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November 20, 2023

Eagles mailbag: Is Jalen Hurts' 2023 season more impressive so far than 2022?

Jimmy Kempski answers your Eagles questions here.

Eagles NFL
110723JalenHurts Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts

A few days ago, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter or whatever it's called now. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me. This is Part II of a two-part mailbag (Part I here). Let's just get right to it.

Question from @StokesTheWriter: Considering the knee injury, change at coordinator, and lack of a consistent run game is Jalen Hurts' season this year more impressive than last year?

No. While Hurts has had a great first half of the season, he was more impressive in 2022. That season was a tryout to see if he could maybe be "the guy" going forward, and he might've been the MVP if he hadn't injured his shoulder with three regular season games left to play. And then he played three stellar games in the playoffs, while still dealing with that shoulder injury. If the defense had held up their end of the bargain, he'd have a ring right now.

We'll see what happens throughout the rest of the 2023 season, but 2022 was a really high bar to clear. I think the only way he tops that is if he wins it all. 

Question from @eagle_mass: Probably a little late but I'll ask anyway:  Isn't this the game that we WANT Bradberry to play the slot as that will usually be on Kelce? Wasn't this brought up in the wake of the SB.

Yeah, I thought Bradberry was a logical matchup candidate against Kelce in the Super Bowl, and he played in the slot for a bit earlier this season due to injuries so it does make some sense this time around as well. Sean Desai also said on Friday that while Bradberry has since moved back outside full time, he could still play inside if they need him to because of injuries, or if it makes sense to do that because of a matchup.

I don't think the Eagles will do that for this matchup. It's not as if moving Bradberry inside will negate Kelce (I still think that's a matchup Kelce would win anyway), and when Bradberry has moved inside, opposing offenses have successfully attacked Josh Jobe on the outside.

Kevin Byard has done a nice job on Kelce in the past. In six career games against the Titans (with Byard on the field), Kelce has 34 catches for 383 yards and 2 TDs. That averages out to 5.6 catches for 64 yards, and 0.3 TDs. The Eagles would sign up for that projection in half a heartbeat.

"I would say when we were talking about bringing Kevin on, we looked at all those matchups... He has done a good job in that matchup," Desai said. "I think he understands some of Travis' route stems, at least off the tape I'm talking about. And then he challenges them up. And then they had some different looks, too, from a schematic standpoint that Tennessee had done that helped him win in those situations."

Of course, Byard may not be the same player he was during the majority of those matchups against Kelce.

Ultimately, I think we'll see Desai throw a lot of different looks at Kelce and Mahomes.

Question from Phil (via email): You have the Chiefs winning this game. What's the big play that does the Eagles in?

Earlier this season, Terrell Edmunds got flagged for a weak late hit out of bounds on Sam Howell.

Just generally speaking as someone who watches a lot of football, I hate that quarterbacks are given protections near the sidelines that other positional players are not, and I think that Patrick Mahomes does a great job of gaming the system on those types of plays. The Chiefs got to the Super Bowl on that type of play last year, for example:

On Friday, I asked Desai about that Edmunds play earlier in the season, and the teaching point on that going forward, especially with a quarterback like Mahomes who loves to ride the sideline and step out at the last second before getting hit.

"The coaching point is we just try to be smart as the angles of the shoulders the guy dictates," he said. "That's a bang-bang play. We've seen that play can go either way based on the interpretation of that guy is trying to gain or advance yards or if he is running out of bounds.

"So, we try not to take the aggressiveness away from our players. Just try to teach them to be smart, and then the tighter we get to the sideline, we try to really push and lean and push them back as opposed to lowering shoulders. That's such a timing play, and Terrell did the best he could in that situation for what he did. He ended up getting a stop for us based on that, but it became a penalty. I think that's just a judgment thing. Just try to teach the guys the details and fundamentals when in that situation, what are the tools they can go to, to use."

I see Mahomes being rewarded with some nonsense late hit penalty that extends a drive and leads to Chiefs points that they wouldn't have otherwise gotten.

Question from @AlexBloom_05: It's hard to watch the replay of Markquese Bell's tackle on Dallas Goedert and think that it's anything but a dirty play. I know that Goedert stiff arms him, but Goedert is clearly on his way out of bounds and yet Bell yanks and twists his arm anyway. Is there a league process for the Eagles to request a fine or a suspension?

When you watch that play in slow motion it looks like there might be some ill-intent. However, Goedert is shoving Bell's face. As a defender, you have to get him to the ground, and the full speed replay looks to me like Bell is merely trying to get negate Goedert's stiff arm, and then once it's no longer a weapon he uses it to drag Goedert to the ground. It's impossible to know if Bell tried to purposely land on Goedert's arm.

If Bell doesn't make that tackle, a big play could turn into a monster play, and as an undrafted second year player he might lose playing time. Furthermore, that's not an illegal play. Should it be? Perhaps. The NFL outlawed and harshly punishes the twisting of ankles (alligator rolls), shown here by the Cowboys' Trysten Hill:

That's perhaps a tackle the NFL should look at during the offseason, but for now it's just an unfortunate play that resulted in an injury to a good player.

Question from @Jack_Despeaux: What‘s the Eagles biggest weakness right now, and what teams have the best chance to exploit those weaknesses?

I think it's slot corner. Maybe Bradley Roby will step in and play well. Maybe he won't. We'll see. But the Eagles will be facing a whole lot of good slot receivers (or star receivers who often play in the slot) in the coming weeks: 

Chiefs: Rashee Rice
Bills: Stefon Diggs
49ers: Deebo Samuel
Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb
Seahawks: Tyler Lockett

And then in the playoffs, if the Eagles face the Lions, they have Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Question from @Justin800: Last year the Vikings got crushed for winning too many one-score games. The Eagles are currently 5-1 in one score games. Why should we, the fans, feel good about the Eagles in one score games this year versus what the Vikings did in 2022?

I can't speak for why the Vikings got crushed by others, but I don't think that winning one-score games is necessarily a bad thing, unless they're fluky/lucky wins, or if there are barely any comfortable wins at all. In the case of the Vikings last season, I mostly didn't think they were as good as their record because they had an easy schedule and they got annihilated by their opponents in their losses:

• Week 2 at Eagles: 7-24
• Week 11 vs. Cowboys: 3-40
• Week 14 at Lions: 23-34
• Week 17 at Packers: 17-41

They were 13-4 and had a negative point differential. It was pretty easy to see that they were going to be vulnerable in the playoffs. The 2023 Eagles are not the 2022 Vikings. They have wins over quality opponents like the Cowboys and Dolphins, and they've mixed in a few comfortable-ish wins along the way (Rams, Buccaneers, Vikings, and the second Commanders game once they finally got going, for example).

We'll find out over the next five weeks how this team stacks up against other Super Bowl-caliber teams, but I don't think the Eagles should feel bad about their 8-1 record after nine games.

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