Not much is expected of an Eagles team that will head into the 2021 season with a rookie head coach and a first-year starting quarterback.
For veteran Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson there is a silver lining to that narrative, however.
"Expectations are low," Johnson admitted when talking with SiriusXM NFL Radio earlier this week. "You know, we're not expected to do much, so I feel like it's a lot easier to play when you have that card in your hand, so that's where we're at and, really, I think that's for a lot of teams in the NFC East. So, here we come."
Johnson, of course, was one of the Eagles' players who embraced the underdog theme during the run to a Super Bowl LII championship so he's well-versed on the motivational technique.
"I think with what we have, you know, it's easy to find motivation," Johnson said. "4-11-1 or 4-12, whatever we were last year is not acceptable. So, you know, we're gonna come out swinging."
Philadelphia is 100/1 to have the NFL's best record in 2021, according to BetOnline.ag, tied with a division rival, the New York Giants, as well as the Carolina Panthers.
The only teams with longer odds are Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Detroit, Houston, and the New York Jets. The sportsbook favorite for the best record is the reigning AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs with former Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid, who are 3/1.
If the Eagles are to overachieve, 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts will have to develop quickly after starting the final four games of the lost campaign last season when Carson Wentz went off the rails.
Johnson likes what he sees of Hurts, a player with natural leadership skills and an impressive work ethic,
"He's got that confidence to him," Johnson said. "The way he carries himself, he carries himself like a veteran and things he can do on the field, you know, he can scramble outside the pocket."
A threat to run can also help the offensive line, according to Johnson.
"When that happens, man, it makes it a little bit easier for the offensive line whenever you have a mobile quarterback back there, the pass rushers approach the pass rush a little bit differently," he said. "So instead of maybe running the loop, they're told not to break contain because if they do, he can scramble for 10 or 15 and get a quick first down."
Johnson is also happy with the safety net at QB in the former of the 36-year-old Joe Flacco, who has a Super Bowl championship on his resume from Baltimore.
"We have Joe Flacco there as our backup, who's tremendous too, who's pushing (Hurts)," said Johnson. "So, really, [Hurts has] put his foot on the gas pedal."
The engine of the offense, however, is Johnson and his compatriots on the offensive line.
The Eagles were forced to use an NFL record when it came to different OL combinations in 2020 due to historic attrition that lost four of the Week 1 projected starters for significant periods: Brandon Brooks (Achilles'), Andre Dillard (biceps), Johnson (ankle) and Isaac Seumalo (knee).
"Everybody's not satisfied with what we did last year. It left a bitter taste in our mouth, so we have a lot to prove," Johnson said. "We know where we're at and everybody's chomping at the bit to get back."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.