Three keys to Eagles meeting lofty expectations; why Ravens’ historic preseason win streak matters

2) Is Nick Sirianni an elite head coach?

The second-year coach deserves the flowers for revamping the team’s offensive approach on the fly a season ago. Sirianni found a way to mix in some collegiate concepts to help his young quarterback and skillful players thrive over time.

Although match-to-match and mid-season adjustments are part of the job, the adjustments made by the former attacking coordinator are a testament to his adaptability, creativity and vision as an architect. Additionally, Sirianni’s willingness to effect sudden change demonstrates his courage and confidence as a leader.

Heading into his second season, the coach will face new challenges as he tries to help the team navigate a season full of expectations. Sirianni must distinguish between building his team’s confidence and eliminating some of the bad habits that frequently result in losses. From a reduction in turnover to the elimination of pre-snap penalties that kill readers, he must encourage his group to pay close attention to the details that will increase their chances of winning.

Considering the number of games lost to errors and self-inflicted blunders, Sirianni’s ability to keep his team focused could be the difference between a good season or a great one in Philadelphia.

3) Will Jonathan Gannon’s defense be in good shape in Year 2?

For the Eagles to win the NFC East, the defense will have to play as a superior unit from start to finish. Gannon has been interviewed for several head coaching vacancies this offseason, but he needs to show the footballing world that he can build a dominating defense with a collection of five-star talent.

Reddick, Davis, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham are part of a formidable unit at the line of scrimmage, but Gannon must decide whether he will use a read and react approach or a tackle the shortcomings plan to create more disruption in the backfield. After taking a conservative approach a season ago, the Eagles’ defensive architect must craft a plan that capitalizes on his players’ strengths. Whether the defense blitzes more or sits in traditional zones with four-man runs, Gannon needs to get better performance and production from a unit that has failed to slow top quarterbacks in 2021. Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott posted an 82.1% completion rate, a 21:3 TD to INT ratio and nearly nine yards per attempt in seven games against Philadelphia last season (including playoffs).

With the team adding more speed, quickness and explosiveness to the second tier with the arrival of Dean and Kyzir White, the Eagles have the personnel to play in different ways depending on the matchups. But they need to be disruptive to prevent opponents from driving the length of the pitch on a flurry of quick passes or deep throws over the top.

While James Bradberry’s pairing with Darius Slay at cornerback should make the defense better able to withstand the best aerial attacks, Gannon’s combination of pressure and managerial coverage will ultimately play a huge role in determining how far the Eagles have come in the coming season.

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