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November 29, 2021

What they're saying: A loss that 'makes you wonder about Jalen Hurts, and his future' with Eagles

Eagles NFL
Jalen-Hurts-Eagles-loss_112921_usat Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

For weeks, things had been trending up for Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, but like a Game Stop stock after a few fun days of going nowhere but up, the Birds and their quarterback came crashing back down to Earth on Sunday in spectacular fashion, mustering just seven total points in a gross, hard-to-watch 13-7 loss to the Giants.

How ugly was the game? A Giants fan friend of mine texted me after the game: "Why did I just watch that?" And his team won! 

Needless to say it was a much tougher Sunday for Eagles fans, who had started thinking about playoffs and even planning the path on how they would get there. As Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. And although it was one they didn't see coming, the Birds took one on the chin in North Jersey on Sunday. 

Prior to kickoff, there were even reports that the Birds were getting more and more comfortable with the idea of Hurts being the long-term answer at quarterback. And sure, this Ian Rapoport report came on the heels of one suggesting the Eagles could still be interested in trading for a veteran QB (meaning we likely know who the source in question is here), but it's still interesting nonetheless. 

The second-year passer has led Philly to wins in three of the last four games while emerging as a dynamic run/pass threat. If that continues, and if they keep winning games behind him, the consequences would be dramatic.

Sources explained this week what it would mean: The Eagles wouldn't need to go after a big-name, big-time QB, spending valuable draft capital to do it. They wouldn't need Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers or any other passer whose name was bandied about in trade rumors last offseason. Their search would be over.

If Hurts keeps playing like this, sources say, the Eagles would get their best outcome possible. No search for a QB, because they would have one for the future that they are excited about. And the ability to use their definite two and likely three first-round picks on other positions to build their team. [...]

Last offseason, the Eagles were a prime player for seemingly any QB available, as GM Howie Roseman always makes a call to see what's out there. While they did play a part in one QB derby -- trading Wentz to the Colts -- they did not wind up pulling the trigger to bring a passer back. Now, in what is expected to be a similarly wild offseason with potential QB movement, they may be able to sit it out.  [nfl.com]

What a difference 24 hours make, as fans are now once again doubting that Hurts can become the team's future at QB after weeks of talking themselves into him being the next Lamar Jackson. It was hard not to get caught up in it, as the second-year quarterback was doing things that few, if any, had ever done before him. And the Eagles were winning games to boot.

Both of those trends ended on Sunday, and suddenly it's back to doom and gloom in the Delaware Valley, not just because the Eagles looked bad, but because of who they looked bad against: the lowly Giants. This was a game the Birds were supposed to win, but as we found out this weekend, there are no guarantees when you're a rebuilding team still finding your way. 

As we do every week, let's take a look at what the local and national media is saying about the Eagles — and specifically quarterback Jalen Hurts — in our latest edition of What They're Saying... 

Hurts takes a step back

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

There was a lot of blame to go around in Roob's weekly 10 observations, but it's no surprise that the bulk of it rests at the foot of the quarterback. That's almost always going to be the case when an offense struggles — not to mention when the QB throws three interceptions — and it was certainly earned on Sunday. 

Although it's just a one-game sample, Roob points out that these are the types of games that make you wonder about Hurts' sustainability going forward. The same things that he has struggled with throughout his development — consistency, accuracy, decision-making — continue to be issues. And even though he has shown flashes in recent weeks, that came mostly with the caveat that Hurts was barely being asked to pass. And in order to be a successful NFL quarterback, you have to be able to throw the ball consistently. We've yet to see that from Hurts through his first 16 NFL starts.  

These are the types of games that make you wonder about Jalen Hurts, and his future, and whether he can be The Guy, because as exciting as can be and as brilliant a runner as he is, he has to be able to make plays in the passing game against a bad defense like this Giants one, and on Sunday Hurts couldn’t do it.  The interception late in the first quarter didn’t seem to be his fault – it looked like Quez Watkins stopped his route – but the second one, with the Eagles at the goal-line just before halftime, was awful. Can’t make that throw. The third one was just a badly underthrown deep ball. We’ve talked all year about consistency. It’s not enough to make a splash play or two if the consistency isn’t there. And Sunday, Hurts threw into double coverage, didn’t handle pressure well, showed poor pocket awareness, missed wide-open guys, locked in on his first read and just never got into any kind of rhythm. His two best throws of the game may have been Jalen Reagor’s two unfathomable drops in the final minute. This was discouraging. This is a Giants team ranked 26th in defense and 25th in pass defense. I’m not ready to give up on Hurts or declare that he can’t be the quarterback moving forward. It’s one game. But he has to be a lot better than this.  [nbcsports.com]

More time to develop?

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Over at The Inquirer, Jeff McLane wrote about the Eagles' offense on Sunday, using DeVonta Smith's postgame frustration over his lack of late targets as the jumping off point. Smith was right to be upset after seeing Jalen Reagor drop multiple late passes while he wasn't targeted once on the final drive, despite being far and away the team's best receiver. There were also other points in the game where Sirianni's usage of players was a bit perplexing. It's a reminder that Hurts isn't the only one growing on the job, and perhaps this duo should get more than one year of development together. 

That, however, all depends on the patience level of Eagles ownership and just how in-sync Sirianni and Hurts appear to be down the stretch, a stretch that got off to a poor start in Week 12.

Hurts’ future in Philadelphia isn’t over just because of one bad game, just as it wasn’t certain because of his previous four-game stretch. He has five games left this season to further his cause. An argument could be made that he deserves more time to develop.

But how much patience will Roseman, Sirianni and owner Jeffrey Lurie have? They know as well as anyone that a run-heavy attack with a run-first quarterback isn’t sustainable if they want to be title contenders again.

They have to look inward at their own mistakes, though, in terms of personnel and play-calling. Is Reagor helping the cause? Was having Greg Ward as the No. 1 option on the goal line sprint out pass that he dropped the best use of personnel? ... Can’t Smith run that route, as well, or even better? There’s no way to double him in that situation, not that the Giants were devoting more bodies to the receiver aside from cornerback James Bradberry. ...

That he didn’t get that opportunity probably falls on both the coach and the quarterback. But it needs correcting.  [inquirer.com]

F is for Failure

Tim McManus | ESPN

At least Sirianni was willing to say his QB underperformed on Sunday. And Hurts was probably just fine with that after himself admitting that he needed to be better. 

But there was more than just the stat line that was concerning against the Giants. There was also the way the Giants seemed to have figured out what the Eagles were doing well (running the ball) and forced them to try to beat them with what they don't do well (passing the ball). It it worked like a charm. 

Here's more from Tim McManus at ESPN... 

"It's never going to be an A, B, C or D if you turn it over three times, right? Obviously, he didn't play good enough," Sirianni said. "And we didn't coach good enough. And it's all of us. It's never just one guy. We're going to look through that tape and we're going to have to make those corrections from that tape, but when you turn the ball over three times -- again, there are different things at play there -- but not a winning performance. Running the ball was good."

Hurts entered the game with the top QBR (75.0) in the league over the previous five weeks, using his arm and legs to carve up opposing defenses. While his success on the ground (8 carries, 77 yards) continued against New York, he was 14-of-31 for 129 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions through the air. This marked the first three-interception game of Hurts' career. He became the first Eagles quarterback to throw zero TDs and three interceptions against the Giants since 1990 (Randall Cunningham), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"Obviously he's pretty dangerous at running the ball, and they're finding that in their offense. We just tried to play physical and play straight up and kind of make him throw the ball, so to speak," Giants safety Julian Love said.

"He's very talented, but we wanted him to beat us throwing."  [espn.com]

What's scary about that is that it only took a month for the rest of the NFL to catch up to the Eagles offense. And once they did, the Eagles lacked the necessary counter-punch.

'A long-term project'

Marcus Hayes | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Let's check back in at The Inquirer, where Marcus Hayes has tucked and rolled his way off the Jalen Hurts train. While he thinks Hurts can be coached into becoming a better QB, he does not believe he'll be given the chance as the team tries to balance his development with a late-season playoff push. The two are not totally mutually exclusive, but it's safe to assume that the Eagles aren't going to want to experiment too much with Hurts if they're looking to make the playoffs. But sticking with what works (running) won't give their young QB the in-game reps he needs to develop as a passer. 

You can argue that Sirianni called too many pass plays, considering, over the previous four games, the team had run the ball more than 60 percent of the time, averaged 217.5 rushing yards, averaged 34.5 points, and won three times. They were about 50/50 on Sunday.

Why throw more passes? Because, Sirianni said, his staff saw passing plays to be made — simple plays that any NFL competent NFL quarterback has to make. Hurts just didn’t make them. ...

He looked like what he always has looked like: A long-term project with intriguing potential who lacks the assets of a traditional franchise quarterback — size, arm strength, and a quick delivery. He looks like a guy you’d draft in the second round to back up a franchise QB like, say Carson Wentz. Which is exactly what the Eagles did in 2020, before Wentz whined his way out of town and left the Birds with Hurts.

There is potential here. Some of Hurts’ shortcomings can be coached away, but coaching shortcomings takes time. With a soft schedule, in a bad division, the Eagles still have a chance to make the playoffs. They do not, however, have time to coach away shortcomings.  [inquirer.com]

Time to panic?

Lindsay Jones | The Athletic

Finally, should Eagles fans be panicking after that hideous loss to the Giants? While it feels like an appropriate reaction, The Athletic's Lindsay Jones has the Eagles in the middle tier of her weekly NFL Panic Meter. A loss to the Jets this week, however, and this city probably won't be able to save itself. 

Panic level: Medium

Eagles (5-7): Philadelphia’s victory formula changes when it can’t win up front, and injuries are now a major issue for the offensive line — center Jason Kelce and guard Jack Driscoll were both hurt against the Giants. As encouraged as we were watching the Eagles earlier this month, Week 12 was a reminder of just how narrow their margins are if Jalen Hurts isn’t playing well. Hurts threw three interceptions and the Eagles offense was shut out until a Boston Scott rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Hurts was the Eagles’ leading rusher, with 77 yards on eight carries, and using his legs has to be part of Philly’s offensive design moving forward. Eagles fans shouldn’t be in a full-blown panic about 2021, but it’s reasonable to be worried about how the last month of the season will go and have questions about the long-term quarterback situation.  [theathletic.com]


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