The Philadelphia Eagles were one quarter away from winning the Super Bowl last season, but they could not hold off Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
While the defeat was painful and had to stay with head coach Nick Sirianni, quarterback Jalen Hurts and the rest of the Eagles, the core of the team was still in tact and there appeared to be no reason that the team would not be a legitimate contender again this season.
Teams like the 49ers and Cowboys figured to give them a challenge, but the Eagles were superior to playoff teams like the Giants, Vikings and Buccaneers.
Eagles are not clicking yet
The Eagles have gotten off to an undefeated start, but they have yet to come close to playing their best game. They struggled against an offensively deficient team like the Patriots in Week 1, they let the Vikings back in the game after seizing control in Week 2, and were pushed to overtime by the Commanders in Week 4.
Close games were not the order last year, and it seems like they won't be again once Hurts, running back D'Andre Swift and A.J. Brown hit their stride. Additionally, the Eagles have superior personnel on the defensive side of the ball, but that unit has not yet hit its stride.
The Eagles rank 16th in yards allowed per game at 323.8, and that pales in comparison to last year when they ranked second in that category, allowing just over 301 yards per game.
Specifically, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick and Fletcher Cox are not getting to the quarterback at this point. Sweat has 2.5 sacks, Reddick has 1 sack and Cox has just 1/2 sack. Reddick had 16.0 sacks last year, Sweat had 11 sacks and Cox had 7.0 sacks.
Once the Eagles start putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, their defensive performance is likely to improve.
Hurts can also step up
While he may not have the physical gifts of Patrick Mahomes, Hurts played as well as any quarterback in the NFL last year.
He has not been performing at the same level in the first four weeks of the year. Hurts is completing 67.3 percent of his passes and has thrown for 959 yards, but his 5 to 3 TD to interception ratio is ordinary. A year ago, he threw for 3,701 yards and had a 22-6 TD-interception ratio through the full 17-game schedule.
While his numbers are not as impressive as they were last year, Hurts has come through in pressure situations against each of Philadelphia's opponents.
He acknowledged that he understands how to come through when the heat is on, but things can still improve. “I feel like it’s a unique feeling, being in those situations, because you work so hard and you prepare so hard and you go through so much to put yourself in a position where you’re comfortable in those moments,” Hurts said. “I think for us, there’s a ton to build on. We just need to continue to grow. It’s about the expectation you have for yourself to do that in those moments.”
Once the defense starts to get to opposing quarterbacks a bit more and Hurts gets back on track, the Eagles will show improvement — and the rest of the NFC should be quite worried.