January 10, 2023
The Eagles were big winners this regular season — technically, 14 of 17 times. They led the NFC in wins, led the league in Pro Bowlers and head into the postseason with the ability to rest up with a first round bye. They'll also be rewarded with the lowest ranked remaining team in the conference when they play in just under two weeks.
As we wait for more football, we thought it would be a fun exercise to dive in deeper, and decipher which players (and coaches, and front office folk) finished the regular season the biggest winners — and whose stock took a big hit this year resulting in loser status.
Here's what we came up with:
Winner: Jalen Hurts
Hurts is set to make a tick under $2 million next season, the final year of his rookie contract. After that, he'll likely make, well, quite a bit more money.
That's because if he negotiates this offseason (and he should), he'll be able to ask for... quite a bit more money.
It's hard to think of a bigger winner this season than Jalen Hurts, who entered the season as a run-first quarterback who was considered to be in the middle of the pack of NFL quarterbacks at best, and a stopgap until the Eagles could draft a true franchise QB at worst. All Hurts did was put together one of the most impressive seasons at quarterback in team history. If he doesn't win NFL MVP he'll be in the top 3 or 4 in voting.
His play was remarkable in every aspect, from throwing the ball deep, throwing it with accuracy, protecting the ball to limit turnovers and of course, coming in second in the entire league in rushing touchdowns. Hurts is a franchise quarterback, and in two seasons his enormous salary will change the entire composition of the Eagles roster.
Loser: Quez Watkins
Watkins had a really good training camp two seasons ago and surprised many when he emerged as a starter in 2021, and racked up 647 receiving yards. He was the No. 3 heading into 2022, and with all eyes on DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, surely Watkins had sleeper potential — right?
Watkins route running became sloppy down the stretch and he wound up being the Eagles player eliciting the most eye rolls from fans as he was forced the ball pretty frequently, and was unable to haul it in or make much of his 51 targets (of which he caught just 33). After averaging more than 15 yards per catch last year he barely broke 10 per catch this year. According to NFL's Next Gen stats, no receiver had worse average YAC above expectation this season than the Eagles third year WR. Watkins' WR3 job is a spot the Eagles might be looking to upgrade for 2023.
Winner: The stud WR
In contrast to Watkins' struggles in the slot, the Eagles might have had the best outside receiving tandem in the NFL this season.
|Yards per rec
Name a more impressive duo. Both are under contract for at least three more seasons.
Loser: Darius Slay
The eyeball test is all you need, but Slay's play got worse as the season went along and at times it looked like Slay was getting beat by lesser receivers left and right. His last interception came in Week 6, and he was the culprit for a few bad coverages during the Birds' lapse in excellent play down the stretch. Slay allowed 58.2% of the passes thrown at his receiver to be completed (56th best in the NFL) and an 89.3 opposing QB rating (96th best). Slay just turned 32 and should be on the roster next season.
Winner: James Bradberry, CB1
In contrast to Slay, Bradberry was a revelation opposite him in the defensive backfield and looks like he'll be making good on his one-year prove it contract next season. He led the Eagles with 17 defensed passes and ranked 20th of 122 cornerbacks via pro football focus.
Bradberry had a 51.6 opposing QB rating, the second best in the entire NFL. He allowed just 45.3% of passes thrown his way to be completed (39 of 86), the third best of 269 defenders. He could be getting a payday somewhere in 2023.
Loser: Jordan Davis
It's way too early to make any kind of statement about the Eagles' rookie run stuffer — after all, he had some injury issues and there is always a learning curve for certain positions transitioning to the NFL. But the athletic behemoth only played in 20% of the Eagles defensive snaps this season. He made an impact when he was on the field, but the Eagles need him on the field more.
Winner: Miles Sanders' bank account
Sanders had a breakout season in 2022-23, and even still it felt like it could have been even better had he gotten more touches. The former Penn State star had the 8th most carries in the league (259), had the fourth most rushing yards (1,269) and eighth most touchdowns (11). He averaged 4.9 yards per carry (eighth best) with just two fumbles.
It will be extremely interesting to see if the Eagles are interested in bringing Sanders back, as there will be a deep pool of talented running backs becoming free agents this March (with their career numbers):
All of the RB in the table above are in the 25-27 age range. Of those starting for most of their respective careers, Sanders has pretty low tread on his tires. He might find himself some suitors in free agency.
Loser: Avonte Maddox
One of the few weaknesses on the Eagles 2022 roster was their depth at cornerback, and seeing Maddox go down not once but twice with multi-game injuries was not what the doctor ordered for the Philly secondary. It's not a knock against Maddox — he was relatively lights out in the nine games he was able to play — but his setbacks definitely made him a loser this season. He signed a big extension last offseason so he'll be back in 2023-24 with something to play for.
Winner: The pass rush
We got into this in our 10 stats that explain the Eagles season, but the team came two sacks short of tying the single-season NFL record, and set a team record as well as they got to opposing quarterbacks extremely frequently.
Hargrave, Graham and Cox will all be free agents next season and all will be over age 30 when free agency begins in March. Will the Eagles bring them back? Their agents have some ammo from a productive 2022.
Loser: The depth at safety, nickel
When Chauncy Gardner-Johnson went down in Week 12, Reed Blankenship, K'Von Wallace and Andre Chachere weren't particularly up for the task. And Marcus Epps was 77th of 89 safties according to Pro Football Focus. Philadelphia only had one solid safety on the roster this season.
It was even worse at the third cornerback slot, as the Eagles turned to Josh Jobe and Josiah Scott in some key matchups late in the year that did not go Philly's way. Perhaps the team will make sure to have some reserves next season at these key spots.
Winner: Howie Roseman
All of this was basically made possible by an incredible offseason from Roseman. Just a few of his feats this season:
• He acquired the Saints' 2023 first round pick essentially for nothing
• He later swindled the Saints again, trading for C.J. Gardner‑Johnson (who lead the NFL with six interceptions)
• He traded 1st, 3rd round picks for WR A.J.Brown, who signed a 4-year extension (who already broke the Eagles receiving yard record)
• He signed Haasan Reddick (who had 16 sacks)
• He signed Pro Bowl CB James Bradberry
• He traded up in the draft for run-stuffing Jordan Davis
• He stole Nakobe Dean in the third round
• He bolstered the defense by bringing in Ndamukong Suh and Linvall Joseph
Win or lose in February, Roseman already won big.
Loser: Gardner Minshew
Heading into 2022, many touted Minshew as the best backup (or one of the best) in the NFL. He got two opportunities to start this season and, well, the drop off from Hurts to Minshew became obvious. He had three picks and three TDs and a 57.9% completion percentage in the two outings — both losses.
Many thought Minshew might be good enough to start somewhere next season when he becomes a free agent. His performance for the Birds in 2022-23 surely hurt his cause.
Winners: Shane Steichen and Jonathan Gannon, future NFL head coaches
As always happens in the NFL, the best teams get their coaching staffs pillaged. Following the Eagles Super Bowl win in 2018, Frank Reich was snatched up by the Colts, as well as several front office executives. Following this season, it seems likely that either of the Eagles coordinators could leave for a head coaching opportunity.
It looks like Nick Sirianni could have a coaching tree — though I suppose technically, since Sirianni coached under Reich, who coached under Doug Pederson, this is all an extension of the Pederson tree. (...who coached under Andy Reid, who coached under Mike Holmgren, who coached under Bill Walsh. Is Sirianni part of the Walsh coaching tree?)
Loser: The special teams (except for Jake Elliott)
This is another eyeball test no brainer. The Eagles return game did basically nothing this year and it's a small miracle their coverage team didn't allow a touchdown on a kickoff or punt. If not for Jake Elliott having a fantastic year as Philly's kicker, their special teams DVOA would have been even lower than 13th in the NFL.
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