JALEN HURTS LEADS AN OFFENSE WITH MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
With regards to second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles brass appear to be pushing their chips into the center of the table gambling that the former Alabama and Oklahoma star will lead the Birds to a successful season.
Things could change on Thursday, April 29, 2021 when the NFL draft gets underway, but right now the Birds are hoping the 2020 second round pick will make the jump and become a top quarterback.
At his most recent press conference, Eagles embattled General Manager Howie Roseman was asked to evaluate Hurts, who posted a 1-3 record as a starter the final four games of 2021.
“I think when people start talking about Jalen, the first thing that they go to is his athleticism and his strength as a runner,” Roseman said. “I don't know that's necessarily fair. This is a guy who completed over 70 percent of his passes at Oklahoma. He's got a feel for the passing game. He's got a plus arm. I think he's going to continue to get better and better."
“When you look at those four games, I think I watched Coach say this, and I think it was the best way to describe it: he's only got four starts,” He said. “There's huge room for him to continue to improve from a player who had four starts. We're excited about the ability that he has and his opportunity to grow and to kind of be with this coaching staff and their ability to get their hands on him and help him become the player that he's got the talent to become.”
New head coach Nick Sirianni was asked about his thoughts on the player he will be expected to take to the next level.
“As far as building the system, in Indianapolis, we had three different starting quarterbacks each year, right? ”Sirianni said. “Those teams had similarities in their offenses, but minor differences just because every quarterback did something a little bit different. That's no different here, right?
“We feel like good offensive football is catering to your players, particularly first and foremost your quarterback. So, of course, we're looking at different things that fit our offensive scheme, but then also what our quarterbacks do well.
“Right now, our quarterback on our team, we have one quarterback on our team, so we're thinking about Jalen and the things he does well: what he did well at Alabama, what he did well at Oklahoma, what he did well last year when he was here. We're thinking about those things and how we can make him as successful as we possibly can.”
For the season, Hurts was 77 of 148 for 1061 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed 52 percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 77.6. Hurts rushed 63 times over 15 games for 354 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
New offensive coaches Shane Steichen (Offensive Coordinator), Kevin Patullo (Passing Game Coordinator) and Brian Johnson (Quarterbacks coach) are tasked with the challenge to improve those numbers this year.
Hurts has been available to the media very little this offseason. He did make an appearance on a national podcast. He was asked about how he felt now that he has been anointed to QB1 status.
"I think it was just an opportunity for me," Hurts said during an "Adam Schefter Podcast" appearance. "I think it shows the trust and what they think I can be as a player. So I want to prove 'em right."
Hurts was asked about his feelings about Carson Wentz, who the Eagles traded to the Indianapolis Colts.
"I send him my blessings," Hurts told Schefter. "I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he takes off. I hope he has a great remainder of his career."
Veteran Joe Flacco is the only other quarterback listed on the Eagles depth chart. The 36-year-old Audubon, New Jersey native led the Baltimore Ravens to the 2012 Super Bowl championship winning MVP honors.
Many Eagles fans were relieved to hear that longtime assistant Jeff Stoutland, Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line coach, was retained. During his nine seasons in the NFL – all with the Eagles – he is widely considered the best offensive line coach in the business.
The Eagles point out that at least one Eagles offensive lineman has made the Pro Bowl in each of Stoutland's first eight seasons with the team.
The questions about the offensive aren't about any lack of talent. The Birds have plenty of talent. The question marks surrounding this position are about health.
All Pro right tackle Lane Johnson limped through the season with an ankle he described as “collapsed.”
The 30-year-old started just seven games. Rookie Jack Driscoll played decently in his place, but he too was injured and did not finish the season. Brett Toth chimed in but was largely ineffective.
All Pro right guard Brandon Brooks grades out as an elite NFL guard. But he has suffered two major injuries over the last two seasons.
In January 2019. The Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears 16–15 in the wildcard round, then lost 20–14 to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round. The loss was costly as Brooks suffered a torn Achilles. He was able to return for the 2019 season,
Brooks signed a four-year, $54.2 million contract extension through the 2024 season with the Eagles on November 11, 2019. He was named to his third straight Pro Bowl on December 17, 2019.
On December 29, 2019, Brooks suffered a dislocated shoulder in the last regular season game against the New York Giants, forcing him to miss the postseason. On June 15, 2020, The Eagles announced that Brooks tore his other Achilles missing the entire 2020 season.
Nate Herbig, a rookie free agent signed in 2019 played well in Brooks' place. But he had to move to left guard for several games when starter Isaac Seumalo suffered a knee injury in week two and was out until mid-November.
Matt Pryor, a sixth round pick in 2018 played right guard but struggled.
The left tackle position was a revolving door in 2020. The 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard missed the entire 2020 season due to a biceps injury. His play in 2019 did not impress Eagles fans very much.
The Eagles moved Jason Peters, who originally was brought back to replace Brooks at right guard, to left tackle. That did not pan out at all.
Peters was in and out of the lineup all season. It finally ended after the first week of December when he elected to have season-ending surgery on his toe.
One of the few bright spots came after the Eagles were forced to use massive Australian rugby experiment Jordan Mailata at right tackle when Peters kept coming out of games.
Mailata was shaky at first, but played well for several games at the end of the season when he became the starter.
The only offensive lineman to not miss a start was center Jason Kelce. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl.
A lot of the culture on a pro football team is how it squares with offensive line room. The Eagles finished 4-11-1 in 2020, so it should not be a surprise to hear the uproar in the locker room started with the big guys.
Johnson apparently had a blowup with Roseman early in the offseason. The All Pro tackle described management as dysfunctional and the word 'toxic' has been used to describe the culture on the whole team.
Roseman was asked to address the incident.
“I understand the story with Lane. Lane signed an extension since then. Our relationship is good,” Roseman said. “We've had a team that has dealt with a lot of adversity, and a building that's dealt with a lot of adversity. We've always rebounded.
“I don't necessarily think that's really fair,” he continued. “We are constantly trying to improve. I think if you're not trying to improve, you're kind of stuck in the mud. I know people who have been here for a long period of time, the people who have left have left for better job offers. I know the kind of atmosphere we have in the building. Last year during a pandemic where you couldn't really connect as well, when you win four games, was it as fun as it had been in the past? No.
“But when I look back at our track record, and some of the situations we've been in, and how we've overcome that, I think that's only because you have a good building. That's a lot of people, obviously. We have a lot of good people in this building, people that care about this team and people who bring positive energy.”
The Eagles have one premier back in Miles Sanders. The third-year ball carrier can be explosive but he has been inconsistent. It's all or a cloud of dust.
The former Penn State star has rushed 343 times 1,685 over two seasons. He has scored nine total touchdowns.
The only regular left from 2020 is Boston Scott. His days as an Eagle may be numbered. Look for much change in this room.
Pro Bowler and Super Bowl hero Zach Ertz had a year to forget in 2020. He recorded just 36 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown in 11 injury-plagued games.
Ertz, who at one time, played like an immortal, is 30 years old and is looking to be traded.
Dallas Goedert is now entering his fourth season. In 2020, he caught 46 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. He also was injured for much of the season and played in just 11 games.
The Eagles are looking for a bounce back season from Goedert. But this position will be looking for a major makeover in the offseason.
Where do you start? Horrible draft picks, even worse free agent signings. When all the players are released or cut soon, this unit is left with Jalen Reagor, drafted in the first round in 2020 out of TCU.
He recorded just 31 receptions for 396 yards and one touchdown. He struggled in
virtually every aspect of the game.
Draft picks Quez Watkins, John Hightower made almost no impact in 2020. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, picked No. 19 in the second round of the 2019 draft. His place in the annals of Eagles draft busts is growing every day.
In 24 career games wearing an Eagles uniform, he has caught just 14 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown that was literally an accident.
Greg Ward, Jr. was a nice story, but he is not leading this team anywhere.
This is after the dust settles!
Travis Fulgham came out of nowhere in one of the Eagles four wins of the year against San Francisco and helped the Birds steal the game. He went on to dazzle in a loss to the Steelers hauling in10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 38 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns.
But then head coach Doug Pederson took away his snaps when DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery came back from injuries. Benching Fulgham was one of the biggest coaching mistakes of the season.
The Eagles have 11 picks in this year's draft. After you look at all the needs this team needs to address, it seems logical that owner Jeffrey Lurie would step in, make Hurts the quarterback and get his personnel team on track for a major rebuild. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii
References: Wikipedia.com and pro-football-reference.com