In very short order here, the Eagles will launch into their Organized Team Activities and wrap up their spring work. It has been, again, an incredible offseason as the Eagles executed a masterful game plan to reload the Super Bowl roster from 2022 and transition to this new season. The reality is that there is so much work to do, and the team knows it, but the vibe around One NovaCare Way is great and confident and connected.
What kind of football team is this going to be in the season ahead?
"We haven't even started yet," wide receiver Devonta Smith said on Wednesday following practice, just after his press conference, and under the bright sun of a perfect spring day. "The key is to stay in the moment and focus on that. Everything else will follow."
That's the truth, but there are some things we think we know about the Eagles, at least to this point in the offseason. So, let's talk about those things ...
1. The coaching staff is busy installing the X's and O's
Brian Johnson makes the transition from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, with Alex Tanney bumping up to quarterbacks coach. It is expected to be a smooth changing of the guard on that side of the football as Johnson and Head Coach Nick Sirianni and the coaching staff tweak a proven and outstanding scheme. There is more change on the defensive side of the ball with Sean Desai joining the staff as coordinator, so there is a lot more to install and teach and make sure a lot of new faces are on the same page. This offseason has been heavy on teaching and training and conditioning and by all accounts it has gone really, really well.
"It's been great," defensive end Josh Sweat said. "Every coach wants something a little bit different, but the big picture is the same. This is my third defensive coordinator (Jim Schwartz and Jonathan Gannon), so it kind of changes things up and you work with everybody to get it down. I like what I've seen."
Bottom line: A challenge for a successful coaching staff is to keep the quality high after the other 31 teams raid. The Eagles lost two coordinators and some position coaches. They are internally very pleased with how the process has gone moving forward with a new-look staff.
2. Continuity is critical and welcomed for the offense
There are going to be some changes to the offense, of course, but the essence is the same: The Eagles want to be a pick-your-poison offense and they expect to have the talent to be that kind of lethal. The offense comes back largely intact - there are new faces at running back and at right guard competing for starting jobs - with nine starters returning. New faces? Rashaad Penny brings tremendous vision and elusiveness out of the backfield while D'Andre Swift is a proven, versatile playmaker at running back. Right guard is going to be an open competition with the likes of Cam Jurgens, Sua Opeta, Jack Driscoll, Josh Sills, and rookie Tyler Steen potentially competing for the job. Marcus Mariota is the new No. 2 quarterback. Olamide Zaccheaus - whom Smith talked about as "explosive" after he catches the football - joins the wide receiver corps.
Bottom line: The Eagles have all the makings of a top offense this season, in large part because they have so many pieces back. They've added talent and they have nine starters returning. That's a great feeling.
3. New faces need to come together on defense
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is a thing. Philadelphia will have two new starters at safety, two new starters at linebacker, and a new starter at defensive tackle in light of departures via free agency. Change is part of the NFL, so it's incumbent that Desai and his coaching staff install the defensive in bite-sized pieces and that everyone has the mental side of things down before Training Camp starts.
Bottom line: The Organized Team Activities will be conducted on May 30, June 1-2, June 5-6, and June 8. These are six critical practice dates for the team to see how much of the mental work done since the offseason program began in late April translates to the field.
4. The rookie class has a chance to contribute right away
We will see how it plays out, but the Eagles drafted some players who appear ready-made to contribute as rookies. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter and linebacker Nolan Smith were standouts on two National Championship teams. Safety Sydney Brown started for five seasons at Illinois. Steen started and played well at Alabama and there is an opening at right guard here. So, opportunities could be there.
Bottom line: The Eagles did not anticipate that the 2022 Rookie Class would see such little action - that group of players, specifically defensive tackle Jordan Davis, Jurgens, and linebacker Nakobe Dean are ready to take the next step this season - but nobody really knows how it will come together. This is a super-strong roster, but depth is needed. The rookie class has to show what it can do through the summer.
5. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is the man
Coming off a great 2022 season, Hurts is aiming even higher in his fourth year. He's got a new contract, he's firmly entrenched as the leader of the team, he has established himself as a star in the NFL, and he has a supporting offensive cast that is unquestionably among the league's best. Hurts has not changed a bit: He's still the first one in the building and the last one to leave. He is calm, cool, and pressure-charged to push his game and those around him to the highest level. This is a young man who just ... does ... everything ... right. Be so glad he is your quarterback.
Bottom line: The sky truly is the limit for Jalen Hurts, who turns all of 25 years old on August 7.
6. This team's mentality has not changed
It's a tricky line coming off a long 2022 season and a tough loss in the Super Bowl, so the Eagles have been extremely cognizant of nurturing the players back to the right physical and emotional level before the spring is out. Health is always the key in the spring, so that is the primary concern. But so is the mentality: How does a team that had such success a year ago treat the following season?
"We're all 0-0 and that's just the way it is," offensive tackle Jordan Mailata said. "That is the way we work around here. Nobody is looking back and nobody is looking ahead. We're just working hard every day and trying to get better every day."
Bottom line: One percent better every day. That may be boring to those on the outside, but it's a way of life inside the walls of the NovaCare Complex.