Certain things have to fall into place for any NFL offense to find success, especially for a team with a completely new coaching staff and new faces all over the field.
On paper, the Eagles offense has a lot of potential heading into the 2021 season. If new head coach Nick Sirianni can effectively put his players in positions to succeed — something he’s preached constantly throughout the offseason — the Birds’ offensive attack could be really fun to watch this year.
Here are the three biggest keys to success for Sirianni’s offense in 2021.
The offensive line staying healthy for the majority of the season
On paper, the Eagles still have one of the best offensive line units in all of football. Between the five starters, they have nine Pro Bowls and four first-team All Pro selections. Although some of the starters are nearing the end of their careers, like Jason Kelce, they should still have enough juice in the tank to carry this offense in 2021.
But only if they can remain full healthy for the majority of the season.
Injuries decimated the Eagles offensive line last season. Aside from Kelce, every other starter missed time. Both Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard missed the entire season, while Lane Johnson missed more than half the season and Isaac Seumalo missed just under half the season.
In the long run, this could pay dividends for the Eagles. Several young lineman got extended playing time last season and proved to be at least serviceable backups. The most notable of the bunch was Jordan Mailata, who likely earned himself the starting left tackle spot this season after a breakout 2020 campaign.
An offensive line comprised of Mailata, Seumalo, Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson will be hard for any defensive line to penetrate. Not to mention the great depth the team has along the offensive line like second round pick Landon Dickerson (who may even start this year at guard), Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, and Brett Toth.
I’d argue that the line’s health is the biggest X-factor for this Eagles team in 2021. If they’re healthy and play up to the standard they’ve set throughout their careers, the Birds offense will take flight this season.
Jalen Reagor proving he was worthy of the first round selection last year
I’ve argued that this Eagles wide receiving group will be better than expected in 2021. After drafting DeVonta Smith with the 10th overall pick and bringing in Sirianni who has a long track record of developing wideouts, the sky is the limit for this group.
But if Jalen Reagor doesn’t live up to expectations this season and fails to prove he was worthy of the first round selection this season, all of that optimism gets thrown out the window.
If he doesn’t perform well, the Eagles will likely head into next offseason still looking to address the wide receiver position. Unless someone like Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, or Quez Watkins proves they can be solid starters in this league. But all eyes will be on Reagor this season and he’ll have ample opportunity to prove himself.
His shift into the slot will be interesting to watch and it should benefit his game to a certain extent. With his athletic ability, he should have no problem getting open against nickel corners across the middle of the field. It should also allow Sirianni to get the ball in his hands in creative ways, like quick screens, jet sweeps, or mesh routes across the face of the defense.
Reagor’s greatest strength is his playmaking ability. He was heralded as possibly the best YAC receiver coming out of the draft last season. That never materialized in year one. Whether is was more due to the fact that Doug Pederson failed to use Reagor correctly, or that Reagor struggled to stay healthy the majority of the season is up for debate.
But there are no excuses this season. Reagor won’t have the pressure of being the team’s No. 1 receiver this season after the addition of Smith, and working out of the slot, he should be well equipped to make plays. I’m excited to see what this kid can do moving forward.
The marriage between Sirianni and Jalen Hurts
Without question, the quarterback position is the most important position on any NFL team. The Eagles don’t truly know what they have in Jalen Hurts just yet and it’ll be up to Sirianni to mold his offense around what Hurts does effectively.
Sirianni is no beginner in that regard. During his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Colts, he worked with three different quarterbacks, all of whom had different strengths and weaknesses. And each of these quarterbacks did well under Sirianni and Frank Reich’s watch. They didn’t copy and paste the offense Andrew Luck ran while Jacoby Brissett was the man under center, they tweaked their offensive philosophy to best suit what Brissett does well.
I have no doubts that Sirianni can do the same for Hurts this season, Hurts just needs to come out and play ball. He’ll have suitable weapons all over the field. From his former Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith, to Miles Sanders in the backfield, to tight end Dallas Goedert, it won’t be for a lack of talent around Hurts if he doesn’t succeed.
If Sirianni is able to unlock the potential Hurts has and Hurts buys into what Sirianni is trying to do, there’s no reason this offense shouldn’t be good in 2021.
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