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Nick Sirianni looks to build upon a strong foundation in Year 2

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It's not about style for Head Coach Nick Sirianni, it's about results and in the business of the NFL results are measured in the win column. He showed his adaptability in his rookie season in Philadelphia by changing the course of the offense midway through the campaign, resulting in a No. 1-ranked rushing attack that spearheaded a second-half surge to push the Eagles into the postseason. Style over substance? No thanks. Just win, please.

With 2022's offseason underway, Sirianni and his coaching staff are in the process of building – the scheme, the personnel, the in-game decisions, the preparation. Everything. He's a coach with an open mind and an aggressive attitude and he has certain benchmarks for his offense to reach that he believes will translate into desirable results.

"I think you see it many different ways throughout the NFL of how teams get it done," Sirianni said on Tuesday morning at the NFL's Annual Meeting. "You can be a top-ranked run team, you can be a top-ranked pass team, and get it done. The main stats that we're always focused on are, did we win the explosive play battle? And did we win the turnover battle? Those are the stats that I really always dive into is, did we win those two? You saw that last year, even in a run-heavy offense we were able to be an explosive pass offense with the amount of explosive plays that we made. I don't want to say that you have to play this way or you have to play that way. We have to do what's able to best win games."

Sirianni said it's important to "feed our guys that are making plays," referring in the passing game to wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins and tight end Dallas Goedert. All are explosive players. All are tough matchups for defenses and all are important for the Eagles to make sure they get touches.

But as the Eagles' thought process and roster-building moves are directed to the upcoming season, the question is a good one: Which way will the offense trend in its balance?

For Sirianni, who along with Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen and the rest of the offensive staff that builds the playbook and then makes it happen on gamedays, it's really not an issue. With an offensive line that should again be among the very best in the NFL, the Eagles plan to be versatile, unpredictable, and able to dictate to defenses in multiple ways.

"I've been part of teams that have done it both ways," Sirianni said. "We're going to do what we feel like we do best to win football games. I truly believe there is always a way to win football games in the NFL. You've just got to find the way that week to do that. Sometimes your team grows into a run-heavy team. Sometimes your team grows into a pass-heavy team. We don't have to make that decision of who we are until Game 1. And, really, that always evolves. I'm not pressed about that.

"We're going to work like crazy to get our pass game to where we want it, to get it better, because at the end of the day – I don't remember what we were in the pass game, I think it was 25th or 26th, or whatever (the Eagles ranked 25th in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2021) – you want it better. You want to make sure you are not deficient in any area because then, obviously, the teams that are gameplanning against you are going to have an opportunity to take advantage of that.

"We're trying to make our weaknesses – and I'm not saying that's a weakness – but we're trying to make things that maybe aren't what we want them to be or not up to our standard and we're always trying to get better at those."

Sirianni defines "explosive" plays as 16+ yards in the passing game and 10+ yards in the run game and, he's right, the Eagles were terrific in that category last season. They led the NFL with 163 "explosive" plays, with their 77 "explosive" runs ranking second in the NFL and their 11.7 yards per reception ranking sixth. Furthermore, the Eagles gave the football away only 16 times in the regular season, fifth fewest in the league and their lowest total since the 1990 season. Want more impressive stats? The Eagles were one of only five NFL teams to rank in the top 8 in third-down offense (45.7 percent conversion rate, fourth best in the league) and red zone offense (62.3 percent touchdown conversion rate, eighth best in the NFL).

This is what the Eagles believe, and the numbers bear it out: There is a lot to build on here. Tons of work to do, yes. But such a great foundation, starting with that big, strong, deep, and talented offensive line and continuing through quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sirianni knows that Hurts, who is in Southern California working on his game and pushing himself to the limit because, as we all know, Hurts is as driven and consumed with being the best he can be as anyone in the league, is going to return to the NovaCare Complex for the offseason program eagerly ready to attack Year 3.

Look, we know the Eagles are going to add to the mix in, honestly, every part of the roster. They're on the lookout in free agency and that's not going to stop all season whether it's now or a trade later or a waiver-wire pickup at some point when the games begin. What Sirianni and the Eagles were able to do in 2021 was build a foundation and renew a winning culture after a downer of a 2020 season and develop connection and chemistry. The next step awaits.

It's not going to be easy. Nothing in this league is easy. But the Eagles have something really promising going on here and they know they have opportunities to climb back to the top of the NFC East, to the top of the NFC, and, yeah, the NFL.

"We're going to need everybody to get better. I'm going to need to get better, right? Kevin Patullo (passing game coordinator) is going to need to get better. Brian Johnson (quarterbacks coach) is going to need to get better. Jonathan Gannon (defensive coordinator) is going to need to get better. We're all fighting every day to do that," Sirianni said. "It's kind of cool to come to something like this and we were in a meeting the other day and it was showing all the highlights of the NFL of the whole year and it gets you excited, like you can't wait to get back to work and keep building this team and developing our players so that we can be the last ones standing."

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