Eagles, New York teams on NFL’s most surprising starts

Robert Saleh and Brian Daboll are reviving mid-major franchises in New York. The Seahawks are making sure the league doesn’t forget them. The Eagles may not lose the game.

This 2022 season was filled with surprises – a little bigger than the success of those teams.

The Jets, Giants and Seahawks all had losing records and missed the playoffs last season. Now they are finding success with rosters lacking stars, although some of their young players are on the way.

For the Eagles, it’s no big surprise that they’re winning — they added AJ Brown to one of the NFL’s most talented rosters and showed glimpses of their potential last season.

Still, they stunned the league by knocking off teams and stringing together narrow wins to get off to an 8-0 start behind Jalen Hurts, who had a lot to prove this season, and second-year coach Nick Sirianni.

Hurts and Sirianni silenced all doubt. Hurts led Philadelphia to its best start ever with MVP-caliber numbers: 2,042 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Jets (6-3) haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, but are on pace for their first winning season since a 10-6 finish in 2015. They are second in the AFC East with division wins over the Dolphins and Bills.

Much of New York’s success can be attributed to producing players early in their careers and a fiery second-year head coach committed to erasing the losing culture.

“We have to start expecting things like this,” Saleh said after the Jets upset the Packers in Week 6.

Twenty-one players on the Jets’ 53-man roster are in their first, second or third season. Almost half of the active roster is under 26 years old.

The Jets also have the Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite in cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who is tied for the league lead with 12 passes defensed. Their leading rusher and receiver are rookies.

“We’re committed to playing a lot of young players and some teams wouldn’t do that,” Jets general manager Joe Douglas said. “Coach Saleh and his staff have committed to doing that and again, that’s a credit to them, but the exuberance, the energy that these guys bring every week, you can feel it, it’s palpable.”

The Giants (6-2) exceeded expectations in what was expected to be another year in their rebuild. They haven’t won more than six games since 2016, but are sixth in the NFC with losses to the Ravens, Packers and Titans.

They’re doing it with a depleted roster and a first-time coach.

From the moment Daboll decided to go for two and the season-opening win against the Titans, he set the tone for this franchise moving forward.

The former Bills coordinator had to get creative with his play calling to get the most out of his personnel, lining up the receivers at tight end and throwing the running back in a wildcat formation.

Daboll found a way to limit quarterback Daniel Jones’ turnovers. Jones has thrown at least seven interceptions in each of his first three seasons, but has two this year.

Saquon Barkley is also a reminder of what he can do when he’s healthy. He was the centerpiece of New York’s 779-yard offense, third most in the NFL, with 163 yards. He also has 28 catches for 189 yards.

“I think coach Dabbs has done a great job of really building what we have in front of us,” safety Julian Love said. “We’re a team that might not win a game 40-0; we’re a team that’s going to get our team going in the fourth quarter and make key plays in key situations to win.”

Many people wrote off the Seahawks as soon as Russell Wilson left town, but Seattle is 6-3 and atop the NFC West with eight games remaining.

The Seahawks have wins over the Broncos, Chargers and Cardinals, and could return to the playoffs after missing them in 2021 for the first time since 2017.

Geno Smith was a big reason for Seattle’s success. The former Jets quarterback is on his fourth team after backup stints with the Giants and Chargers, and just a few months ago he was in a quarterback battle with Drew Lock for the starting job.

He is now sixth in passing yards with 2,199 and 15 touchdowns and has the third-best passer rating (107.2) and just four interceptions.

“This is Geno at the other end of his career,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He has all those years behind him. Because he’s such a good guy and such a great competitor, he studied his backside to understand the game better.”


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