We are in the very early stages of putting together the vision – ours, of course, is different from what the coaches who are spending all day, every day mapping out the plan for how the Eagles will look on offense, on defense, special teams, in 2023. The offense, as we know, returns largely intact, and with some extra punch acquired in the offseason.
It also has a new coordinator, Brian Johnson, who spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday and outlined in the most general of terms what he hopes the Eagles' offense becomes in the season ahead.
"You do what your players do well," he said. "I think the challenge for us is to build an offense to where we're making defenses cover the entire length and the entire width of the field and be able to play on our terms."
Those are the sentences that stood out the most from Johnson's press conference. He is in his third season here after spending two years as the quarterbacks coach and helping build Jalen Hurts into the star that he is. Johnson, a former standout quarterback himself at Utah who was an offensive coordinator who called plays for a prolific University of Florida team before joining Nick Sirianni's staff, appears to be making a natural coaching transition. He's a highly regarded coach who connects very quickly with those around him and this moment is just right for him.
The Eagles expect the coaching succession line to be smooth – Shane Steichen goes to Indianapolis as the head coach, Johnson becomes the offensive coordinator, and Alex Tanney bumps up to quarterbacks coach. The task is to take an Eagles offense that was great last year – the Eagles averaged 28.1 points per game, third-most in the NFL, and had success running the football and throwing it, with minimal giveaways – and make it better in 2023. They return four of five starters along the offensive line, and there are a solid handful of candidates to compete for the right guard spot. Miles Sanders departed for Carolina in free agency, so the Eagles brought in Rashaad Penny and traded for D'Andre Swift to add to an already-strong room. Zach Pascal, the fourth receiver (at times, the third) is now in Arizona, and Olamide Zaccheaus is in as an unrestricted free agent.
There are pieces here. The ceiling is so very, very high for success.
"I think the beauty of football, and we talked about this with the offense, is that each team has a one-year lifespan," Johnson said. "I think one of the things that's important is that you have to continually evolve each and every year. We obviously had a lot of success on offense last year, but we also lost some pieces. That's the challenge of it is to find new pieces to integrate them in and to find ways to continually improve.
"So I think that's the beauty and that's the challenge of ... you can't remain the same, so you're going to have to find ways to tweak now the base and the core of our offense here. I'm sure it'll always be that way as long as Coach (Nick) Sirianni is around. He's very, very involved. He's a great offensive mind, as well. I think us as a staff are just trying to find new ways to challenge ourselves, to challenge our players to become a little bit better, to find maybe a better way to do something than we did last year. I think that's where the improvement is."
Having backs like Penny – a downhill, 220-pound back who punishes defenses – and Swift – deft as a pass catcher, versatile in the formation, explosive as a running back – offers more pieces with which to work. Toys to play with, if you will. It's going to be a lot of fun seeing how those players are deployed, along with the myriad of other weapons the Eagles have on that side of the football.
Better than the 2022 offense? That's the goal – always improving, always, as Sirianni says, "perfecting the process."
"Both Rashaad and D'Andre have a very unique skill set," Johnson said. "They're different types of backs. I think one of the things it does is it allows us to be very, very flexible with how we want to deploy them, and I think the sign of a good staff and how you want to operate is you want to give your guys the best opportunity to do what they do well and not fitting a square peg into a round hole. Cutting out pieces of the offense that are unique to their skill set and what they do well and finding ways to utilize it and highlight it within the normal flow of the game."
It all begins with Hurts, naturally. He turns 25 in August. He's got a long-term contract. He has confidence, hunger, oodles of talent, and a great supporting cast – scheme included – around him.
The sky is the limit. Well, maybe even more than that. Maybe there are no limits.
"We'll never put a ceiling on what he can accomplish. One of the messages that we spoke about to the offense was yeah, there's no ceiling, but let's have an extremely high floor, too, and have a level of play that's really consistent at a high level, and then his talent can take over," Johnson said. "I think with Jalen, nothing that he ever does will surprise me. He works like a madman. He's very, very diligent. He's very intentional about what he wants, and that shows on a daily basis in how he operates."
The work in the laboratory continues in this offseason. The Eagles have just about a month remaining in this offseason program until the team breaks and then Training Camp begins. The offense looks for bigger things after a terrific 2022 season with Johnson calling the shots, working in concert with Sirianni and the coaching staff, hoping to take this talented cast to greater heights.