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September 25, 2023

Eagles future headlines: What's wrong with Jalen Hurts? And a makeshift secondary

Also, the special teams are finally a strength for the Eagles

The Eagles really didn't sweat the Buccaneers much in their wire-to-wire win Monday night, as every facet of the offense and defense looked good — albeit imperfect — in their ascension to 3-0.

But this is Philadelphia. Every win can be argued into a loss, and every loss can turn Eagles fans into a pure panic. 

The loss panic will have to wait at least another week, but what will local sports pundits be spinning on talk radio following this win? Here's our attempt to predict three "future headlines" for the Eagles that will be discussed over the next six days:

Is Hurts broken?

Jalen Hurts continues to look... a little bit like his MVP-caliber self. But he also looks like a lesser version of himself and has for three weeks now. He threw two pretty bad and unforced interceptions. He looked a little sluggish with his legs and wasn't as accurate as he was in peak form in 2022.

He set a very high standard and it's near impossible to live up to. But Hurts will be the first to say he knows he can do better. The QB was 23-for-37 for 277 yards, the accuracy numbers and lack of multiple touchdown passes stick out here. So too does 7.6 yards per completion.

The Bucs are a very good defense, and it will be a very interesting case study to see how he performs next week against a much lesser Washington defense that was blown apart Sunday by the Bills.

Secondary is stepping up

The vibes weren't great, looking at the Eagles secondary and its matchup with the Bucs receivers on paper. Philly has seen Zech McPhearson and Avonte Maddox go down, leaving their cornerback corps a bit depleted as they search for some consistency at safety.

Reed Blankenship returned to the field and nabbed a big interception but he wasn't the story. With James Bradberry filling in at slot corner, he, Darius Slay and company held Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to a combined 92 yards on eight catches (most of that coming in late garbage time in the fourth quarter), and held Baker Mayfield to just 146 yards through the air in total (15-for-25). 

Of course, the secondary wasn't on a complete island. The pass rush was magnificent all evening, forcing Mayfield to make quick decisions and helping the defensive backs stick on their assignments like glue. The defense might be the best unit on this football team right now. 

Special teams is... good?

The Eagles' weakest link last season was special teams. They had no solid return game, their coverage teams were lacking and they were awful at punting it downfield.

Well don't look now, but the Birds boast one of the three or four best kickers in the entire NFL in Jake Elliott, newly signed punter Braden Mann did a good job in Tampa, and Britain Covey broke through in Week 3, averaging 27 yards on three returns (including one big 52-yard scamper), each helping to set up the Eagles offense when they needed field position.

There's really no telling what sort of difference an above-average special teams phase would have done for the Super Bowl runner-ups, but it's nice to have this season and hopefully it will continue.

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