Jalen Hurts has Eagles on a Super Bowl mission to finish the job this time
Sep. 4, 2023 11:31 a.m. ET
The lock screen on Jalen Hurts’ phone is a photo of him walking off the field after Super Bowl LVII with a dejected look on his face as red, white and yellow confetti flutters all around him. It’s his daily reminder of just how close he and the Philadelphia Eagles came to winning it all.
It’s also a reminder of the only thing that this Philadelphia Eagles season is about.
There is only one goal that matters to Hurts and his team, and only one way this year can be a success. It has to end with Hurts standing on the field in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024, at the end of Super Bowl LVIII. And this time the confetti has to be white and green.
Anything else will feel like a failure to everyone involved.
It’s not an unrealistic goal, either. Not only are the Eagles coming off one of the finest seasons in their history — they went 14-3 and rolled to the NFC championship — but they spent the offseason building a better team. They kept almost every key piece intact, while adding strength to their league-best pass rush, and they might even have an improved running game, too.
They are primed in every way for another run at a Super Bowl title. And Hurts is making sure they’re motivated.
Here’s a look at the team that should be the season-long favorites to win the NFC:
Jalen Hurts finished second in the MVP voting last season and for good reason. There isn’t a better dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns. And don’t forget, he missed two games late in the season with a sprained right shoulder, too.
Add in his quiet, determined demeanor and leadership that his coaches and teammates swear by, and it’s no wonder the Eagles were thrilled to give him a five-year, $255 million contract extension. It was well-deserved. Of course, it was really based on just one stellar season of work, so there’s definitely some pressure for him to do it again.
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Under-the-radar player to watch
On any given play, tight end Dallas Goedert is probably the fourth option in the Eagles offense, but he’s a powerful option when they turn to him. He caught 55 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns last season, despite missing five games with an injured shoulder. He has the size, speed and skills to do a lot more offensive damage than he does. He might be the NFL’s most dangerous tight end outside of Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, though he’s likely never to get the ball thrown his way as much as Kelce does.
Strength of the team
Pick a line, any line. There’s a good argument that the Eagles have both the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL. There’s probably no argument on the offensive line, even though they lost right guard Issac Seumalo to Pittsburgh in free agency. They just plugged last year’s second-round pick, Cam Jurgens, into his spot.
The Eagles have more competition on defense, and there are definitely a few questions after they lost defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (11 sacks) in the offseason. But they replaced him with rookie DT Jalen Carter, arguably the best player in the draft, and they also have last year’s first-rounder, Jordan Davis, to take on an increased role. And if you want to count the edge rushers, like Haason Reddick (16 sacks) and their other first-round pick, Nolan Smith, the whole front is just crazy dangerous.
Area of concern
There were times last season when Philadelphia’s run defense was an issue because the tackling from the linebackers was spotty. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprised that the Eagles revamped their linebacking corps, letting T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White leave in free agency. That opened up a spot for the promising Nakobe Dean, a 2022 third-round pick. They also brought in veteran Zach Cunningham early in training camp. Linebackers aren’t a huge part of their defensive scheme, but it’s really one of the few potential areas of weakness this team has.
Rookie to watch
Jalen Carter has been an absolute beast this summer, according to his starry-eyed teammates. He didn’t play much in the preseason, though his first play became a viral sensation for how he rag-dolled an offensive lineman and shot like a cannon at the Ravens’ quarterback. Plenty of people around the NFL couldn’t believe it — and in some cases were angry — when Carter dropped into the Eagles’ lap with the ninth pick in the draft. He figures to be a huge part of their defensive line rotation and has a great shot to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Eagles have some time to figure out what to do with WR DeVonta Smith. They can delay the inevitable big-money deal simply by picking up his fifth-year option for 2025 in May. But Smith’s situation bears watching because he had 95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns last season as the team’s No. 2 receiver. And the No. 1 receiver, A.J. Brown, is in the second year of a four-year, $100 million deal. Smith is going to get paid at some point. But if he keeps putting up numbers like he did last year, the Eagles might have to find a way to do it sooner.
Unless the Eagles are hit with a wave of injuries, or they lose an irreplaceable player like Hurts, this has the making of another wonderful season in Philadelphia. The Eagles are loaded. Seriously, if they keep all their pieces intact, how is this team going to miss the playoffs? They were dominant at times last year on both sides of the ball, and they might be even better this season. Making the playoffs should be easy. They’ll likely win the NFC East, too. Their goal is Super Bowl or bust. And while anything can happen in a one-game playoff, there really are only a couple of NFC teams — San Francisco, Dallas … that may be it — that are really capable of playing on Philadelphia’s level.
Prediction: 13-4 … and feel free to make those reservations for a February trip to Vegas.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and . He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at.
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