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Philadelphia Eagles 2021 NFL Season Awards

Today, we roll out the red carpet. It is the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2021 NFL Season Awards Show.

We will reflect on an overachieving season that resulted in a surprising playoff berth. The Eagles showed resilience in recovering from a 2-5 start, storming home behind a dominant rushing attack and stingy defense.

In this piece, we have five accolades to present. They have been earned in a range of different styles and trajectories. They are all just as valid, however.

Without further ado, let’s get into it:

Defensive Player Of The Year: Darius Slay

Darius Slay struggled mightily in his first season as an Eagle. His first season in Philadelphia was tough, as he allowed a deplorable 111.9 quarterback rating and 851 receiving yards. It truly did seem as if it was an overestimated investment.

Oh, what a turnaround.

2021 saw the return of “Big Play Slay”. The Eagles’ cornerback had three defensive touchdowns and allowed only a 58.8% completion rate when targeted. Moreover, Slay held opposing quarterbacks to a poultry 74.4 quarterback rating and had nine passes defended.

Slay became a feared target for opposing quarterbacks and figures to only improve in his third season with the team.

Offensive Player Of The Year: Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts was a flawed player in 2021. Dynamic, but certainly flawed.

The second-year quarterback showed continued improvement throughout the season as a passer. His statistics through the air were solid, not spectacular. Hurts ended his first full season as a starter with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, throwing for a total of 3,144 yards. He completed 61.3% of his passes and took only 26 sacks, a credit to his offensive line as well as his elusiveness within and outside of the pocket.

Where Hurts did his most significant damage to defenses, however, was as a runner. He led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns, with 784 and ten respectively. He had a phenomenal 56 first downs on the ground, able to consistently bail out the stagnant receiving corps and move the chains with his legs.

One significant weakness for Hurts was his ball security. He fumbled the ball an unacceptable nine times, which took him to a total of 18 in his short career. The incumbent starter must be more secure with the ball to ensure he is taking full advantage of his team’s incredible rushing attack. His lackluster care for the rock can diminish the time-sucking ground game of the Eagles.

Most Improved Player: T.J. Edwards

T.J. Edwards was a revelation in his third season with the Birds.

The linebacker enjoyed a huge leap in his quality of play, becoming a mainstay in the second level. He had a sensational 130 tackles to go along with a sack, a pick, five tackles for loss and five passes defended. He improved in pass coverage and almost doubled his 2020 tackle count, despite only playing 195 more snaps.

Edwards has galvanized his role as a starter in the upcoming 2022 season. The former undrafted player out of Wisconsin has improved each year and may well take another step in his fourth campaign.

His career trajectory is extremely promising and another year in Gannon’s scheme should lead to even steeper development in his fourth season.

Rookie Of The Year: DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith was the bright spot of a thin receiving corps in 2021.

The Alabama product was terrific in his rookie season. Coming out of college, Smith’s route-running and hands projected him as an elite prospect. Scouts were concerned about his slender frame, which seemed to not be an issue in his first season.

Smith caught a phenomenal 64 balls for 916 yards. He flashed his elite route-running, as well as tangible reliability. The rookie dropped only two balls all season, despite being targeted 104 times. This dependability will be crucial for the continued development of young quarterback Jalen Hurts.

The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner certainly made an impact in year one. Another year of chemistry between current NFL and former college teammate Jalen Hurts should result in a 1,000+ yard season in 2022.

Surprise Of The Year: Quez Watkins

Quez Watkins emerged overnight.

The 2020 sixth-round selection showed some deep threat ability in his rookie season, catching just seven passes for 106 yards. In that season, he also had a score and a long of 43 yards.

The Eagles responded to these flashes by making Watkins a larger feature in the offense in 2021. The receiver rewarded Philadelphia’s investment, with a solid 647 yards on just 43 receptions. He dropped only one pass all season and averaged 5.9 yards after the catch.

Ideally, Watkins will serve as the third option behind Smith and a premium draft pick. Nonetheless, his production alleviated some of the disappointment caused by Jalen Reagor’s continued struggles in year two. Alarmingly, Watkins had more than double Reagor’s receiving yards, despite being taken 179 picks later in the same draft.

The former sixth-round selection out of Southern Miss has ingrained himself as an invaluable piece of the depth chart. Moving forward, Watkins has every opportunity to continue earning snaps due to his 2021 production.

What you think of these awards?

Let us know in the comments below.

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