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  • Brian Baldinger


Brian Baldinger - On the Eagles

As I sit down to write this monthly column I have just watched the Eagles battle hard against the AFC West leaders, the LA Chargers.

They lost 27-24 on a last-second field goal. A heartbreaker to fall to 3-6.

I am not too concerned with their record here on November 9, I am far more concerned with individual development and team development.

When I turned the tape on, I almost didn't recognize the formation.

Jalen Hurts started the game with his hands under the butt of Jason Kelce and Boston Scott was lined up at eight yards deep.

It's been a long time since I have seen an Eagle QB with his hands under center. They did this 17 times in the game.

They ran it 14 times for 66 yards and used run action to throw it to DeVonta Smith 3 times for 69 yards. One was a beautiful 20-yard comeback on perfect timing. For a second I had a flashback to Kurt Warner throwing that route to Isaac Bruce during the tenure when they were billed as the 'Greatest Show on Turf.'

For most of the season I wondered how long they were going to line up as an offense and try to emulate a Big 12 offense with spread formations, shotgun and throwing far too many bubble screens.

If the screens got covered then Jalen would frantically run around and try to create something from a unscripted scramble drill.

It was not very flattering to the QB, coaches, nor the owner who is in charge of the elementary style of offense.

My biggest concern was that if this season was partly about the development of Jalen Hurts at QB, to see if he is capable of being a QB who can annually lead the Birds into the playoffs the way Donovan McNABB did for a decade.

If it were then, why not give Hurts a real NFL playbook with plenty of play action and deep shots down the field where you ask the QB to read the defense and decide where the coverage dictates you should throw the football.

Every week they steered away from that was another week whereby they really could not make a firm evaluation of Hurts.

So when I saw the direction that the formations and emphasis on a running game with Hurts under center, I said this is real development.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is finally starting to be given a pro style offense. He seems to be responding. Photo by Andy Lewis

Nick Sirianni and staff must now believe that Hurts has enough field experience to begin giving him more tools to work with.

It all started a few weeks ago when Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata returned to offensive tackle and Landon Dickerson began to look like the Bama Bully that he was before he tore his ACL.

The Eagles have what it takes to be a top-five running football team in the NFL.

You can't win consistently by running, but it can be a clear identity and when consistent enough you can pay it off with strong run action to push the ball down the field for big chunk style of plays.

The Broncos are the next test on November 14 at Mile High.

The Broncos are playing terrific football. With four minutes left in the game last week against the Cowboys they were up 30-0 and it didn't even feel that close.

Vic Fangio is a fabulous defensive coordinator. He disguises many of his coverages until the ball is snapped. They completely fooled Dak Prescott on one occasion that led to an interception.

It's a good test because I believe the Eagles are improving, although the 3-6 record may indicate otherwise.

But the Broncos are No. 2 in scoring defense just behind the Buffalo Bills.

The Birds will know on a flight home Sunday night just how far they have come and more importantly, how far they need to go.

As Hurts begins to start only his 14th NFL game on Sunday we know a couple of things. He is a tremendous leader. He competes very hard and always looks in the mirror at the truth first.

He also protects the football very well, and rarely ever does anything remotely careless with the ball. Those are all good building block traits.

Now if we can mix in some play action, some full field reads, and a little better touch and anticipation on key throws that you gotta make to be a perennial playoff team then I think we can all begin to think First with Hurts.

Sunday in his No. 14 start will be against the best defense he has faced and the Birds have faced in his 14th start.

It is a great test and we should all learn a great deal.

But I believe if he can add Quez Watkins into the offense with Devonta, Dallas, and the assortment of backs behind an improving offensive line that the Birds can finish the 2021 season with a top 10 offense. I hope I am right. *

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