PHOENIX — The Eagles stormed to the most wins in franchise history thanks to contributions from an assortment of playmakers.
Led by NFL MVP finalist and quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles have won 16 games, including the playoffs, in a myriad of ways. They’ve gashed defenses on the ground. They’ve aired it out when needed. And they’ve harassed opposing quarterbacks with a whopping 78 sacks.
On Sunday, the Eagles will kick off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The Eagles possess one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, and a majority of fans and pundits are familiar with the team’s prolific stars. But what about the other players who appear in more limited roles and/or don’t receive as much shine?
Here are four potential X factors to watch in this year’s Super Bowl.
Wide receiver Quez Watkins
Wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, and tight end Dallas Goedert, eat a majority of the targets in the passing game. Watkins recorded just 33 receptions for 354 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. He labored in December, when he was the intended receiver on two interceptions from Hurts. However, Watkins still possesses game-changing speed and can spark momentum on any given play. His quickness also helps keep opposing secondaries honest with his ability to take the top off of the defense.
“I feel like a lot of people overlook Quez and the small things he does for this team,” Smith said. “I know it’s tough being in that role with primary guys in front of you. But he has to be able to win in the moment and make plays when they come to you. It’s hard to cover speed. Somebody with speed like that, you can’t just sit on routes. You always have to give him cushion. And if you give him too much cushion, he’s going to take you deep.”
Right guard Isaac Seumalo
It might be difficult to label an offensive lineman as an X factor considering all five starters were named either Pro Bowl starters or alternates. It’s also a group that features two All-Pro selections in center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson. But it can be argued that Seumalo is the most overlooked player among the group.
Affixed between Johnson and Kelce, Seumalo has been equally solid this season. There was some uncertainty hovering over him during the summer as he attempted to return from a Lisfranc injury that he sustained during Week 3 of the 2021 season. Not only was Seumalo successful in his return from an injury that required surgery, he finished as the ninth-ranked offensive guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Seumalo is currently projected to make $11 million per year, according to PFF. He could drive his price up even higher if he’s able to solidify himself on the game’s biggest stage with a plus-outing against the Chiefs defensive front led by interior lineman Chris Jones.
“Isaac is so quick and smart,” Johnson said. “He never gets enough credit. A lot of these games, it really feels like guys are playing 7-on-7, and then it’s a whole different game in the trenches. Fans in general don’t understand what goes on in there. You get lost in the shuffle. Isaac, his quickness in balance, it’s what sets him apart.”
Defensive tackle Milton Williams
Second-year lineman Williams has trended over the past two months. He’s been extremely active with his hands – both with getting to the backfield and also batting down passes near the line of scrimmage. Williams’ emergence is notable considering veterans Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are playing on expiring contracts.
“He just continues to grow every day that we see him,” Cox said. “He’s always around, he’s always trying to get the right information with whatever we’re doing. It’s fun to see him grow from Year 1 to Year 2.”
Cornerback Avonte Maddox
Maddox appeared in just 19 defensive snaps during the NFC championship game as he made his return from his three-game absence due to a toe injury. Now that he’s back in the fold, Maddox — and fellow defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson — could be relied on heavily with the Eagles planning to defend dynamic Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
“Avonte is very, very special,” said cornerback Darius Slay. “He’s very unique. He can play safety, he can play nickel. It’s a great opportunity, Avonte is like my right-hand man. I shed some tears with him when we made it to the Super Bowl. It’s his time to ball out against a very good offense. We need Avonte locked in like the rest of us.”