022 as he was in 2021 though. He admitted that himself this week. As the playoffs wore on, the Eagles offense was using Zach Pascal more than ever as the third wideout. Pascal is a good vet, but that can't be the move going forward for a team that fell just short of Super Bowl glory.

I would imagine the Eagles go for player in the trenches or a cornerback with the 10th pick in April's draft. The Eagles also own the No. 30 pick. They have a rare opportunity here as a well-rounded, young team coming off the Super Bowl to add two impact players. Roseman should stick to his tried-and-true team-building philosophies with the 10th pick, but go wild with the 30th one. It's a luxury. Make this offense slump-proof. 

How about adding Tennessee slot wide receiver Jalen Hyatt at the end of the first round, like our own Jimmy Kempski did in his latest mock draft? He's a deep threat and a YAC machine who had 15 touchdowns this past season for the Volunteers in the SEC. As Eagles fans saw play out, having a player like Hyatt could mean the difference between a seven-point drive in the Super Bowl and a three-point drive. That's the winning difference in a 38-35 gut-punch. 

4. Trust Howie Roseman. That goes off my last point. Maybe this upcoming offseason isn't as buzz-worthy and splashy as 2022 when Davis, A.J. Brown, James Bradberry and more big-name players came to Philly. Every year isn't a grand slam like 2017 and 2022. There have been whiffs for Roseman, sure, but things have a way of working themselves out during his days in the Eagles' front office. I've flip-flopped from a believer to a skeptic and back more times than I can count, but seeing Roseman at work this year and this organization as a whole, I urge fans to wait for his ultimate payoff. They've already seen it once as Roseman rode on a parade float down Broad Street.

5. Prepare for more injuries in 2023. That is not a statement that's a referendum on any player's toughness or future durability, but a reality for the way the NFL works. The Eagles had all 22 starters healthy for the Super Bowl. That just doesn't happen! It feels as improbable as the 2017 Eagles making it as far as they did with all the injuries they had. Depth players will be called upon more next fall than they were this past season. That's the physicality of the NFL for you. Get ready for it. 

6. The Eagles need to overhaul their approach to special teams. This doesn't need to be an overreaction akin to the way in the Chip Kelly era that most bench players were more capable special teams players than offensive or defensive players, but they need the end-of-the-roster guys to be competent enough there. They weren't in 2022 and that led to a game-changing 65-yard punt return for the Chiefs in the fourth quarter. The Eagles had the best 22 guys all year but it was the third facet of the sport that played a major role (not the entire role, of course!) in them leaving Arizona without rings on the way. 

The Eagles don't need their special teams unit to win them games in 2023, but they sure as hell can't lose any because of them. That needs to be rectified. 

7. Put your extraordinary Super Bowl complaints away by the end of the month. I'm not saying don't be mad about this Super Bowl loss. I know some Eagles fans will think about it until the end of their days. Even if they go back and win the whole thing next year, I legitimately had a couple of friends tell me, "I'll be happy, but I'll also know they could've been one of the few teams to ever go back-to-back." Do that all you want. Angry about Michael Clay, Arryn Siposs and the special teams? Tell your grandkids that story once day. That's what being an Eagles fan is all about. 

I would just warn against turning into a nonstop crying 49ers or Saints or Vikings fan. The Sodfather? He'll live in infamy, but you can't keep harping on that or you look like Deebo Samuel throwing a tantrum because his seventh-round rookie quarterback got injured in a playoff game. The penalty on James Bradberry? Yes, horrific given the way that game had been officiated all night, but you don't want to be 2018 Saints fans trying to plan a parade through the city for a team that lost on a bad penalty. This city and this fan base are both better than that. 

You have a little under two weeks remaining to have some relief and get the nonsense out of your system. Make sure you do it. It'll help, but once the calendar officially flips to March and the new league year approaches, it has to be about 2023 goals for Eagles fans. 

8. Dog mentality matters. If I had a dollar every time Nick Sirianni said, "Dog mentality," in a press conference this year, I could've afforded a lower-level ticket for Super Bowl LVII. It was proven true though, right? Everyone, fans, media and teams alike, spend so much time trying to understand what can make a given prospect or player great, but sometimes it simply boils down to, "Is this guy a dog?" Hurts, Brown and DeVonta Smith were all clear-as-day dogs. They all had a variety of questions going into their pro careers from ceiling to durability to health, but they have that dog in them and they had some of the best Super Bowl performances ever even in a losing battle. 

9. It was fun. My "normal" life has always been about the Eagles and my professional life has been all Eagles since training camp. People will be miserable about this loss forever and they're well within their right to be, but it was great to simply live through this run. 

10. Fanatics should start printing Super Bowl LVIII midnight green Eagles jerseys now. If I attend next year's Super Bowl as a media member, I don't want to spend my first day in Sin City asking retail workers who mean well why they don't actually have jerseys that the teams are wearing in the Super Bowl for sale

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