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Spadaro: A new season, a new challenge

Dave Spadaro On the Inside 1920

Nothing changes for Head Coach Nick Sirianni and his Philadelphia Eagles in 2023. Truthfully. Honestly. He's preaching the same mindset, the "one percent better" approach, the reality that all 32 teams are 0-0 heading into September and that the best way to win – and to win big – is to keep grinding.

"One thing I think is that after you go to a Super Bowl, you think (a team) is overconfident, or not as hungry or whatever. I know how hungry our guys are," Sirianni said in the spring. "Our mindset, which never changes, is that we're here. The only time you're going to hear me say 'Super Bowl' is when you all bring it up. I'm not focused on that."

The Eagles had a dominating 2022 campaign, roaring to a 14-3 regular season record, blitzing through the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoffs, before engaging in a toe-to-toe slugfest with the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII. Ultimately, of course, the Eagles fell just short in their quest to bring home a second Lombardi Trophy in a span of six seasons, but after shrugging off the disappointment of that result, the Eagles went back to business.

And they revved things up once again in the offseason, reloading the roster with a combination of veteran experience and young talent, adding to an outstanding core, and along the way completing the task that every team envies: Signing franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts to a contract extension through the 2028 season.

"Nothing that has been done prior will get us to where we want to be now," Hurts said. "There are a ton of experiences that we documented and definitely deposited in the bank, if you will, to learn from and we will learn from and have learned from. It's a day-by-day thing and I think everybody is taking that approach and we're excited to continue that progression.

"The same thing remains: The only direction is to rise and that's a mentality that I have and I think this team has."

That said, the Eagles orchestrated a highly productive offseason, starting by re-signing a handful of key veterans – defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Brandon Graham, center Jason Kelce, cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry – and then selectively dipping into free agency to bring on the likes of safeties Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans, quarterback Marcus Mariota, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, running back Rashaad Penny, and defensive lineman Kentavius Street.

That set the stage for a whirlwind NFL Draft weekend, a three-day period during which the Eagles used first-round picks on defensive tackle Jalen Carter and edge player Nolan Smith, both from Georgia, before adding offensive lineman Tyler Steen from Alabama and safety Sydney Brown from Illinois in the third round. The Eagles then added a versatile piece to the offense in the person of running back D'Andre Swift via a trade with Detroit. Swift brings another weapon to an offense that has a plethora of returning star players that threaten defenses and an offensive line group that brings back four starters and that features great competition for the right guard spot.

The other side of the ball is where the Eagles have more pieces to put in place. They knew they would lose some starters from the 2022 season in free agency, so there are some new faces in the mix. Carter and 2022 No. 1 draft pick Jordan Davis, along with Street and third-year man Milton Williams, have opportunities to earn playing time at tackle alongside Cox and the wave of players the Eagles hope to feature there. Second-year man Nakobe Dean and Morrow are expected to compete for playing time at linebacker, with two starters from last season elsewhere. The safety picture will look different as Edmunds, Evans, Brown, and second-year man Reed Blankenship are pushing for starting roles.

Sirianni has new offensive (Brian Johnson) and defensive (Sean Desai) coordinators, so there is that to consider, too. The Eagles know how much the 2022 team accomplished, and it was an exhilarating run to the Super Bowl. They also know that, even with the key veterans who returned and the high-level talent added for the season ahead, it's a brand-new season that is going to be extremely challenging. The Eagles are a hunted team. They are featured prominently on national television all season with a cadre of young stars headed by Hurts and his game-breaking set of pass catchers – wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, tight end Dallas Goedert – on offense.

This is a new season, and a new challenge, and the Eagles understand that.

"We're starting from the very bottom again and we're installing all the plays – this is what you have to do. You have to approach it like it's a completely new team in a completely new year. You keep trying to get better and you keep trying to improve. We're going to have to earn it the same way we did last year. They don't just hand it to you in this league," said Kelce, coming off an All-Pro (his fifth) and Pro Bowl (his sixth) season. "In some ways, it's going to be harder. When you do win and have a successful year, all offseason, all the offenses are looking to steal things that you do well. All the defenses are looking to stop the innovative, creative things that you're doing, so you have more eyes on you. You have more time being spent around the things that you do structurally. We have a lot to prove and it's going to be even harder to have a really, really good season."

That's just fine with Sirianni and the Eagles, who are excited about what's in front of them. They have to bring their best every week, but that's been Sirianni's message since he arrived in 2021: Do all the little things to the fullest every day and the attention to detail will pay off in the big picture.

"This is a new season and with every new season you start from the bottom and work your way up," said Sirianni, whose 25 wins – including playoffs – are the most by an Eagles head coach in his first two seasons. "That hasn't changed around here. We have a team with a great desire to win and that knows it has to put in the work to win. There are no shortcuts in this business, so it's get to work every day and maximize each day."

This is a new team with new faces, but the same grind-it-out work approach – and that's just perfect for the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles. The ultimate goal is, as with every team, the biggest prize in football, but to get there, the Eagles have to put in the labor of love.

"That's what we're going to do because that's what we always do," said Brown, who hopes to improve upon a 2022 season in which he set a franchise record for receiving yards (1,496) to go along with 88 receptions and 11 touchdowns. "Everyone has areas to improve. You push yourself to get a little bit better and that's what we're working for. We're not thinking about anything else."

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