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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts says the team needs training camp to find its identity for 2023. Photo by Andy Lewis

It is not a secret that over the last twenty seasons, only one team has lost a Super Bowl, then returned to the Big Game the following season and won it.

That would be the 2018 New England Patriots the year after the Pats lost the Eagles 41-33 in Minneapolis, MN. The quality those Patriots teams possessed, at least during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, was the ability to keep their confident identity even after big losses. Brady brought that mentality to Tampa Bay for the last three seasons of his career. He led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title in 2021 (2020 season). The ability to define an identity each year produced a career playoff record for Brady of 35-13, ten Super Bowl appearances and seven championships. How do you keep coming up with a new identity each year on a consistent basis? A core attribute of a good team is to know each other and understand your coach’s philosophy. For the Eagles franchise, the era of the Jalen Hurts-Nick Sirianni team is off to a good start.

DeVonta Smith says the Birds are trying to create a new identity for 2023. Photo by Andy Lewis

The first two seasons with Hurts as the starter has resulted with two playoff appearances including a trip to last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix, AZ ending in a 38-35 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Their 2-2 playoff record is not bad. The trick is…how do the Birds avoid the trap so many teams have fallen into before them? During a training camp press conference, Hurts was asked how he is handling the mental aspects of coming off a very successful season that fell a little bit short. There were some benefits, right? “I can’t say what the benefits are, we haven’t done anything,” Hurts said. “It’s a new journey. Obviously we have a ton of familiarity; we’re familiar with one another. “But we still have to understand that we, from the first day…we’re trying to set the foundation for what the identity of this team will be. That’s the main thing. “Anything that was done in the past doesn’t really matter. It’s about what we do now, the precedent we set now and standards we set for ourselves moving forward and raising that standard.” Doesn’t experience earned from what happened last season help? The Birds were tied for the best record in the NFL (14-3) with the Chiefs. “I think there are tangible benefits of experience. Experience is the biggest teacher,” Hurts said. “I think personally, that’s the testament of my career...from high school, to college to where I am now. It’s just an ongoing development, ongoing growth, ongoing understanding of the IQ part of it and more knowledge of the game and what we’re doing. It all goes hand-in-hand.”

Eagles All Pro center Jason Kelce says Eagles coaches, even the new ones excel at communicating. Photo by Andy Lewis

KELCE, OTHER PLAYERS TALK ABOUT CONSISTENCY, BONDING Eagles’ future Hall of Fame center, Jason Kelce said the team can get back to a Super Bowl by simply staying consistent. “The mark of this league is consistency,” the veteran said. “That’s being an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, quarterback…the guys that do it day-in and day-out, game in and game out…season after season…those guys are going to have sustained success.“ Kelce said communication is a big key to achieving consistency. “One thing that all these coaches do is they do a great job of communication,” Kelce said at a recent training camp get together with media members. “Shane (Steichen) was like that last year. Nick is certainly like that, especially for a guy that doesn’t call the plays, and he’s just the head coach.

Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham says bonding is part of their day, every day. Photo by Andy Lewis

“He’s very involved in what’s happening. It’s not to the point where you’re a micromanager, it’s just to the point where you understand the frame of reference that everybody has. “I think Brian (OC Johnson) is very much doing that already. He was in the offensive line meeting last week and yesterday.” Since everything starts in the trenches, Kelce believes all coaches should be in on meetings with the offensive line. “I think that the offensive line room…to me…I feel good about the offensive coordinator if they are sticking around the offensive line a little bit,” The 35-year-old said. “Because…so often the offensive coordinator gets involved with the passing game and everything else going on…a lot of times those guys don’t have a clue what’s happening in the offensive line room. "I think to be a great offensive coordinator, and be a great play caller…you really have to have the full gambit of why we are doing things. “Brian has stepped right in and he’s communicating with the receivers, the tight ends, the O-line and obviously Jalen.” Brandon Graham was asked if he thought the Eagles were taking steps towards developing its own identity. “I really do,” said Graham, who recorded the first double-digit sack season of his career in 2022. “I think we’re taking big steps right now. Every time we get together, the things that we do. These are the little things that start to build the team. “The stories that we share together, while we’re on the field, listening to our coaches talk about things too. We’re just building that right now. A lot of the guys just try and enjoy every day because the time is flying…we’ll be cutting people before you know it…the season will be here. “Everybody is trying to enjoy each other and make the best of this situation. Coach does a great job of connecting and making sure that we do connect and do the little things in our meeting rooms. It’s all kinds of good things going on right now. I hope everybody is taking advantage of it.” Wide receiver DeVonta Smith talked about the value of the 2023 team developing its own identity. “We’re working on it, trying to get there,” Smith said. “Every year, the team is different. The identity of this year might be different from this year. You definitely have to figure out what it is you do really well. “I think that’s what the purpose of training camp is…finding out what you do well as a team, as an offense, as a defense, special teams and things like that. We need to figure those things out, then once we figure it out, implement it into the game then do what we do.”

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni says having a quarterback that wants to be coached hard helps him coach the whole team. Photo by Andy Lewis

SIRIANNI SAYS BEING ABLE TO COACH HIS BEST PLAYER THE HARDEST CAN HAVE A GREAT IMPACT ON THE TEAM AS A WHOLE. Sirianni has been seen several times this training camp getting on his players about execution, effort and being smart on the field. That included getting on Hurts. Sirianni was asked how that helps him coach the whole team. “Shoot, when you can coach your best player the hardest, that's good for everybody. All that's important is that you continue to get better at every different spot,” the third-year head coach said. “So Jalen, you know, it's evident by who he is as a person. He craves and wants to be better at all times. I remember when I first got here; he was like, ‘Man, just coach me hard.’ “I've always obviously remembered that and that's my style to coach the guys hard to make sure we're getting better. I also think it's very important, you know, and I don't -- like I think it's just the way of the world, right? I think a story is when oh, Nick got after Jalen Reagor or whoever it was, whoever you say. “But I think it's just as important, and I just think about that, because I remember that was the first thing you guys said when I yelled at the practice field. But it's equally as important to praise when they do it right, right? I think that's -- like there are two types of accountability, but all accountability is aimed to get better. “One, accountability is you can yell and correct, one you can correct and smack them on the butt and fix it. “My favorite type of accountability is when you're like, ‘That's exactly the way it's supposed to look!’ Then you're confirming exactly what you want. Our job as coaches is to make sure the job description is very clear, and there is no better form of accountability than, ‘Hey, great job. What a play.’ “I have sure been doing a lot of that with Jalen this training camp.” * Email Al Thompson at Some stats taken from

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