Ready For ‘Sweaty?’
DiCecco: 5 Bold Birds Predictions For 2023
With Labor Day in the rear view, the days, hours, and minutes inch toward the dawn of the NFL season.
The Eagles on Sunday will be in Foxboro, Mass., to take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The 2023 season symbolizes one of optimism and elevated expectations for the defending NFC champs, who worked to replenish a talent-laden roster, albeit coming off a gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs.
As the regular season looms, I’ve included my five predictions for the 2023 Eagles season.
Jalen Hurts earns 2023 NFL MVP honors
Hurts checked off nearly every box in an evolutionary third season that sent shockwaves across the NFL. Yet it’s the unrelenting pursuit of excellence, singular focus, and tireless diligence that prohibits the 25-year-old signal caller from becoming complacenct. Despite a valiant performance on the game’s grandest stage, walking off the red-and-yellow-confetti-coated State Farm Stadium field in the wake of falling to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII did little to quell Hurts’ internal fire. Almost as if taking the loss personally, Hurts appears to have elevated his game to new heights, commanding the offense with authority, enhancing the chemistry with his receivers, all while holding everyone – himself included – accountable. Surrounded by ample firepower, the league’s best offensive line, and an offensive coordinator with whom he’s had a longstanding relationship, Hurts has all he needs to take the next step and seize MVP honors.
A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert Surpass 1,000 Yards
The only potentially tough sell here would be Goedert, considering Brown and Smith are both poised to at least replicate their 2022 production and the running backs this season are expected to experience an uptick in pass targets. But before his November shoulder injury, Goedert was on pace to accompany Brown and Smith as the team’s third 1,000-yard pass-catcher. Helping his cause is that the sixth-year tight end has become a safety valve for Hurts and is a mismatch for nearly every linebacker and safety. As Hurts continues to evolve and elevate his game, so too should the passing game. I’m expecting to see an even higher-octane aerial attack in 2023, which figures to generate elite production from Goedert, who should be widely recognized as a top-three player at his position by season’s end.
Josh Sweat: Sacks Leader
I’m convinced this is the year that Sweat garners national recognition. For one, the 2021 Pro Bowl edge rusher registered double-digit sacks in 2022 for the first time in his five-year career and has steadily boosted his total each season. The team’s purest pass-rusher, Sweat also figures to greatly benefit from increased attention on Haason Reddick, who last season led the Eagles with 16 sacks, and from Saen Desai’s deep stable of pass rushers. Sweat, 26, has improved his pass-rush repertoire, and his imposing length continues to wreak havoc on offensive tackles. Considering the Eagles should be holding the lead most weeks, there hardly figures to be a shortage of opportunities to pursue the quarterback.
Reed Blankenship: Interceptions Leader
What he lacks in tantalizing traits and inherent athleticism, Blankenship more than atones for with his instincts, tenacity and football intellect. The second-year safety doubled as a ball magnet throughout training camp, routinely reading the eyes of quarterbacks, and anticipating and breaking on passes. Aside from his flurry of takeaways, Blankenship also developed a knack for being in the right place at the right time and for continuously flowing to the action. Playing between a veteran cornerback tandem and in a potential rotation, Blankenship will inevitably be earmarked as a target when teams take to the air. The increased opportunities, coupled with Blankenship’s instinctual prowess and budding confidence, make this outside-the-box prediction all the more plausible.
Prominent Role For Josh Jobe
While Zech McPhearson logged just 99 defensive snaps in 2022, Jobe – who contributed just 12 snaps last season – will almost assuredly assume a more substantial workload as the Eagles’ new top backup outside cornerback. Perhaps most notably, a clean bill of health has largely eluded slot cornerback Avonte Maddox over the years. And when the Eagles needed to find a viable short-term remedy this summer, James Bradberry – a 2022 second-team All-Pro – kicked inside, with Jobe replacing him on the perimeter. Even if the experiment is sparingly implemented in the regular season, it’s worth noting that Jobe performed admirably in that scenario, likely helping his bid for an expanded role. There’s also the fact that Bradberry, 30, and Darius Slay, 32, started every game last season, accruing 1,078 and 1,003 snaps, respectively. The likelihood of lightning striking twice seems improbable.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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