Eagles' Players Who Won't Live up to Hype in 2022 Season
The Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the 2022 season.
It's hard to consider the 2021 campaign anything short of a success. After a 4-11-1 season in 2020 with Carson Wentz at quarterback and Doug Pederson as the head coach, they ushered in a new era with Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni taking over.
They went 9-8 and made the playoffs, putting the franchise back on track.
The team will attempt to build on that success and have had a busy offseason making the team better on paper. Jalen Hurts got a new weapon in A.J. Brown. The defense added Haason Reddick as well as a talented pair of Georgia defenders in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
'Tis the season to get hyped. Right now, there's a lot of reason for optimism. However, it's important to have healthy expectations. These three players may fall short of their expectations for the season.
RB Miles Sanders
Time is running out for a Miles Sanders breakout season.
Ever since the Philadelphia Eagles drafted the Penn State running back in the second round of the 2019 draft there has been hype for him to become an elite back. He was productive as a Nittany Lion and he has certainly showed promise in his first three NFL seasons.
His 2021 season got off to a slow start as Nick Sirianni struggled to figure out how to make his offense work in Philadelphia. Sanders did not register more than 15 carries in any of the first seven games and missed three in a row due to an ankle injury.
The stars aligned for Sanders to see some heavy usage in the back half of the season, though. When he got back from the injury he had games of 16, 24 and 18 carries, gaining 94, 120 and 131 yards in those games respectively.
It's easy to look at those numbers and start seeing the hypothetical numbers pile up if he can produce like that over a whole season.
That could be wishful thinking, though. The Eagles figure to be a little more balanced with A.J. Brown's arrival and the hope that Hurts develops as a passer.
Hurts is always going to take away some opportunity from the running backs on the roster and Kenneth Gainwell will still have a role.
Expect Sanders to still have a split role in the backfield and once again fall short of 1,000 yards on the season.
CB Darius Slay
Darius Slay had a great bounce-back season in 2021. After a disappointing debut with the Eagles in 2020 he was once again a reliable cover corner and was rewarded with a Pro Bowl appearance.
But cornerback play can be fickle and it's a dangerous game to assume that Slay will once again be elite.
In 2021, he only gave up a completion percentage of 58.8 percent, a passer rating of 74.4 and 535 yards on 85 targets.
All of those numbers were a marked improvement over his 2020 campaign in which he gave up a 76.7 percent completion percentage, 111.9 passer rating and 851 yards on 90 targets.
To be fair, looking at Slay's career, the 2020 season is the outlier. But it's also important to note that Slay is now 31 years old and it's much more likely that his 2022 season winds up looking like a combination of his 2020 and 2021 form.
That means he will still be a quality starter but could fall short of Pro Bowl expectations.
WR A.J. Brown
In an ideal world, A.J. Brown is the missing piece for the Eagles offense.
Jalen Hurts and his new receiver have a great relationship off the field and that could help foster chemistry on it. Pairing a talented receiver like Brown with DeVonta Smith gives Hurts an impressive young receiver duo and he takes the next step as a passer.
But here's a look at the top five receivers signed in free agency last year by average annual value: Kenny Golladay, Corey Davis, Curtis Samuel, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
Of those five, Golladay was the most productive with just over 500 yards.
Brown is more talented than all five of the players on that list but the point remains that integrating a new receiver into an offense takes time. Hurts is still developing as a passer and he still has a ways to go.
Brown is trying to overcome a disappointing season of his own. His third-year in the league was his least productive as he battled injury and posted just 869 yards and five touchdowns with 8.3 yards per target.
Look for Brown to start performing like his old self at some point during the 2022 season but there could be growing pains. The final season stats are likely to be lower than what some were hoping when the Birds traded for him.