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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2023 Opponent Preview: Philadelphia Eagles, Week 3

The Eagles nearly won the Super Bowl in February and have seen their young quarterback blossom into a dual-threat star, and they've used the 2023 offseason to handily offset some free agent defections


As the NFL enters its fallow period between the end the teams' offseason programs and the start of training camp, we are taking a closer look at each of the opponents the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face during the 2023 regular season. From how those teams fared last year to what they've done with the roster since to some as-yet-unanswered questions, we want to get a better feel for what the Buccaneers will be up against this fall. Today we look at the defending NFC Champions, who are coming to Tampa for a Monday night game in Week Three.

2022 Results

Things unfolded about as well as they possibly could for the Eagles in 2022, save for a couple of missed starts by quarterback Jalen Hurts in December and a poorly-timed defensive holding call in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Philadelphia won its first eight games and stood at 13-1 when Hurts suffered an ankle sprain. The Eagles lost the two games helmed by backup quarterback Gardner Minshew but capped the regular season with a Hurts-led win over the Giants, finishing 14-3 to capture the top seed in the conference playoffs.

Lopsided wins over the Giants and 49ers in the playoffs sent the Eagles to their second Super Bowl in six seasons, and the game against Kansas City was a thriller. Hurts matched league MVP Patrick Mahomes blow for blow in a 38-35 decision that was clinched for the Chiefs when James Bradberry drew that fateful third-penalty to allow Kansas City to run out the clock. Hurts ran for three touchdowns, topped 300 passing yards and hit A.J. Brown on a 45-yard scoring pass.

Hurts finished second to Mahomes in the MVP voting after a stunning breakout season in which the former second-round pick threw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns against just six interceptions, while also running for 760 yards and another 13 scores. General Manager Howie Roseman was named the PFWA Executive of the Year for building a rock-solid roster around Hurts that had talent and depth at virtually every position. Brown, required in a surprise trade with the Titans during the draft, made the Pro Bowl with 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns and rounded out a pass-catching corps that also included wideout DeVonta Smith (95 catches, 1,196 yards) and tight end Dallas Goedert (55 catches for 702 yards). Hurts also had a deep backfield to work with, led by Pro Bowler Miles Sanders and his 1,269 rushing yards.

On defense, the Eagles were driven by a ferocious pass rush that racked up 70 sacks, just two shy of the NFL's single-season record and 15 more than the next team on the list in 2022. Haason Reddick, another brilliant acquisition by Roseman, tied for second in the league with 16.0 sacks, while Javon Hargrave, Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat each had 11.0. James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, each in their first season in Philly, combined for nine interceptions and off-ball linebacker T.J. Edwards had a breakout season of his own with 159 tackles and 2.0 sacks.

All of this added up to a third-ranked offense, a second-ranked defense and an average per-game point differential of more than a touchdown. Though the team fell just short of its ultimate goal, it did set a franchise single-season record with 14 regular-season wins.

2023 Arrivals

The Eagles didn't dive too deep into the open market as their top priority was bringing back some of their own pending free agents. They signed Marcus Mariota to replace Gardner Minshew as their backup to Hurts and added former Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny to counter the departure of Sanders. During the draft, they added yet another piece to the backfield by trading with the Lions for running back D'Andre Swift. There were a few value signings with wideout Olamide Zaccheaus, tight end Dan Arnold, defensive tackle Kentavius Street, linebacker Nicholas Morrow and safeties Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans.

In the draft, the Eagles stuck to their recent process of mining the University of Georgia's championship defense for new parts. After selecting former Bulldogs defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean in 2022, the team went back to the Athens well three times in 2023 to take defensive tackle Jalen Carter, edge rusher Nolan Smith and cornerback Kelee Ringo. Philadelphia traded up a spot to number nine to secure Carter, considered by some evaluators the best defensive player in the draft.

The Eagles used a pair of third-round picks on offensive lineman Tyler Steen and safety Sydney Brown. The former will be groomed to replace one of a couple stars near retirement and the latter could push Reed Blankenship for a starting spot right away.

2023 Departures

The Eagles were not able to retain all of their coveted free agents, and the most notable defector was Hargrave, who was one of the most dominant interior linemen in the league in 2022. His career-best 11.0 sacks gave him 23 over his three seasons in Philly and allowed him to land a top-of-the-market deal with the 49ers.

Sanders, as noted, left for a four-year deal in Carolina while Edwards moved over to the Bears on a three-year pact. The Eagles actually lost both of their starting off-ball linebackers in free agency, as Kyzir White signed with the Cardinals. Gardner-Johnson, who had been acquired from the Saints via trade last offseason, ended up spending just one year with the Eagles, hopping over to the Lions instead. The move of Minshew to Indy has already been noted, as well.

The Eagles' outstanding offensive line lost some depth with guard Isaac Seumalo, who started every game last season, jumping across the state to Pittsburgh and reserve guard/tackle Andre Dillard looking for a starting opportunity in Tennessee. Safety Marcus Epps, who also started every game in 2022, got a two-year deal with the Raiders.

Head Coach Nick Sirianni also saw the effects of success on his coaching staff. Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen landed the head coaching gig in Indianapolis and Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon got a similar opportunity in Arizona. Linebackers Coach Nick Rallis followed Gannon to be the Cardinals' new defensive coordinator.

Other Noteworthy Developments

Despite the departures of Hargrave, Sanders and a few others, the Eagles did succeed in re-signing defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, cornerback James Bradberry and center Jason Kelce. They also backed away from reportedly trading or releasing cornerback Darius Slay, instead signing him to a two-year extension. The Eagles and star right tackle Lane Johnson worked out a new contract that added a fourth year to his previous contract.

The most important deal the Eagles got done, however, was with their rising-star quarterback. Hurts became the first domino to fall (followed quickly by Lamar Jackson) in what is sure to be a string of lucrative deals for young passers this offseason. Hurts signed a five-year extension north of $250 million, with more than $110 million fully guaranteed.

Pressing Questions

How seamlessly can Nick Sirianni's coaching staff transition after the team lost both of its coordinators to head coaching opportunities?

The Eagles promoted from within to replace Steichen on the offensive side, giving the coordinator spot to Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson. They found outside help on the other side of the ball, hiring Sean Desai, most recently an associate head coach and defensive assistant under Pete Carroll in Cincinnati.

Johnson obviously offers continuity in terms of the continued development of Hurts, as he helped in that very successful endeavor over the past two seasons. He has also called plays before as the coordinator for three different college squads – Alabama, Houston and Florida. As a whole, the Eagles will also enjoy a lot of continuity on offense, with Brown, Smith, Goedert and four of last year's five starting linemen returning.

Desai seemed to be a coveted coordinator candidate the past two years and this offseason he interviewed with the Browns, Broncos, Dolphins and Vikings as well as Philadelphia. He had spent most of his previous NFL coaching career with the Bears, where he served as the defensive coordinator in 2021. Desai spent some of that time working with Vic Fangio, who ran a defense similar to what the Eagles employed under Gannon. Desai will not be blessed with the same continuity as Johnson on the defensive side of the ball, but virtually every departure from the starting lineup has been replaced with a promising player.

Is there another level for Jalen Hurts?

The Eagles didn't hesitate to make a long-term and big-money commitment to their young quarterback because they love his work ethic and passion to be great as much as his obvious physical talents. Hurts' new deal would probably be worth it if he simply turned in a string of seasons exactly as good as his 2022 campaign, but the Eagles can reasonably anticipate that the 25-year-old (on opening day) can continue to improve.

That said, it's hard to see where Hurts has much room for improvement in a quick glance at his traditional stats. There's obviously nothing to complain about in his running game, and he finished last year with a 101.5 passer rating. His 22-6 TD-INT ratio is strong, he completed 66.5% of his passes and his 8.0 yards per attempt was third best in the NFL, just a hair below Mahomes.

Hurts threw for 246.7 yards per game, which is quite good but only 10th in the league. Obviously, this was due in large part to the Eagles not needing him to throw as often as some teams need from their quarterbacks. He makes up the difference with his legs and the Eagles as a whole run the ball very well. And Philadelphia often had big leads to protect. However, it's possible that Hurts and the Eagles will choose to have him run a bit less often in order to reduce the chance of him suffering an injury. In that case, they may need him to produce more as a passer.

If you take a little deeper dive into the numbers, you generally find Hurts excelling in most categories, too. If there is one area where he could possibly take a big step forward it's in recognizing and dealing with blitzes. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hurts had a -0.12 EPA per dropback when facing blitzes last year, which ranked 32nd among all quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes. He also got sacked at a relatively high rate of 12.9% of his dropbacks when blitzed. Compare that to Mahomes, who was only sacked on 4.5% of his dropbacks against blitzes.

It's fair to say that areas such as picking up blitzes and knowing what to do when they are coming are things a quarterback gets better at with more and more experience. Hurts still only has 34 career NFL starts. It's a safe bet he'll continue to improve in this and many other areas of his game.

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