On the second floor of the NovaCare Complex, Head Coach Nick Sirianni and his offensive coaching staff will have ongoing meetings about what worked and what they wanted to work better in 2021. For a second-year offensive staff, the challenge is considerable: The work the Eagles are putting in revising and remaking the offense for next season is being matched by defensive coordinators on the schedule.
Those defensive minds saw what the Eagles did in 2021. They saw an offensive game plan morph in midseason and dominate the trenches with one of the NFL's best offensive lines. They saw a young quarterback blossom into a dangerous threat using his legs and his arm inside and out of the pocket. They saw a young wide receiver group take next steps, led by 2021 No. 1 draft pick DeVonta Smith. They saw a tight end in Dallas Goedert overpower defensive backs with his size and outrun linebackers with his speed. They saw a deep, versatile running back corps do damage following the big boys up front and also contribute in the passing game as receivers.
And so all of those defensive minds are doing the exact same thing Sirianni and his staff are doing: Designing an outline for how to stop the Eagles in 2022.
That's the challenge for the Eagles as they map out the future. In a matter of five weeks, the NFL free agency period will begin and the focus for most of the fan world will be on the personnel-acquisition portion of the offseason. A large component inside the walls of the NovaCare Complex will also be on the offensive playbook and what the Eagles bring back from 2021 and what they freshly incorporate into the 2022 season. A team that led the NFL in rushing wants to be even better in every phase of the game – more diverse, more explosive, better on first downs. Hurts improved his pocket game in his first full season as a starter, and he knows he has work to do to get to the next level in 2022.
A head coach needs a second trick. Often, a third trick. While Sirianni impressed with something most coaches say but few actually do, and that's adjusting an offensive structure to the personnel on hand, he's got another task ahead. He knows it, having been in the league for more than a dozen years. The more Sirianni and Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen can keep defenses off balance, and the more the Eagles can scheme their way to favorable matchups and take advantage of them, the more success the offense will have.
With this team, it starts right at the beginning of games. Slow starts put the Eagles in too many holes during Sirianni's rookie campaign, and while there is credit to go around that the Eagles dug out and turned the season around to reach the playoffs, the fact is the Eagles need to be better in the first quarter.
"It's something we talk about all the time and something we're working on," Sirianni said late in the season. "We know we need to start faster. It's a priority for us. We can't continue to come out slow offensively. We want to establish ourselves right away."
There are a lot of unknowns here, of course. The Eagles are going to add pieces to the offensive puzzle. They're going to work with Hurts on taking the next steps in his development in every phase – recognition, timing, processing, when to run, and when to stick the football in the gut of a running back. That's what is so interesting about what happens behind the scenes. What have they discovered and what will they unearth about the next phase in Sirianni's scheme? What will be the "personality" of this offense moving forward? How can the Eagles become an offense that – still riding the strength of a great offensive line – punishes defenses every which way through the course of a game and a season?
As much as we're all looking forward to how the Eagles address the roster in the months to come, understand that there is also a lot of the schematic groundwork that has to take place. The goal is to be complete on offense, to have balance, to win physically, and to dominate. In Year 2, now that every defensive coach has a feel for what Sirianni likes to do and saw what worked in his first season, the challenge is to find that second trick up his offensive sleeve.
Take a look at the very best photos from the 2021 season.