From the moment he became head coach, Nick Sirianni said he would mold the offense to fit the strengths of the unit. In the first half of the season, you could see an offense that was playing well at times but also one that looked as if it was still trying to establish an identity. The questions for Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts were pointed and frequent: Who are you? What are you trying to become? Do you have the personnel to run the kind of offense you want to run?
As the season approaches the home stretch, the answers to those questions are also becoming more and more clear, as the offense continues to take shape and evolve. The results have been impressive, especially when you look at the numbers the offense has produced since Week 8 – the kind of numbers that show significant improvement and the kind of numbers that arguably put the Eagles in the discussion as one of the top offenses in the league. Consider ...
1. In their last seven games, the Eagles lead the league in scoring efficiency (percentage of drives that result in a field or a touchdown) at 52.9 percent.
2. They lead the NFL since Week 8 in explosive plays (defined by the coaching staff as a passing play of 16-plus yards and a running play of 10-plus yards) with 80.
3. The running game? A slam dunk. The Eagles are averaging 214.4 yards per game starting with the game in Detroit and have eclipsed 200 yards in five of those games.
4. Philadelphia is second in the league in points per game, averaging 29.3 points in their last seven games, with five victories.
5. A stat that really is indicative of how effective the Eagles have been, the Eagles rank first in the NFL in third-down efficiency, converting 51.6 percent of those situations.
Sirianni has often spoken about getting "one percent better" every day, and when you look at it closely now, you can see what he meant. Over the course of the season, Sirianni continued to tweak to mold the offense around the strengths of his players. The offensive line gained some continuity, everybody became just a bit more comfortable in the scheme and with each other, and, well, here we are. Even with some injuries to contend with – Sua Opeta on Tuesday night was the third man to start at left guard and Nate Herbig is one of three to start at right guard – and the absence of right tackle Lane Johnson for three games, the offensive line has continued to play well. In these last seven games, it has played way more than just "well." It has been dominating.
"This is great. The offensive line does a great job," running back Jordan Howard said. "The tight ends, receivers, and coaches – they put us in a great position and Jalen makes the right checks. They all just make our jobs easier to run. They (create) gigantic holes and it surprises you because it's like there aren't supposed to be holes that big in the NFL, so it's surprising, but we're not complaining about it. You just can't have any hesitation, especially in the NFL because that hole will close up very fast. So, you have to hit it as soon as you see it."
Of course, as Howard said, success in the NFL requires everyone. Hurts has improved through the course of the season. Depth at running back has been important as injuries have hit the position from time to time. The young wide receivers have grown up and been productive. Tight end Dallas Goedert has blossomed in his role as the No. 1 guy at the position. The scheme has evolved and Sirianni's playcalling has put the offense in position to be successful.
"It takes everybody. It does. It always starts with the offensive line, and we've got some gritty guys up front," Sirianni said after Tuesday's 27-17 win over Washington. "I don't want to single out – all of them. What a great job by Sua Opeta to step in and play a great game, too, to be able to run the ball like we did and protect like we did against, again, like I said, a really good defense that I have a ton of respect for with some good front guys. And so it starts there. Our backs, we've got a good stable of backs, we've got our receivers blocking on the perimeter. Dallas Goedert is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL not to mention what he did catching the football. I think (tight end) Jack Stoll is really coming along, and Jalen just gives you another element to the run game that's hard to stop.
"Front side wins games, back side wins championships is what I've always been taught. I know that we're not in a championship mode, but it's a saying that says back side is so important. When you have a quarterback like Jalen that, really makes the back side, they have to almost respect the back side in case he pulls it."
"We can beat you in a lot of ways," said running back Miles Sanders, who has back-to-back 100-yard-plus rushing games and is averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry. "That's the whole thing about our offense. With the way our offensive line is playing, we have options. We have different ways to beat you with the running game and we are making big plays in the passing game. So, you can pick how you want to play us and we feel like we can adjust and still find a way to win."
With that, the Eagles are preparing for the quick turnaround to play the Giants on Sunday. The two teams played four weeks ago when the Eagles had a low note of a game, turning the ball over four times and scoring just two Jake Elliott field goals in a 13-6 loss. This week, the Eagles are working toward a different outcome.
This offense? The identity is becoming more clear. The Eagles are going to challenge you with their physical play, their scheme diversity, and depth in personnel. For the last seven games, the Eagles have had as good an offense as any in the entire NFL, but the job isn't finished.
"The job isn't done, nowhere near from done," Hurts said late on Tuesday night. "We know what we want to accomplish. I said it to the guys, you just have to have the mentality of not being denied. I've said all year that the youth of this football team, the youth we've had, and the different things we've overcome. Had the experience of the different nuances of having new everything. Right now in December, we can't be denied of what we want."