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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2024 Opponent Preview: Philadelphia Eagles, Week 4

The Eagles' once-promising 2023 season ended in a lengthy swoon, but the roster remains loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and two new coordinators have arrived to help get things back on track


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have wrapped up their last OTA practice and have just a mandatory three-day minicamp left on their offseason slate. Next comes a lengthy break for players and coaches before training camp kicks off in the latter half of July. In the interim, we're taking a look at each team the Buccaneers are going to face when the regular season arrives. 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 Bucs will be up against this fall. Today's focus is on the team the Buccaneers beat in the playoffs last season, a Philadelphia Eagles squad that is looking to return to form after a late-season swoon.

2023 Results

The Eagles came into 2023 as the defending NFC champions, having been narrowly defeated by the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII. They appeared primed to be a Super Bowl contender again and did indeed look like one…for exactly 11 games.

The only blemish for the Eagles through the month of November was a surprising 20-14 loss to Zach Wilson's Jets in Week Six. Otherwise, Philadelphia had won its other 10 games, including back-to-back-to-back victories over playoff contenders Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo. Jalen Hurts ran for two second-half touchdowns to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 11, then threw for three scores and ran for another in a 37-34 shootout win over the Bills. At 10-1, the Eagles had the best record in the conference by two games, as well as a two-game lead over Dallas in the NFC East standings.

From there, the Eagles' once-promising season began to spiral out of control and eventually ran quietly down the drain. Philadelphia lost five of its last six regular-season games, the first team to do so after a 10-1 start since the 1986 Jets. The Eagles' offense averaged 28.2 points per game during the team's 10-1 start, third most in the league at that point, but fell to 20.5 per game the rest of the way. The Eagles' defense was already ranked 20th in points allowed through 11 games, at 22.4 per game, but was 31st over the last six weeks, allowing 30.3 points per game.

The most important outing during that six-game stretch run was a rematch with the Cowboys in Dallas. The home team kept Hurts in check (197 passing yards, 30 rushing yards, no touchdowns) and cruised to a 33-13 win. The Eagles' lone victory in that stretch was a 33-25 home win over the scuffling Giants, but when those two teams met again in the regular season finale it was New York that walked away with a lopsided 27-10 victory. The Eagles and Cowboys had come into the final weekend tied atop the division at 11-5 but that loss to the Giants plus a Dallas win over Washington dropped Philadelphia into a Wild Card slot.

That outcome forced the Eagles to come to Tampa to start the playoffs for the second time in three years, and the results were nearly similar. The Buccaneers had thoroughly contained a less experienced Hurts in his playoff debut in 2021 on the way to a 31-15 drubbing that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The 2023 version was even more lopsided, as the Eagles finished their collapse with a 32-9 loss at Raymond James Stadium in which Baker Mayfield threw three touchdown passes and the Eagles' offense failed to convert a single third down.

Hurts threw for 3,858 yards and 23 touchdowns but his career-high 15 interceptions was the same number he had in the 2021 and 2022 seasons combined. He also fumbled nine times, five of which were recovered by the opposition. He remained a dual threat, especially near the end zone, rushing for 605 yards and accounting for 15 of the Eagles' 22 rushing touchdowns.

In his lone season with the Eagles, D'Andre Swift paced the rushing attack with 1,049 yards, 400 more than he had in the best of his three seasons in Detroit. Philadelphia's top-notch pass-catching trio of wide receivers A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert continued to thrive; both Brown (106 catches for 1,456 yards and seven touchdowns) and Smith (81-1.006-7) topped 1,000 yards while Goedert pitched in with 59 grabs. The Eagles' offense continued to operate behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines, with Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson and Lane Johnson all earning Pro Bowl nods.

Philly's late-season skid saw its defense drop to 30th in points allowed (25.2 per game) and 26th in yards allowed per game (356.1), and the secondary in particular struggled, allowing 252.7 yards per outing to rank 31st. The Eagles only picked off nine passes, led by safety Reed Blankship with three, and a vaunted pass rush that had compiled a stunning 70 sacks in 2022 slipped to 43 in 2023 and ranked 24th in sacks per pass play. Haason Reddick led the team with 11.0 sacks. Blankenship also led the team in tackles, with 108.

2024 Arrivals

With that secondary advancing in age with the likes of Darius Slay and James Bradberry, the Eagles made it a priority in the draft, using their first-round pick on Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell, the first cornerback off the board. In the second round, Philadelphia chose Iowa's versatile Cooper DeJean, who could play immediately in the slot or possibly at safety. The Eagles also brought back another slot/safety hybrid in C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who had spent one injury-plagued season in Detroit.

With the intention of moving on from Reddick due to salary cap reasons, the Eagles' nabbed former Jets pass rusher Bryce Huff at the beginning of free agency, giving him a large three-year deal. Huff didn't start for the Jets and played less than 50% of the defensive snaps in 2023 but he still racked up 10.0 sacks and the Eagles are expecting him to be even more productive in a larger role.

Elsewhere on defense, the Eagles signed former Buccaneer Devin White and drafted Clemson's Jeremiah Trotter Jr. in the fifth round in their continued efforts to get more production from the linebacking crew. Philadelphia also snagged small-school edge rusher Jalyx Hunt in the third round of the draft.

Philadelphia's big move on offense was to swipe running back Saquon Barkley from the division-rival Giants, giving him a three-year deal. Barkley, the second-overall pick in the 2018 draft, had some injury issues during his New York tenure but still averaged just a hair under 100 yards from scrimmage over six seasons. In two of those six seasons he topped 1,300 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. The Eagles have often run a backfield by committee in recent years but Barkley figures to be a workhorse back for his new team. Philadelphia did add another back, Clemson's Will Shipley, in the fourth round of the draft.

The Eagles used the third day of the draft to add depth behind their star receivers, taking Texas A&M's Ainias Smith in the fifth round and jumbo Florida State pass-catcher Johnny Wilson in the sixth. The Eagles also took a flyer on journeyman wideout John Ross and added depth to the offensive line by signing former Jets first-rounder Mekhi Becton. Even the quarterback room got an addition when Philadelphia sent a third-round pick and two future seventh-rounders across the state for Pickett and the Steelers' fourth-round pick.

The Eagles also made a handful of depth signings in free agency, adding the like of center Matt Hennessey (Falcons), outside linebacker Zack Baun (Saints), linebacker Oren Burks (49ers), tight end C.J. Uzomah (Jets) and quarterback Will Grier (Chargers).

2024 Departures

As noted above, the Eagles chose to part ways with Reddick rather than entertain a contract bump, sending him to the Jets for a 2026 third-round pick that could potentially become a second-rounder. Philadelphia's usually loaded defensive front lost another stalwart when Fletcher Cox elected to retire after 12 seasons, 188 games and 70 sacks. Cox last hit double digits in sacks in 2018 but Reddick is still very much in his prime and joins Myles Garrett as the only players in the NFL with 10 or more sacks in each of the past four seasons.

The Eagles also lost a long-term fixture on offense when center Jason Kelce also retired, ending a 13-year run in Philadelphia. Kelce went out on top, as he earned his seventh Pro Bowl invitation and sixth first-team Associated Press All-Pro selection in 2023. He started 193 games for the Eagles.

Swift had just one year left on his rookie deal when he was traded to the Eagles last offseason, and he took the chance in free agency to land a multi-year deal with the Bears. Reserve quarterback Marcus Mariota also spent just one season in Philadelphia and is now with the Washington Commanders.

Others who found new homes in free agency after spending 2023 with the Eagles included linebacker Nicholas Morrow (Bills), guard Sua Opeta (Buccaneers), running back Boston Scott (Rams) and wideouts Quez Watkins (Steelers) and Olamide Zaccheaus (Commanders). Morrow started 12 games last season and contributed 95 tackles and 3.0 sack. Opeta started six games as an injury replacement in 2023.

The Eagles also released safety Kevin Byard, who they had gotten in a midseason trade with the Titans, and he subsequently signed with the Bears.

Other Noteworthy Developments

For the second year in a row, Head Coach Nick Sirianni brought in a pair of new coordinators. That was out of necessity in 2023, after both Shane Steichen (Colts) and Jonathan Gannon (Cardinals) landed head coaching jobs. However, their replacements – Brian Johnson on offense and Sean Desai on defense – did not get the desired results and are no longer with the team. Desai, in fact, relinquished defensive play-calling duties to Matt Patricia late in the 2023 season; Patricia has also since moved on.

To fill those spots for 2024 the Eagles brought in two proven coordinators, giving the offensive keys to Kellen Moore and putting the defense in Vic Fangio's hands. Moore most recently coordinated the Chargers' offense in 2023 after a long and successful stint in Dallas. Fangio brings 33 years of NFL coaching experience to the Eagles.

In addition to those top-level hires, Sirianni made a number of other changes to the coaching staff. Moore and Fangio are two of nine newcomers to that crew, joining Christian Parker (pass game coordinator/defensive backs, Clint Hurtt (senior defensive assistant/defensive line), Roy Anderson (cornerbacks), Joe Kasper (safeties), Bobby King (inside linebackers), Doug Nussmeier (quarterbacks) and Kyle Valero (offensive assistant).

After locking Jalen Hurts into a big-dollar long-term deal last spring, the Eagles continued to secure their most important offensive pieces for the future. Both A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith got new multi-year deals, and rising-star tackle Jordan Mailata landed a three-year extension. The Eagles even extended their kicker, Jake Elliot, for the next four years; Elliott has made 86.2% of his career field goal attempts.

The Eagles were very active during the draft, making eight trades during the seven round, tying for the most by any team in one draft since 1990.

Philadelphia cut cornerback Avonte Maddox but then later re-signed him. They signed wideout Devante Parker after he was cut by the Patriots, but Parker then chose to retire instead in May. A trio of defenders from the 2023 squad remain unsigned free agents: linebackers Zach Cunningham and Shaq Leonard and safety Justin Evans. Cunningham started 10 games in 2023.

Pressing Questions

Can Jalen Hurts limit the turnovers in 2024?

Hurts has emerged as one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the game and the Eagles treated him as such last offseason by signing him to a five-year deal that averages $51 million per season. Hurts was coming off a 2022 campaign in which he went 14-1 as a starter, finished second in the NFL MVP balloting and took the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

In 2023, Hurts set new career highs with 3,858 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes and 15 rushing touchdowns. He has a remarkable 41 rushing touchdowns in 51 career regular season starts. Hurts will once again be an MVP candidate heading into 2024 and the Eagles have made a point of surrounding him with high-level talent and keeping the offensive line strong in front of him.

However, for Hurts to have a shot at that MVP trophy and for the Eagles to return to championship contender status, he will have to do a better job of protecting the football. Hurts' combined 20 turnovers (15 interceptions, five lost fumbles) was fourth most among all NFL quarterbacks in 2023, behind only Sam Howell (23), Josh Allen (22) and Trevor Lawrence (21).

There's every reason to believe that 2023 will prove to be a fluke for Hurts and not the start of a trend. He had thrown only 19 interceptions in his first 45 games before 2023. Hurts's 1.3% interception rate in 2022 was just 1.3%, fourth lowest in the NFL. That nearly doubled to 2.8% last year, but his turnover-worthy play rate was just 2.3% (compared to 1.8% in 2022). He got unlucky on a handful of turnovers in 2023 but did force some throws into tight coverage.

Can Vic Fangio restore the Eagles' defense to the championship level it displayed in 2022?

As noted earlier, the Eagles racked up an NFL-best (by far) 70 sacks in 2022, which was a big reason why they finished the season ranked second in overall defense. Hurts, Brown and the Eagles' rugged O-Line got a lot of the credit for getting Philadelphia back to the Super Bowl, but the defense was a big reason for that success, as well.

Philadelphia's defensive results in 2023 were detailed above and don't need to be repeated in depth, but the final ranking of 30th in points allowed can't be repeated if the Eagles are going to make another deep run in the playoffs. The in-season switch from Desai to Patricia did not produce any improvement in 2023, so the Eagles called on a familiar face in Fangio, who was a consultant on their coaching staff during that 2022 Super Bowl season.

Fangio was the head coach in Denver from 2019-21 and was most recently the Dolphins' defensive coordinator last year. He has previously held coordinator positions for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears, as well.

Fangio runs a 3-4 base defense and is known for light boxes and favoring coverage numbers over blitzes. His defense lines up in a two-high shell most of the time but there is a lot of pre-snap disguising and he employs a wide array of coverages and pressure packages. The Eagles of recent vintage have generated a strong pass rush more by loading their front with high-end talent than by sending extra blitzers, and that fits Fangio's preferences.

The Eagles gave Fangio some new pieces to scheme around, with Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean, Devin White and Bryce Huff all potentially opening the season as starters. If Huff is as productive as the Eagles hope he can be and Josh Sweat takes another step forward, the Eagles could once again have a dominant front thanks to the recent first-round selections of interior linemen Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter. If Fangio can take these pieces and get the Eagles' defense back on track, they could quickly re-emerge as favorites in the NFC East.

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