One of the best resources to prepare for an upcoming NFL season is none other than the annual report Football Underdog Almanac. There’s a lot of great information in there about every team…including the Philadelphia Eagles. The writers have a pretty good idea of ​​the state of the team and have shared some interesting stats that might surprise you. You can get this year’s copy electronically or purchase it in print.

To promote this year’s edition, Thomas Bassinger came to answer some questions for Bleeding Green Nation. Read on for our full exchange.

1 – Where would you rank Jalen Hurts among NFL quarterbacks? Would you say he is more likely or unlikely to receive a long-term contract extension from the Eagles?

If we talk about Hurts as a passer, I would rank him somewhere between No. 15 and No. 18. If we consider his value as a rusher, I would bump him up a few places. The Eagles, however, want to be a passing offense, and until Hurts starts using every part of the field, I can’t rate him higher. As we note in the Almanac, the Eagles only threw 10% of their passes through the middle; the league average was 22%. With AJ Brown in the fold, that number should jump.

The Eagles still have time to assess Hurts — he has two seasons left on his rookie contract — but I don’t think he’s in their long-term plans. We’ve heard the rumors from Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson – they’re clearly looking to upgrade. And thanks to the exchange of draft picks with the Saints, they have the assets to make it in the next offseason.

2 – Jonathan Gannon’s defense looks underperforming by Football Outsiders standards considering the Eagles are ranked 25th in defensive DVOA. After the off-season additions, what is a reasonable expectation for his unit in 2022?

I’ve heard people suggest the Eagles were in the top 10 defensemen last season because they gave up 10th in yards, but that’s incredibly misleading. A big part of that was timing, which our DVOA stats take into account. Yes, Philly faced Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady early on, but feasted on Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian, Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, Garrett Gilbert, Jake Fromm, Mike Glennon and Taylor Heinicke later.

As for this season, our projection system sees a big step forward for Gannon’s crew. With the additions of Haason Reddick, Kyzir White and James Bradberry as well as the return of Brandon Graham, the Eagles could very well become a true top 10 defence.

3 – Hurts and Gannon are two of the Eagles’ biggest question marks this season. What’s the most understated concern that some might overlook?

Special teams. And I’m not just talking about punter Arryn Siposs. The Eagles punt return game was also a liability last season. The offense generally had no trouble moving the ball — they ranked sixth in yards per drive — but they often had to travel farther than most teams to reach the end zone due to bad kick returns. With Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor and Kenneth Gainwell sharing return duties, Philly ranked 26th in field position after kickoffs. Is Britain Covey the answer? Devon Allen?

4 – To what extent does Nick Sirianni give the Eagles an advantage? How would you place him in the head coaching rankings?

So maybe Sirianni isn’t a great speaker like Vince Lombardi (or Jason Kelce). And maybe he’s not a gambling genius like Sean McVay. But I think he deserves a lot of credit for keeping last year’s team going after they lost five of their first seven games. Again, the loose second-half schedule was certainly a factor in the turnaround, but I don’t think a team will rally like that if they don’t like their head coach.

When it comes to more quantifiable things like fourth-tier decision-making, Sirianni is relatively solid there. He’s not as aggressive as, say, Brandon Staley, but he ranks near the top of the league, according to our aggressiveness index. One game that stuck with me: the 20-16 wildcard against Washington in Week 17. The Eagles have faced fourth-and-1 or fourth-and-2 four times. Sirianni went there every time. Philly failed to convert the first but did the next three, and two of those plays resulted in touchdowns.

He still has a lot to prove, though. Until he starts racking up wins against quality opponents, I don’t think you can put him in the top 10, 11, 12 coaches.

5 – What is the main reason to be optimistic about the Eagles 2022?

We’ve already touched on how AJ Brown could transform the passing offense, so what about Haason Reddick and the pass rush? The Eagles struggled to get after quarters last season – their 22.9% pressure rating ranked 29th – but Reddick will change that. His 23.5 sacks since 2020 are fifth in the league, behind only TJ Watt, Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson and Aaron Donald.