• Al Thompson

HURTS IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONTROVERSY HE DIDN'T START


Move over former 76ers Center Shawn Bradley and former Eagles defensive end Mike Mamula.


Both were high draft picks by their respective teams. Neither fit in at all from the beginning and were the brunt of criticism from the the day they were drafted.


Neither deserved the trouble. They didn't pick themselves.


Make room for another player drafted to a team who doesn't look like he belongs.


Quarterback Jalen Hurts had a remarkable college career, helping both Alabama and Oklahoma reach the College Football playoffs.


Hurts made it to college football's national semifinals all four years he played, winning the national championship his freshman year at Alabama.


Hurts was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. He was taken by the Eagles, who had just signed their franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to a reported $128 million deal with over $100 million guaranteed.


The Eagles offense this season is abysmal, Wentz is at or near the botom of every statistical category for quarterbacks in the league. The offense is also amont the worst, thus the 3-8-1 record after 12 games.


Some fans and observers believe injuries are the reason for Wentz's decline, others point to coaching. Some believe the Eagles drafting a quarterback so high in the draft is in Wentz's head and the reason for his slump.


The offensive line has been brutal and the receiving corps has helped the cause this season at all.


Losing 20-3 in the third quarter of last week's game against the Green Bay Packers, head coach Doug Pederson made the decision to pull Wentz. Hurts led the Birds to a touchdown but could not find any more points. The Eagles lost 30-16.


Pederson on Tuesday named Hurts the starter who will face the 10-2 New Orleans Saints (FOX, 4:25 PM).


The coach was asked what he expects from Hurts this week in practice and on Sunday


"I mean that's big for Jalen to just go out there this week and obviously take control of the huddle like quarterbacks do and just lead the way he knows how," Pederson said Wednesday.

"I'm not and nor do I want him to -- I can think about when I played, they said, ‘Hey don't go be [former NFL QB] Brett Favre, be Doug Pederson.’ So, that's my message to him, be Jalen Hurts and do the things that he can do. I think from an offensive perspective just run the show, just run it how he sees it and we'll coach him up through the week and get him prepared."


Several teammates have some to the defense of Wentz, especially on offense. Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce said it really wasn't fair to blame Wentz for everything that's gone wrong offensively this season.


“Carson has, unfortunately, not played well, so these are the situations that happen, but you feel bad that he’s the sole one taking the hit right now,” Kelce said. “Obviously, the entire offense has been terrible. Offensive line, running backs, receivers, coaches. You aren’t this bad unless everybody shares blame in this whole thing. I think everybody here knows that, I know that Carson knows that, that this is not just him. We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to try to spark some sort of difference. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect it to get and we just haven’t been able to do it.”


Hurts has been thrust into so many conversations about what is wrong with the Eagles this year. The 22-year old from Houston has nothing to do with any of the things that ail the Eagles this season.


He was just sitting at home waiting to be drafted when the Eagles called his name was called.


Many Eagles fans wish the pick was never made. Some blame General Manager Howie Roseman for the mess. His draft picks since 2016 have been poor. Like fans back in the 90s, some are pointing the finger at the player. That's not fair.


To his credit, Hurts has simply put on his helmet and gone out and played. He said Pederson talked about the change to both signal callers.


"Coach talked to me, talked to both of us," It’s a great opportunity moving forward. We’ve

focused on things we have to do this week."


Hurts will face the toughest defense in the NFL in his first start against the Saints. Veterans on the team have remarked about the rookie's confidence. Hurts says he had prepared for this and is ready.


"My role has changed this week, but the preparation and the hard work throughout the week has not," Hurts said. "So carrying on that same mentality that I’ve always had this year, always being able or being able to answer the phone when it rings.”


It's ringing now. *


Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii


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