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December 20, 2022

Eagles mailbag: What could the offense look like with Gardner Minshew?

How will the Eagles adapt their offense if Gardner Minshew is starting at quarterback?

Mail time! The sky may be falling to some in Philadelphia following the news of Jalen Hurts' shoulder sprain, but a Christmas Eve matchup with the Cowboys approaches regardless. It feels apt to take some reader questions about the state of the Eagles as worries rear their heads in advance of a game against a bitter rival.

Let's get to them... 

@thebriguy90: What kind of gameplan should the Eagles implement to best protect the deficiencies of Minshew (in comparison to Hurts)?

If Hurts is out on Saturday, it'll be Gardner Minshew under center for the Birds. This will not be the first time Minshew has filled in for an injured Hurts. In Week 13 of the 2021 season, with a win needed to keep the team's playoff hopes alive, the Eagles turned to Minshew in the Meadowlands against the Jets. The Birds promptly pulled out a 33-18 road win. Last year's Jets don't compare to this year's Cowboys, but there is a blueprint in place.

Minshew's stat line from that game: 20/25, 242 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 133.7 passer rating.

That's about as much as you could ask from a backup QB in this type of situation. He was efficient, he didn't turn the ball over, and he let his playmakers go to work.

The Eagles' top pass-catcher that day in North Jersey was Dallas Goedert, who hauled in 6 catches for 105 yards (the second-highest mark of his career) and 2 touchdowns. Minshew isn't going to air out go balls like Hurts does to the likes of DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, but a player like Goedert who can kill defenses on intermediate routes and over the middle is huge when a backup is sliding into the lineup. 

Luckily for the Eagles (and Minshew!), Goedert is back on the 53-man roster after missing the previous five games with a shoulder injury of his own. 

There's already a connection between Minshew and Goedert, clearly. Here was their first TD from that 2021 Jets game:

LOL, at the defensive back bouncing off Goedert.

This is their second touchdown from that afternoon:

If you have a top-two tight end in the NFL, feeding him the ball feels like a recipe for success!

Adding Brown and the second-year improvements from Smith to the equation, the Eagles should still be able to move the ball through the air against the Dallas defense. It won't be easy compared to, say, the Titans game though. The Cowboys are fourth in Pass Defense DVOA and third in passing yards allowed. I, however, trust Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen to scheme up throws for Minshew to pick up yards. Don't expect a 300-yard day from QB2, but a day where he throws for roughly 240-250 yards again with zero turnovers is reasonable and would be an absolute win for the Eagles.

The Eagles, of course, aren't a one-dimensional offense, bringing an elite running game to the table (when Sirianni and Steichen remember they have one). In that Jets game last year, the Eagles ran the ball with their RBs a whopping 36 times. Minshew won't be a factor in the run game, let alone be up to the task of replicating what Hurts can do with his legs, but an elite o-line paired with a back as talented as Miles Sanders is dangerous.

Against the Jets, Sanders ran for 120 yards on 24 carries. A repeat of that delight would elate old-school football fans throughout the Delaware Valley and may prove the smartest course of action when looking at Dallas' pass defense vs. the run defense. The Cowboys are 10th in Rush Defense DVOA and are 24th in rushing yards allowed. A mix of quick Minshew throws and Sanders runs would be wise. 

Sirianni always preaches that he wants to be "multiple." No QB has had the versatility of Hurts this year, but the Eagles are still in a position to have a multifaceted offensive attack with Minshew out there. 

MORE: A doctor's take on Jalen Hurts' shoulder sprain

@SwaggyMitch: Am I starting Minshew in fantasy? Offense going to look similar except for the QB sneaks?

Minshew would be a worthy play in a SuperFlex league where you can start two QBs, but if we're talking fantasy playoffs and your team has a lone quarterback spot, better options should already be available. There's too much risk rolling with Minshew, despite a solid plan being in place for him, compared to the league's top QBs that carried fantasy managers to the postseason. It's a "dance with the date you brought to prom" scenario for me.

Now, if you're in the playoffs and Hurts is the only QB you have on the team, picking up Minshew isn't a terrible idea. I am in that boat in one league and just placed a waiver claim in for Minshew. The other QB on the bench is Taylor Heinicke, so we'll see what happens!

MORE: WTS – Will there be a Minshrew dropoff?

@NegadelphiaNorm: When Minshew wins, does it mean it really WAS the system? Or will that just be a loud and annoying portion of the fanbase?

The answer to whether this season's domination is due to Hurts' pure skill or the Eagles' offensive system is, duh, "both." Hurts has played like an MVP and Sirianni warrants winning the Coach of the Year Award. Sirianni smartly put Minshew in a position to win last year and will do so again on Saturday. 

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