Philadelphia Eagles 2021 Season Recapby Alex Kielar January 22, 2022 0 comments
The Philadelphia Eagles saw their season come to an end on Sunday, with a 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round. A team that wasn’t even expected to make the playoffs, the Eagles can have solace in the fact that they got a chance in the big dance. They beat the teams they had to beat to get in at 9-8, as they went 9-2 against non-playoff teams. But when it came to being anything more than an average team, they couldn’t handle it, going 0-7 against playoff-bound teams. However, expectations were low and it will still be a while before they are a legitimate Super Bowl level team again. Giving their young team led by a first-year coach playoff experience was important for their future.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Season Recaps.
What Went Right
Under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni and first-year starter Jalen Hurts, the Eagles exceeded expectations. They averaged 25.5 points per game which ranked 12th in the NFL. With Philly fans prying for them to do so, the Eagles started to get the run game going the second half of the season. Behind a combination of Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and Jordan Howard, they finished the season leading the league with 156.1 rush yards per game. Despite missing five games, Sanders was the team’s second-leading rusher with 754 rush yards, behind Hurts who had 784. Unfortunately, the Penn State alum never found paydirt. On defense, the Eagles finally saw production from their linebacking corp. Alex Singleton (137) and T.J. Edwards (130) led the team in tackles, while Davion Taylor was solid off the bench with 41 tackles in nine games and two forced fumbles.
What Went Wrong
As well as Hurts looked at times, the second-year quarterback looked very shaky at others. His weaknesses were very apparent in the Wild Card Game, as he missed open receivers and didn’t even target his top receiver in DeVonta Smith until the second half. Tampa Bay took away his running ability early with their stout run defense. He only ran 39 yards on eight carries and was picked off twice. The Eagles’ defense, led by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, was very lackluster for most of the season. They got off to a slow start against the Bucs, before tightening up. The lack of experience for Hurts and his inability to adjust in-game was what did the team in against the best of the best opponents.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Darius Slay
Slay was one of the leaders of the defense this season. The fourth-time Pro Bowl cornerback returned more to his Detroit form, playing in 16 games for the first time since 2017. The only reason he didn’t play all 17 regular-season games was that the Eagles rested their starters in Week 18. The 31-year-old came up with three interceptions – including one pick-six – nine pass deflections, 52 total tackles, and two fumble recovery touchdowns. Big Play Slay was back in 2021, as when the Eagles needed a big play, he made one. It wasn’t all flashy either, he just naturally made big plays. Somehow, he wasn’t named an All-Pro, while flashy, but burnt toast Trevon Diggs was named to the first team.
Darius Slay 82 yard TD is longest fumble recovery TD by an Eagle since Walter Thurmond's 83 yard TD 6 seasons ago
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) November 14, 2021
Offensive Rookie of the Year – DeVonta Smith
The Eagles finally hit on a receiver in the draft, as Smith proved all the doubters wrong with a phenomenal rookie season. The 2020 Heisman winner broke the franchise rookie record for receiving yards in a season, breaking it in Week 18 against the Cowboys. The record was set by DeSean Jackson back in 2008 with 912 yards in a 16-game season. Smith was taken right out of the game after his third catch that brought him to 916 yards on the season. The Eagles largely underutilized Smith in the Wild Card Game, and it showed in the underwhelming offensive performance. That showed how truly valuable he was to the offense.
DeVonta Smith just broke the record for most receiving yards by a rookie in Eagles history.
— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) January 9, 2022
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Tarron Jackson
The defensive players the Eagles drafted didn’t have too big of an impact in their rookie years. Jackson started getting more snaps later in the season and finished with over 22 percent of snaps, easily the most for any of the defensive rookies. He showed some flashes while playing in all 17 games, finishing with 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and a forced fumble.
Biggest Surprise – Jordan Mailata
After signing a four-year extension prior to the season, Mailata proved to be well worth the money. The second-year tackle took it up a notch and PFF gave him an 86.9 grade, the league’s third-highest-graded tackle. The Aussie-born tackle has quickly become one of the most dominant offensive linemen in the league and has been a massive steal as a seventh-round pick in 2018. Mailata was penalized seven times and allowed just three sacks over 914 offensive snaps.
Biggest Disappointment – Jalen Reagor
Reagor will forever be known as the guy the Eagles drafted ahead of Justin Jefferson in the 2020 NFL Draft. They are lofty expectations to live up to after Jefferson nearly won the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. If that wasn’t enough, the TCU alum hasn’t even come close. In fact, Reagor was mostly a special teams player this year and had a huge muffed punt against the Bucs. If he’s on the team next year, don’t expect nice words from yours truly.
One Burning Question
Is Hurts the quarterback of the future?
General Manager Howie Roseman already announced this week that Hurts will remain QB1 going into 2022. That could still change, though, and his future beyond that is still uncertain.
“We talk about Jalen and the growth he had, really, a first-year starter, second-year player, leading this team to the playoffs, tremendously impressed by his work ethic, his leadership,” Roseman said. “Last time we talked was during camp, and we said we wanted to see him take the bull by the horn, and he certainly did that.”
One potential is that the Eagles may look to trade for a top-tier quarterback on the trade market, such as Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson. If none of those occur, Hurts should definitely be the starter. Building around him through the draft will be important to further his development and evaluation. If he can improve with more receivers like Smith and Quez Watkins around him – and utilize them well, he will be the future beyond 2022.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images