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April 30, 2020

What they're saying: Jalen Hurts is no Taysom Hill, Wentz is an 'alpha' and latest Eagles power rankings

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Hurts-Wentz-split_043020_usat USA TODAY Sports/Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

Will Carson Wentz be looking over his shoulder at Jalen Hurts?

We're nearly a week removed from the NFL Draft and the Eagles deciding to spend their second round pick on a backup quarterback, but it doesn't seem like people are ready to stop talking about it just yet despite Howie Roseman's best efforts. 

And in our world — especially given the current state of sports — that is just fine. It's part of the gift that the NFL Draft gives us each and every year. See, it's not just three days of teams making picks, or even all the projections and mocks in the months leading up to it. It also helps bide the time until the start of minicamps and practices. And this year, we need that more than ever. 

So, while there's still plenty to talk about when it comes to the Eagles draft, and specifically that Jalen Hurts pick, we decided it was time for another Eagles edition of What They're Saying, covering everything from how Hurts and Carson Wentz will coexist to ... well, that's pretty much it. Oh, and we'll also look at the latest NFL power rankings, although Eagles fans might want to just skip that part.

Let's not waste any more time and get right into it...

Hurts is much more than Taysom Hill

Bill Barnwell | ESPN

Over at ESPN.com, NFL writer Bill Barnwell did a deep dive on the two shocking QB decisions from the NFL Draft: the Packers taking Jordan Love and the Eagles taking Jalen Hurts. He looked at all the reasons behind why the Eagles made that pick, from Wentz' injury history to the Eagles infatuation with the backup QB position to how they plan on using him in the offense. 

Barnwell believes that Hurts can handle a Taysom Hill-like workload, but says he's much more than the Saints' Swiss Army Knife. And, most importantly for Eagles fans worried about a QB controversy, he doesn't believe the second-round pick has a chance at taking the starting job from Wentz. But that doesn't mean he doesn't see a path to Hurts contributing on offense for the Birds... 

Hurts is not a receiver. He's not a running back. He's a true quarterback who also can serve as an effective runner. The Eagles can make use of those skills, even while Wentz is healthy. To start, the Eagles (or Wentz himself) have been aggressive about sneaking their starter. Wentz carried the ball 14 times on third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go last season, which was as frequently as Ravens QB Lamar Jackson carried the ball in the same situations. Only the Bills' Josh Allen ran the ball more frequently in short-yardage last season.

It's easy to imagine a scenario in which the Eagles sub in Hurts in those situations. He carried the ball 12 times in short-yardage situations over the past two seasons, converting 11 for first downs or touchdowns. (He lost 11 yards on the other try.) Bringing Hurts into the game in those spots allows the Eagles to run high-efficiency sneaks without exposing their starting quarterback to extra hits. I'd also fully expect the Eagles to "borrow" some of the run-pass options Hurts ran at Alabama and Oklahoma to make the quarterback's life easier as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. Of course, Hurts also has the passing ability to threaten teams as a pocket passer and could be absolutely devastating off play-action.

Hurts doesn't have a realistic chance of usurping Wentz as the full-time starter, but he doesn't need to do so to return value for the Eagles. It's not difficult to imagine a scenario in which he contributes on a handful of offensive plays per game, starts a game or two per year when Wentz gets injured, and either nets a compensatory pick or gets traded for a draft pick at the end of his deal. In a league in which effective backups cost somewhere in the range of $6 million to $7 million per season, Hurts could turn out to be a worthwhile use of a second-round pick for Philadelphia.  [espn.com]

Retooling > Rebuilding

Kevin Clark | The Ringer

The Eagles and Packers have been lumped together a lot this week because they both decided to take QBs much earlier than expected. But that doesn't mean their situation are the same. 

Over at The Ringer, Kevin Clark compares what both these teams did in the draft to a strategy deployed by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Given Roseman's comments immediately after the season about the Eagles looking at the last three years as one window and that they're now looking to open a new window, there certainly seems to be a connection there.

The Packers changed the course of their franchise in the draft, much like the Eagles, who selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. If the Eagles believe in Hurts as a “Taysom Hill on steroids” game-changer, as reported by Yahoo’s Charles Robinson, then their offense will change this year and beyond. Neither the Eagles nor Packers are rebuilding, but retooling is a stressful experience for fans.

Leaving aside for a second any judgement on these individual picks, this type of retooling is important and probably saves teams from teardown rebuilds later, even if it hurts the team in the short term. The famed soccer manager Alex Ferguson believed teams had four-year shelf lives before they needed to be shaken up. He said he often tried to disprove his own theory by extending that window but found it to be sound. Harvard Business Review studied his team-building methods at Manchester United and said he created what amounts to five distinct championship teams over the course of his two decades in charge. “We tried to visualize the team three or four years ahead and make decisions accordingly,” Ferguson said of his shelf-life theory.  [theringer.com]

This one hurts

Bob Ford | Philadelphia Inquirer

In what may be his last column ever at The Inquirer after announcing his retirement after 32 years at the paper, Bob Ford broke down the Eagles' decision to draft Hurts pretty plainly: they can't trust Wentz to stay healthy. The team has not said that publicly, rather than going with the company line that they drafted Hurts as a developmental project they may flip to a QB-needy team in the future. But Ford believes there's some concern over Wentz — not his play, but his ability to stay on the field. 

And it included a pretty terrifying story about the concussion suffered by Wentz in the team's wild card loss to the Seahawks. According to Ford, Wentz came to the sideline after taking that hit from Jadeveon Clowney in the first quarter and look over at the tablet backup Josh McCown was reading. The NFL playoff logo was on the side of it, and Wentz apparently turned to McCown and asked, "Are we in the playoffs?"

Not-good-gif_043020

As someone who has suffered multiple concussions over the years and has been told by doctors to avoid contact sports because of it, that's absolutely horrifying. And Wentz definitely did the right think by self-reporting his concussion to the NFL's independent doctor and getting removed from that game. 

As you can see, there's good reason for the Eagles to believe they need a strong backup for Wentz — but the bigger question is whether they were smart to spend a second-round pick on a backup rather than a possible starter when there are so many veteran options still available on the free agent market. 

Why would the Eagles draft a quarterback in the second round when they have other holes to fill and already have a franchise quarterback? Because they think they will need him, that’s why.

Carson Wentz's durability is still a concern heading into his fifth season.

The better question concerns whether Hurts is the right guy, and there is no way to prove or disprove that at the moment. By the 53rd pick, the options weren’t good. Jacob Eason of Washington, Jake Fromm of Georgia, and Nate Stanley of Iowa — all bunched among the second tier of available quarterbacks — weren’t taken until the fourth, fifth, and seventh rounds, respectively. According to Roseman, Hurts wouldn’t have lasted the remaining 11 picks of the second round. OK, fine.

It will be up to the bosses in the factory to tinker with the machinery and get the product ready for production. Hurts will need to be up and operational if something else happens to Wentz.

When you look at the stakes involved, and the bold statement made in the second round of the draft, the boys at the plant better be prepared to work a few overtime shifts.  [inquirer.com]

Alpha dog

John McMullen | Sports Illustrated

One of the best people to give a look inside the Eagles locker room — and, more specifically, their quarterback room — would be someone who spent time on the inside. And that's what we got on Thursday when Wentz' backup from a year ago joined the WIP Morning Show to discuss whether the Hurts pick will have a negative impact on the franchise quarterback's psyche. And to hear McCown tell it, there's nothing to worry about, Eagles fans. 

"I'm not concerned about it. I think it will work,” McCown said. “There are great people in the building, Doug (Pederson) will lead the way with that.”

McCown also talked about the team's aggressive nature (and cited "Philly Philly" as an example) as a reason he wasn't terribly surprised by the pick. But the biggest reason McCown isn't concerned? Because of how much he saw the 27-year-old QB grow over the last year and become the team's true leader. 

“I believe watching how Carson played last year, especially down the stretch with guys that weren't necessarily on the roster, to begin with, I think it was a huge growth and a step forward in his game,” said McCown. “From a playing on-field standpoint, from a leadership standpoint bringing the guys along. I just think he's in a different place. He's a franchise quarterback,”

And one that can handle a little rattling of his cage?

"He's an Alpha, man," McCown said of Wentz. "He wants things a certain way. He has a vision for how he's gonna play the game and I appreciate that.” [...]

"I think we saw that down the stretch for Carson as a quarterback," said McCown. "I admire that, he's growing. He's just sort of sorting through the first few years of his career, the ups and downs. There's a lot of crazy things that have happened.

"I think walking away for me (from last season), just really proud of him, admire him, and how he pursues his greatness. How he pursues wanting to be a special player and carry this franchise."  [si.com]

Falling fast

Dan Hanzus | NFL.com

Don't look now, but the Eagles took a big hit in the latest NFL.com power rankings. Prior to the draft, the Eagles were ninth, the best in the NFC East and two spots ahead of the Cowboys. Now that the dust has settled from the draft, the Eagles have fallen five spots to 14th, while the Cowboys have climbed four spots (tied for the biggest gain of any team) and are all the way up in seventh. 

What a difference a week can make.

14. EAGLES (-5)

Previous rank: No. 9 

Packers fans were stunned to watch their team draft a quarterback in the first round of Thursday's draft. Eagles supporters were similarly befuddled when GM Howie Roseman pulled the trigger on Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick. On the surface, it doesn't seem like a position of need, but Philly can no longer ignore the possibility that Carson Wentz will simply never be a durable quarterback. Hurts provides Doug Pederson with much-needed insurance and a dynamic athlete opposing teams must factor into the game plan (think: Taysom Hill in New Orleans). And let's not act like the Eagles didn't help Wentz out: The team used its first pick (25th overall) on explosive TCU star Jalen Reagor, who molded himself into a first-round target despite being saddled with subpar QB play in college. Deep breath, Eagles fans.  [nfl.com]


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