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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

What caused the Eagles collapse?

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GRAPHIC: MINDY CHOI ’25/THE HAWK

In the NFC Wild Card round, the Philadelphia Eagles lost 32-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jan. 15. This marked the end of a disappointing season for the Eagles.

Expectations were high entering the 2023-24 season off the back of a heartbreaking 38-35 defeat to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2023 Super Bowl. The Eagles were favorites to win the NFC East and contend for the Super Bowl again, only to crash out in the first round of playoffs. Both the stark contrast between this season and last and the demoralizing end led fans to wonder where this team went wrong.

The Eagles got off to a strong 10-1 start in 2023. After a week 11 win over the Buffalo Bills, however, the wheels came off the wagon.

The Eagles lost five of their last six games, including double-digit losses to the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was demoted midway through his first season in favor of former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, but it was not enough. The Eagles finished the regular season with losses against the Arizona Cardinals, led by former defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, and the New York Giants, both teams with losing records, before being eliminated by the Buccaneers in the first round of the postseason.

The Eagles had glaring issues that led to these results. For one, the offense was less dynamic than last season. Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw 15 interceptions, up from six in 2022. He also rushed for fewer yards per attempt. Rookie offensive coordinator Brian Johnson’s system relied more on deep passes and screens for wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith as opposed to slant routes. Former offensive coordinator Shane Steichen relied on slants to give Hurts quick passing options out of run-pass option plays and get receivers opportunities to pick up yards after the catch. This shift in philosophy under Johnson made the offense more predictable to opposing defenses.

The Eagles’ defense, meanwhile, fell off a cliff in 2023. The unit lost five starters entering the year, including lineman Javon Hargrave and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. These players were sorely missed. The Eagles fell from eighth (out of 32 teams) in points allowed to 30th. The secondary dropped from first to second to last in passing yards allowed this season. Midseason additions of Shaquille Leonard and Kevin Byard were not enough to correct the Eagles’ porous coverage. Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield lit up the Eagles’ defense to the tune of 337 yards and three touchdowns in the Wild Card matchup.

Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni and the rest of the Eagles’ staff now face a critical offseason. Future Hall-of-Fame center Jason Kelce is reported to be retiring. Veteran defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are free agents, as is running back D’Andre Swift. The Eagles need to fill holes in the secondary and at linebacker. Sirianni’s job is safe for the time being, but Johnson and Desai were fired. Vic Fangio will be the next defensive coordinator. This hire should solidify the defense. Meanwhile, former Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was hired to replace Johnson. Moore needs to maximize Hurts’ skillset and get the offense firing on all cylinders again.

Championship windows shut very quickly in the NFL. Players age and decline. Rosters get expensive and difficult to maintain. The Eagles can win with Hurts; they proved as much in 2022. However, if they do not correct their flaws on both sides of the ball and return to contention, this window may close for good.

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