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November 07, 2021

Eagles mailbag: How 'inexperienced' is Jalen Hurts, really?

In our Eagles chat on Thursday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Hinkie: Am I wrong in thinking people are being far too easy on Jalen Hurts? I keep hearing "It's only his Xth start, he can get there," which sure, there's something to that. I'd counter by saying he's been in top level college and professional programs for five years, and still has zero pocket awareness or accuracy, and despite his intangibles there's very little chance he becomes an even average starting QB.

I agree with the sentiment that he's more experienced than your typical 23-year-old quarterback. He played in 56 games in college, including seven College Football Playoff games, and a handful of either SEC or Big 12 conference championship games. 

And as you noted, he played for a pair of programs that consistently have players ready to compete immediately in the pros, one led by one of the most successful college coaches in history in Nick Saban, and the other by the hottest name in college sports for a future pro job in Lincoln Riley, who has developed an actual quarterback factory at Oklahoma.

Additionally, Hurts got some starting experience in 2020, and then literally every single first-team rep in training camp this year.

Yes, it's fair to note that Hurts is still young, but some of the deficient areas of his game — most importantly his accuracy — haven't come along rapidly enough so far in my opinion, especially when his accuracy was lacking badly enough that substantial improvement still might not have made him average in that area, relative to other starting quarterbacks.

If there were more evidence that he is getting better in his deficient areas, then the "He can get there" arguments, as you put it, would be more valid.

Question from The Philadelphia Botanists: Besides QB, which is not looking like a strong class this year anyway, do you see any position on offense that they NEED to spend a first round pick on? Maybe a wide receiver, but I don't think there is a dire need at any of the other positions.

You specifically said offense, and my answer to that would be no, they don't need to address any offensive positions other than quarterback with high picks this year, though a number of positions would certainly make sense.

If there's one spot other than quarterback that I think they absolutely must address with significant resources this offseason, it's edge rusher. They have some players with promise, like Josh Sweat, and maybe they get one more productive year out of Brandon Graham, but they don't have a player off the edge who can rely on long-term to consistently affect games.

In this draft, there are two edge rushers who are highly likely to go in the top 10 in Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, as well as some other guys who could go Round 1, like Purdue's George Karlaftis, South Carolina's Kingsley Enagbare, and others.

I think it would be a coup if the Eagles could address the quarterback position, while also landing either Thibodeaux or Hutchinson.

Question from Takeo: Hi Jimmy, from Rome - Italy! I've the feeling that "burn it all down" is becoming a sexy trend in all American sports, with more and more fans (and media people) advocating to sell the house and restart from scratch as soon as their team struggles, while I think the history would show that patient approach and stability are often the common denominators of many sports dynasties (and on the opposite side of the spectrum, frantic changes are often leading to unstable franchises losing year after year). How do you feel about that?

I think that in the case of this Eagles team, they should have "blown it up" or "burned it down," or however you want to phrase it. And by that I mean, turn over the reins to someone willing to unemotionally turn as many short-term assets into long-term assets. 

This question prompted me to go back and re-read an article I wrote on that very subject in November of last year, and I have to say, I was nodding along in agreement with myself, ha. Well, except for the part where I didn't think they could/would move on from Carson Wentz.

I applaud the Eagles for moving Wentz, and I think they did a nice job maneuvering in the 2021 draft, picking up an extra first-round pick in 2022, which may turn out to be a top 5 pick. I also don't think they went far enough. There were players who still had some short-term value that could have been exchanged for long-term assets, like Fletcher Cox and others. However, as they are prone to do, they overvalued their own players and missed out on some of those opportunities.

When a team is bad, old, expensive, boring, and lacking young talent, that's when I think it's appropriate to "blow it up," as I advocated a year ago. That said, I do agree that phrasing like that, generally speaking, is thrown around a little too willy nilly.

As for the prevalence of "blowing it up" in American sports vs. European sports, the salary cap is differentiating factor. In football and basketball over here, there are salary caps, so you'll hear that teams should "blow it up" in those sports more than you will in baseball, where teams can spend as much as they want, as long as they can afford it.

Question from Jon: The Eagles have scored more points than they have given up this year, they have more yards than their opponents, they have a positive turnover ratio, more big plays, and now fewer penalty yards against a tough early schedule. Maybe they are not as bad as people say the are?

They're bad. A couple of blowouts against the Falcons and Lions — as well as some garbage time production against the good teams they've faced — make some of their stats look on paper like they're better than they really are. But we've all seen the games, right?

Question from greenwithenvy: The Eagles' next three opponents are the Chargers, Broncos, and the Saints. Not a murderer's row of teams, but not out and out bums either. How many of these games do you have the Eagles winning?

• Chargers: When I took a deeper look at the Chargers this week, I was surprised by how unimpressed I was by their roster. They're good in some areas that are easily visible, like a good young quarterback, some nice skill position players on offense, and a couple of legit studs on defense like Joey Bosa and Derwin James. The rest? Bleh. I think that what they have will be enough to beat the Eagles, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Eagles won today.

• Broncos: They're bums, and credit to them for recognizing that and getting something in return for Von Miller while they still could. As noted above, this is what the Eagles should have done with Fletcher Cox, but they blew it.

• Saints: They'll be 6-2 after today, and they've beaten two very good teams in the Bucs and Packers. If you catch them on a day in which their defense is dominant, they're a really tough out, but they're not going anywhere without a quarterback.

If the Eagles win two of those games, I think they actually have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs, given their super easy schedule thereafter. I think they win one of the three.

Question from DB: Assuming Hurts doesn't improve and show he's the guy, do you think they definitely go after a quarterback in 2022. They could have Hurts keep starting and address in 2023 (Bryce Young) or 2024. Your thoughts?

If Hurts isn't their guy — and it's looking like he won't be — they're very likely going to aggressively find a better starting quarterback in 2022. 

Question from RKotite: How is Sirianni’s explanation of nine cornerbacks on the roster of ‘it’s a premium position’ not challenged more? Quantity doesn’t equal quality. And if takes you nine players to hope to find one good one, what’s that say about talent evaluation?

Well, to begin, Sirianni's thoughts on roster construction aren't really all that relevant, since he has very little to do with it, especially in season.

Personally, I'm fine with their strategy here. They only have one guy (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside) on the injury report currently, so it's not as if all these corners will be active but unused on gameday. There should be at least three of them on the inactive list today.

They're heading into an offseason in which Steven Nelson and Avonte Maddox are scheduled to become free agents, and Darius Slay turns 31 in January. I'm fine with bringing in a bunch of young players, and seeing if one or two can pan out.

They took a similar approach at wide receiver in the 2020 draft, taking John Hightower and Quez Watkins. Hightower hasn't panned out, but Watkins looks like he can be a nice role player moving forward. I would call that a win. The number of corners they have acquired is perhaps a little more extreme, but I like the approach.

Question from Scojos: At the halfway-ish point of the season, who are some players that you think should get some more run in the second half of the season so we can see what we have? I’m hoping for more Davion Taylor, and Tyree Jackson.

It has already begun with Taylor, so you'll get your wish there. I'm also curious to see if they use Jackson immediately today. On Friday, Nick Sirianni was asked if Jackson would be activated prior to the game and he acted like they would need another day to figure that out. They then activated him on Saturday. Spoiler: They already knew he'd be up. So maybe Sirianni didn't want to make that known to the Chargers? Whatever. We'll see.

The Eagles have gotten rare good health out of their corners this year. Otherwise, we would have likely seen more of Zech McPhearson by now. I wouldn't advocate for him playing over Slay, Nelson, or Maddox, because they're all playing reasonably well, but I'd be interested in seeing what he can do in real games should one of those guys go down.

Question from SurleyEagles: Is the Eagles' dead cap figure for 2021 the largest in the history of the NFL?

As the cap rises, so too will the accumulation of dead money hits league-wide. As such, the Eagles almost certainly have one of the biggest dead money accumulations ever this season. Where they rank all-time is probably a better question for the guys at OverTheCap.

But... I will note here that the Eagles' total dead money now sits at $60,716,849 after their release of Eric Wilson, per OverTheCap. That's actually currently second to the Lions, who have $61,304,034.

The Eagles also currently have $22,009,361 in 2022 dead money, which is also second, to the Texans, who have $22,423,076.

That's a hell of a lot of cap space going to players not on the team.

Question from Kephas: Do you think the Giants, at 2-5, still have the Eagles circled on their calendar?

Yeah, probably, which is pathetic enough, but also funny because Doug Pederson isn't even here anymore.

Question from DB: Should NJ get rid of the full service gas station law?

I hate it, but I'm impatient. I'd rather my gas station visits be as short as possible, and pumping my own gas achieves that. However, I feel like my mom would struggle figuring out how to pump her own gas after living in NJ for the last four-plus decades, so I guess it's useful for people who don't mind siting at the gas station two minutes longer than they would otherwise.

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