2. The Backfield Shift
Speaking of that new-look backfield, I think replacing Miles Sanders with D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny is actually a big boost to Hurts. I don’t necessarily think either is better than Sanders, but I think the way they gel with Hurts is better.
Swift has been a tremendous receiving threat out of the backfield over his young career, in a way we’ve never really seen from Sanders. Despite playing 13 or 14 games each season, Swift has never caught fewer than 46 passes, while Sanders hasn’t even had 30 in any of his last three seasons.
It’s not just a volume game either. Despite playing in some poor offenses, Swift has never averaged fewer than 5.5 yards per target in a season. Sanders has averaged 3.8, 4.6 and 3.0 over the last three years.
The Eagles have complemented Sanders with capable receiving backs, but have never had someone who’s as much of a threat in both areas as Swift, which will keep defenses honest.
And while Rashaad Penny’s health is always a question mark, he’s been a serious home run hitter over the last couple seasons, averaging an absurd 6.2 yards per carry over 15 games.
This duo means that defenses are going to be stretched in three directions no matter who’s in the backfield, being forced to defend a running back carry, a designed run for Hurts or a pass on any given down.
Expect Hurts to have his most efficient season yet with this backfield.