On Sunday in Detroit, as the Eagles opened the 2022 regular season, it was all about A.J. Brown in the passing game. He was targeted 13 times, caught 10 passes, and gained 155 yards, a record-setting day in his Eagles debut. And as Brown was questioned by reporters after the game, his primary focus, when asked if he visualized this kind of start to the year, was about the team and not about his individual numbers.
"Yes, I visualized this," he said. "I visualized us coming here and getting the win. That's what we're here for, to win games."
It is precisely that attitude, echoed on Sunday by running back Miles Sanders, that makes this Eagles team special. They know they have a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball – more on that in just a moment – but they understand what matters each week: Win, win, win.
"That's the objective every week above everything else," quarterback Jalen Hurts said during Training Camp. "We understand that. You talk to me about where I want to make my game better and the answer is that I want to improve in every phase of my game to help us win more football games. That is what we strive for here."
With that in mind, the Eagles dig into their preparations for Monday night's game against Minnesota not knowing where the football is going to go in the offensive galaxy of playmakers. Maybe it's Brown who again is the main focus of the passing game. It could be DeVonta Smith, the second-year standout at wide receiver. Maybe it's Dallas Goedert, one of the game's best tight ends, or perhaps Quez Watkins has a favorable matchup and becomes a focal point.
Then again, the Eagles could offer a run-based approach featuring one of the three running backs who scored touchdowns in Detroit – Sanders, Boston Scott, or Kenneth Gainwell. Sanders had 13 carries and 96 yards in the opener, Gainwell carried five times for 20 yards, and Scott had four attempts and 10 yards. And maybe it's Gainwell who gets the majority of the touches, or Scott who is the workhorse. Whatever the case, you won't hear a peep out of any of them if they don't have the biggest numbers.
"That doesn't matter at all," Scott said. "We all know what we're here for, and that is to be ready when your number is called. That's the name of the game in the NFL. It's a long season. You're going to get your chances to play and to touch the football and all of that. What's important is that you are prepared for having that opportunity. If you're not, you won't get many more chances. That's just the way it works in the NFL."
What we have here is a share-the-wealth approach to offensive football, so if you want to assign a "personality" to this offense, start right there. The Eagles have an offense that happens to have a lot of talented players who understand they have to recognize the reality: They aren't all going to be featured each week. Goedert, for example, was asked about it all summer, how he could be impacted by having two dynamic receivers in Brown and Smith on the outside, and how their presence could open up more space for him in the middle of the field.
Goedert, who for three seasons waited for his turn to be the featured tight end, answered the right way.
"Maybe it will and that would be great, but honestly I'm fine doing whatever I'm asked to do to help us win," he said. "I'd love to get 200 targets, but I know how this game works. If the ball comes my way, I'm going to make a play. If not, I'm going to help somebody else make a play. We're here to win football games."
Smith is a great case in point, because he is a star receiver and every single person on the Eagles understands just how special he is, how much he prepares to be great, and what value he adds to this team. He caught 90 passes last season when he was the primary focus of the passing game, one that ranked 25th in the NFL.
The Eagles made improving the passing game a priority in the offseason and Howie Roseman went out and swung the huge trade to land Brown from Tennessee. It was a move universally embraced, including the locker room and the offensive players who understood then and understand now that Brown's arrival would potentially mean fewer looks their way. Nobody cared then. Nobody cares now.
It's about winning.
Now, for sure, the Eagles want to make Smith more of a factor than he was on Sunday when Hurts targeted him four times, with no completions. Head Coach Nick Sirianni addressed the issue on Monday at his press conference, saying the offense must get the ball to No. 6.
"We have to because you never want to be one-dimensional and let them say, 'Hey, we are taking this away or taking that away.' DeVonta Smith is not a good playmaker; (he's) a great playmaker. I think everybody in this city saw that on hand last year," Sirianni said. "You come away from that game and I felt good. I told the offense, we did so many good things. We did so many good things. But yet again, we have a lot to clean up and a lot of it in my mind was communication issues. I came out of that game thinking, OK, we have communication issues to clean up but man, we ran the ball well. We were pretty efficient passing the ball. We were great on third down. We were really good in the red zone. We had a really good two-minute drive to get points at the end of the half. When you end with the ball in your hand in a four-minute drive, that is huge, huge, huge.
"There (are) so many good things we did, but coming away, you're like DeVonta Smith didn't get any catches. Sometimes you don't feel that in the game. He has to touch the ball. There's no doubt about it. He has to touch the ball, and it's just the way the game went. When we looked at it, he did have the four targets, but there was a handful of other things that were called for him, and for whatever reason – there are so many different reasons of why it doesn't go to him and for whatever reason, it didn't here, and we had some other opportunities to get it to him.
"Again, there are multiple reasons why it didn't. A lot of these plays were still run through him. It just, for whatever reason, it seemed to time up perfectly: A.J. had this huge game and DeVonta didn't touch the ball at all; oh, my goodness, they are never going to use DeVonta Smith again. I can promise you that's not the case. Him, A.J., and Dallas are who the offense will run through, who the pass offense will run through, and it just was the perfect storm with where he didn't get any touches. And hey, that's my job, though, to make sure that he gets the touches, and we'll fix that."
We're one game into the season. Everyone at One NovaCare Way is happy with the win in Detroit and has now moved on to prepping for Minnesota. Are there things to fix? Of course. Are there bruised egos? Not a one. Winning is the thing, and every player had a hand in Sunday's opener and that's what matters to a team that understands the idea of sharing the wealth in an offense blessed with an abundance of talent.