April 28, 2020
We've had a few days to process the Eagles' 2020 draft haul, and it doesn't seem like the majority of those who follow the team closely are any nearer to understanding exactly what the Eagles were thinking when they drafted quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick.
We've looked at his tape, tried to explain their rationale and even weighed Howie Roseman's comments to WIP on Monday against the outward appearance of drafting a quarterback so high when you already have your starter and face of the franchise under contract for the foreseeable future. We even looked at if there was any sense to his claim that the Eagles view themselves as a "quarterback factory."
And in the end, we came away still shaking our heads at the pick, with Jimmy Kempski ultimately giving it the lowest grade of any of the picks made by the Birds since PhillyVoice launched over five years ago.
Perhaps that's why Roseman did a second interview on WIP on Tuesday morning, although his explanations weren't all that different, in an effort to do damage control. Unfortunately, it seems as though the damage has already been done, as no matter how hard the Eagles try to explain their rationale, they continue to send mixed messages.
Is Hurts simply here as a backup and an insurance policy for Wentz, and if so, why expend so much draft capital when they could've simply signed a veteran free agent? Or do they have grander designs for him within their offense? And which potential impact players did they pass on to take a guy that they're hoping doesn't see the field at his natural position?
Let's take a look at what they're saying...
One of the positions of need the Eagles failed to address during the draft is running back, one they'll likely now need to upgrade through the thinned-out free agent market. According to Albert Breer, the Eagles were enamored with Hurts long before the draft and got some first-hand looks at the Oklahoma quarterback — perhaps while they were actually scouting CeeDee Lamb — and saw enough to move him up their draft board. Roseman admitted as much on Monday.
The big takeaway here is what the Eagles passed up in order to get Hurts: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins and Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn. Here's more from Breer:
I’ve got a couple of fun notes on the Eagles’ vetting of Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, which provided the runway for his selection as the 53rd pick on Friday. One, VP of player personnel Andy Weidl actually got live exposure to Hurts in game action—he was on site for the Sooners’ 52–14 beatdown of West Virginia. Hurts threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns on 16-of-17 passing, and his only incompletion came on a drop by Drake Stoops (yup, Bob’s son); and he rushed for 75 yards and two more touchdowns on 10 carries. Two, pass-game coordinator Press Taylor was on site for Oklahoma’s pro day on March 12, which took place just before the scouting circuit was shut down, and gave Philly another data point to work off. Obviously, both of those guys had positive impressions. And again, I think the main argument here is how high Hurts was picked, given that the Eagles just gave their young franchise quarterback a top-of-the-market deal. Only time will tell us the rest of the story. And if you want something to track coming out of all this: Southern Illinois S/LB Jeremy Chinn (Panthers) and Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins (Ravens) were two players I’d heard would’ve been under consideration, had Hurts not been the pick at 53. Gun to my head, I say Philly would’ve taken Chinn in that circumstance. [si.com]
The Birds addressed the safety and linebacker positions later in the draft, and seem to have gotten potential impact players in Davion Taylor (third-round linebacker, Colorado) and K'Von Wallace (fourth-round safety, Clemson). But they didn't do anything to add backfield depth. It might've been tough for Howie to spend another second-rounder on a running back after drafting Miles Sanders in 2019, but at least both of those players could both help the team at the same time, unlike Hurts, who will be most likely relegated to the bench until Wentz gets injured.
Unless of course...
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network turned a lot of heads on Monday when he suggested that the Eagles aren't just thinking of using Hurts as gadget-play threat, but that they could go so far as to use him as a running back.
“Jalen Hurts will be in his own unique role," Garafolo said. "He will be on the field this upcoming season, and, the Eagles hope, for the next four years as a guy who can contribute to the offense [in a way] other than a quarterback. ... Talking to one Eagles source who said, ‘This guy might be able to contribute as a straight running back. That’s how good we think he is. That’s what we think of his skill set.' So, it’s going to be really interesting to watch how they utilize Hurts.”
I'm sorry, what?
If the Eagles wanted a running back, why didn't they just take a running back? I understand wanting him to contribute in "other ways" but this feels like trying to force something so it doesn't look like you wasted a second-round pick on a guy who isn't going to see the field.
Here's more from NJ.com's Mike Kaye:
With his 6-foot-1, 222-pound size and 4.59-second 40-yard dash speed, Hurts could profile as a running back based on measurables alone.
Still, using Hurts as a running back seems antithetical to the team’s desire to inevitably utilize him as Carson Wentz’s long-term backup. Running backs typically are among the least durable players on the field and risking a potential throwing-arm injury for Hurts would prove to be a catastrophic use of resources.
If the Eagles want Hurts and Wentz on the field at the same time, they may be better off giving the rookie a set of plays under center or in shotgun with Wentz spread out wide as a decoy. They could also create the reverse look with Wentz in the pocket and Hurts on the outside at wide receiver.
Running back work would present a major risk for Hurts, who Pederson has emphatically designated as a quarterback. If Hurts is meant to be insurance for Wentz, creating a potential problem with his own durability wouldn’t just be risky, it’d be pretty illogical as well. [nj.com]
During his Tuesday morning appearance on the WIP Morning Show, Roseman actually admitted that drafting a different player would've been a better short-term move for the Eagles, but said that he needs to focus on the longterm as well. The only problem there is that they have their franchise quarterback under contract for the next four years and, given all the praise they constantly heap on Wentz, likely longer. So isn't the longterm already taken care of at that position?
It was the second interview in two days for Roseman on 94WIP - the Eagles' radio flagship - indicating another type of evolution, the idea that the Eagles' messaging needed to be clearer and more realistic.
"Well, it's not comfortable," Roseman told Angelo Cataldi, the veteran morning-show host on Tuesday morning. "... I get it."
That's the first time Roseman admitted the obvious and that there was an understanding that this pick wasn't regarded as business as usual even for an organization he dubbed a "quarterback factory."
"What helps the team the most at this moment?" Roseman asked rhetorically. "Probably a different player at a different position because we have a great player there, but my job is different. When we make these kinds of decisions I talk to people that I really trust and that I've always relied on that have won world championships and I say, 'This is my thought process. I've gotta do everything I can to make sure Carson Wentz is standing on that podium holding that trophy.
"And it's funny when I say that, I see it, man. I see it. I see him doing that. And I really believe that that's gonna happen."
One of Roseman's favorite go-to-lines, and one that is prominently displayed at the Novacare Complex, is "hope is not a strategy." [si.com]
I understand wanting to have insurance, but don't you think a lesser backup with a dominant running game would give the Eagles a better chance at winning a few games in Carson's absence than hoping on a backup to channel whatever Nick Foles suddenly discovered in 2017? That seems a lot more hopeful than building the best roster possible for the upcoming season.
A lot of the differing opinions on the Hurts pick can be traced back to one simple thing: How important is a team's backup quarterback?
The Eagles, apparently, think it's extremely important. But they're really basing all that off one magical postseason run by Nick Foles. All those other examples the team will throw out — Jeff Garcia replacing Donovan McNabb, etc. — are great anecdotes, but that's about it. There are no Super Bowl banners hanging in the Linc for those seasons, so no matter how much those backups helped, the team still fell short of its ultimate goal.
After all, there's a reason only two backups have ever won Super Bowl titles.
Still, that's pretty much the only thing people who like this pick have to cling on to — that, and the possibility of Hurts getting a couple snaps per game as a Taysom Hill-like threat. But that still doesn't warrant a second-round pick. You can get starters, who can actually impact your team on a weekly basis in the second round. Hell, Miles Sanders was the team's second-round pick last year and you can certainly make the argument that the team doesn't make the postseason without him.
So what's really more important? Some, like the Eagles, are still adamant that its backup quarterback.
A team source said Jeffrey Lurie is just as enthusiastic about drafting Hurts as he was about signing Foles.
Lurie believes what Joe Gibbs always said: The most important player on any team is the quarterback. The second-most important player is the backup quarterback. Joe Gibbs is so smart he’s in the halls of fame for two sports.
If you’re outraged, that’s outrageous. No NFL city should understand the value of a legitimate backup quarterback better than Philadelphia. It’s been 11 years since the Eagles’ Game 1 starter played an entire playoff game. Foles came off the bench three times to lead the Eagles to the playoffs. He replaced Michael Vick in 2013, replaced Wentz in 2017 and won the Super Bowl, then replaced Wentz in 2018 and won yet another playoff game.
The Eagles need Wentz insurance like Donald Trump needs hurricane coverage. Wentz has missed all or most of 25% of the Eagles’ games the past three seasons -- 14 of 54 games -- and he has played just nine playoff snaps. This all stems from his thrilling, reckless style of play. He won’t change his style, so he will continue to get hurt, and when that happens you can’t bring in Josh McCown.
That’s who replaced Wentz when he left with a concussion early in the Eagles wild-card game playoff game in January. McCown, a 40-year-old high school assistant coach who’d unretired when the Eagles called after backup Nate Sudfeld was injured, went 0-for-3 in the red zone. The Eagles lost by eight points. Sudfeld was so unimpressive in the preseason last year that McCown kept the backup job the rest of the season. Sudfeld is back. Hence, Hurts. [inquirer.com]
Jay Glazer is apparently writing for The Athletic, and in his post-draft mailbag, he was asked about the Eagles' decision to draft Hurts. He likes it, for both the reasons highlighted above and also agrees that the second-most important position on the field is your backup quarterback.
Nowhere, however, does he address the fact that the Eagles could've used that high pick to fill any other their other glaring holes. This seems like a pick you'd make after the rest of your roster is completely locked down, and that's not the case in Philly.
What do you see the Eagles doing with Jalen Hurts? —Mark T.
Personally? I loved the pick! Carson Wentz has had injury issues throughout his career. We’ve seen how important it is that the Eagles have a strong backup quarterback — just look at their Super Bowl year. And when you look at what Sean Payton has done with Taysom Hill, why wouldn’t Doug Pederson, another coach who is creative with quarterbacks, try to do something similar? Jalen Hurts can add an extra dimension, an extra wrinkle, that defensive coaches have to worry about when they play the Eagles.
The more versatility you have on the field for your offensive coaches, the better it is for your team. Sometimes your backup quarterback is the second-most important player on the team. [theathletic.com]
OK, let's move away from Jalen Hurts for a minute...
Over at The Ringer, Danny Kelly took a look at eight Day 3 draft picks who could make an immediate impact on their new teams. And the Eagles found one of their late-round wideouts, speedy Boise State product John Hightower, on the list.
Here's more on what the 168th-overall pick could potentially contribute in Philly in Year 1:
A glaring lack of speed played a part in hamstringing the Eagles’ offense in 2019, so GM Howie Roseman went all out in ensuring his team is more than just one DeSean Jackson injury away from crumbling again next season. Philly went for speed, speed, and more speed last weekend, selecting TCU’s Jalen Reagor (the winner of PFF’s Best Deep Threat award) in the first round before adding Boise State’s Hightower (one of two honorable mentions) in the fifth. (They also grabbed Quez Watkins, who ran 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the combine, in the sixth.)
Hightower doesn’t come with nearly as much hype as Reagor, but has the chance to carve out a role on the outside early in his career. The former Bronco ran a 4.43-second 40 at the combine and has notched an average depth of target of 17.7 yards in the past two seasons combined, third most among all draft-eligible WRs. Hightower caught 51 passes for 943 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019, averaging 18.5 yards per catch, and contributed as an end-around and sweep weapon, notching 154 yards on 16 totes. He combines scintillating acceleration with top-end runaway speed and plenty of length. While he’ll start his career firmly behind Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Reagor, injuries could quickly push him into action. [theringer.com]
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