Thursday night's win in Week 2 versus the Minnesota Vikings doubled as an up-and-down affair for the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans. There were good and bad moments from the Birds’ offense. Things have gotten off to a shaky start under new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. His play-calling has essentially turned quarterback Jalen Hurts into a running back instead of the versatile gunslinger that we know he can be.
Maybe the issues lie in the reads Johnson's offense forces Jalen to make. Maybe the larger issue comes in the play design. Maybe it's a combination of the two, but clearly, something is off.
Finally, we saw some traction. The Eagles decided to hand the ball off and play physical football. It was at that point that they began dominating the Vikings' defense with their rushing attack.
The Eagles' running game can be dominant and the centerpiece of the offensive attack.
If you recall, back in 2021, the Eagles began their season with 2-5 record when Nick Siranni was the play-caller. After the blowout loss in Week 7 to the Las Vegas Raiders, Sirianni turned over play-calling duties to then-offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
It was at that point that Steichen turned the offense into something that was hideously gorgeous: the NFL's most run-heavy attack. Philly went on to close the campaign with the second most rushing attempts of any team, the most rushing yards tallied, and the most rushing touchdowns scored.
Things clicked exactly when they needed to. Jalen Hurts hadn't yet evolved into the player he is now. A.J. Brown wasn't on the roster yet, DeVonta Smith was a rookie. Jalen Reagor was underperforming. In a sense, Philly's running backs NEEDED to shoulder the load, and they did so with elite efficiency.
Looking back, Steichen had a loading phase. He had to be patient. He had to help Jalen Hurts develop into a top-tier passer.
Once Hurts reached that level, the Eagles had one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. Fast forward to the present, and history could be repeating itself in some ways, This time around however Brian Johnson has an advantage.
Johnson already has the elite talent on his offense. He doesn't have to wait for the offense to evolve. Instead, it's the O.C. who must tailor the attack for the players, so they can shine. If he does so, there should be more dominating performances and a few highlight-reel moments.
All of this matters for one very specific reason. Brian Johnson is (hopefully) in his ‘Shane Steichen is starting to call plays’ phase. He has (hopefully) learned from Week 2's success. This should help him get his legs under him.
Once he (hopefully) finds his mojo, he can elevate himself from that ‘I’m only good at calling running plays’ level and put himself at a ‘Let’s thrash people by letting our Big Dawgs cook’ level. Hopefully, he will do that sooner rather than later. Even with a 2-0 start, it looks like it's now or never.
If he doesn't build on the success he has found with this running game and we are continuously treated to stagnant with bad performances, he'll be loaded into a cannon and fired into the Sun by the NFL's most demanding fan base.
Again, hopefully, that isn't the case. We should probably start crowd-sourcing for a cannon though. Keep those eyes peeled for one with human-launching capabilities just so we're prepared for anything.