Jalen Hurts just can't catch a break. The second-year QB, in his first year as the starter, just helped lead the Eagles to an unexpected playoff berth. And people are already calling for his job.
Sure, once they got to the postseason, they got blown out. But that was to the defending champs. And yes, he has some issues throwing the ball, but he's just 24 years old and brings an element on the ground that few guys at his position can. And, OK, we'll give you the fact that the postseason run was propped up by a string of games against some of the worst teams in the NFL.
But still, even if you're uncertain if he can become a franchise QB, it's hard to sit here in late January and feel bad about the job Hurts did for the Eagles in 2021. And that sentiment appears to at least be shared by his coach and general manager, who both gave him the endorsement to be the starter in 2022, with GM Howie Roseman going so far as to say it is now the Eagles' plan to build around the young QB moving forward, perhaps an indication that they'll actually use those three first-round picks to draft complementary pieces and, perhaps more likely, to improve their defense.
Of course, we also know that a year ago this time, Roseman compared Carson Wentz to a finger on his hand, and Wentz was shipped off to Indy for a pair of draft picks a few weeks later. That situation was different, with Wentz asking out, but it still proves the point that things change. And just because Roseman committed to Hurts last week, that doesn't mean he won't look elsewhere and make a move should the right opportunity present itself.
After all, despite the team's success in 2021 and Hurts' age, there are still serious question about whether or not he can develop into the kind of QB who can win you a Super Bowl — or even the kind of pass-first QB that Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie seem to prefer.
Luckily for the Eagles, if they do opt to look elsewhere for a quarterback, they should actually have some options. But first, they have to get out of "QB purgatory," which sounds like an absolutely awful place to be, just a white void full of echoing QB talk — word soup that doesn't actually say anything — and footballs flying back and forth narrowly missing your head on their way to a receiver who ran the wrong route.
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- NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: NFC championship round edition
That's where we'll start today's edition of What They're Saying...
'Stuck in QB Purgatory'
Jeremy Fowler |
Over at ESPN, Jeremy Fowler did his annual "overhaul tiers" ranking of NFL teams, and the Eagles actually moved up a level, although it doesn't sound like it. A year ago, the Birds were under "Time to reassess." This year, as you've probably guessed, they're "Stuck in QB purgatory," along with the Panthers, Broncos, Browns, Saints and Washington.
Here's more from Fowler...
Priorities this offseason: Take stock of the quarterback position and solidify its future. The lifeless wild-card loss to Tampa Bay raises questions about Jalen Hurts' 2022 outlook in green. Hurts did an admirable job leading Philadelphia to nine wins and a playoff berth, but his problems against the Bucs -- including struggling to see open receivers and bailing from the pocket too early -- aren't new. Philadelphia at least needs to create competition for Hurts. And with GM Howie Roseman's aggressive mentality, the Eagles are bound to be involved in a few big-game QB talks leaguewide. How could they not be, with three first-round picks (Nos. 15, 16 and 19 overall)?
The Eagles stay competitive most years because they prioritize line play, and both lines should remain solid. Re-signing Jason Kelce (who might retire) is a no-brainer. He's still playing well.
Philadelphia must address the secondary, which loses three starters. That entire group is aging, and it's time to add draft pedigree there. [
Keeping their options open
Zach Berman |
As we mentioned above, just because Roseman and the Eagles committed to Hurts for 2022 doesn't mean that things can't and won't change between now and the start of training camp. What the endorsement does seem to mean, however, is that the Eagles won't be looking to use any of their first-round picks on a quarterback.
But what happens if a QB becomes available, whether via trade or free agency, and Roseman suddenly sees a path to not only acquiring said QB, but quickly transforming the roster around him into a contender? If you know anything about how he operates, you know he's going to be looking to make that upgrade.
The three biggest names that could become available are Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson. Over at The Athletic, Zach Berman took a look at those three, as well as some options from the lower tiers of QB play, including Derek Carr and others, as well as some rookies they could take in the draft. But for this exercise, we'll stick with the names Eagles fans are likely most interested in...
The Eagles have been infatuated with Wilson since 2012. If Wilson became available and was interested in playing in Philadelphia, this would be the likeliest big fish for them to pursue. Wilson is 33 and coming off a down season, but he has been remarkably durable (his two absent games this season were the first he missed in his 10-year career) and has made the postseason in eight of 10 years. It’s conceivable to believe Wilson would be a high-level quarterback through much (or all) of his 30s. ...
There’s no indication Rodgers would be interested in leaving Green Bay to come to Philadelphia. There are more logical situations and places to land for Rodgers if he were to leave. Further, it doesn’t make much sense for the Eagles to go all-in on a 38-year-old quarterback, even if he’s one of the best players in NFL history.
When it comes to Watson, the question is more complicated...while facing 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Even if a team had no reservations about Watson’s playing status, the quarterback has a no-trade clause and must want to come to Philadelphia. There might be other suitors who are more appealing to Watson. Just as a team is only as committed as its options, a player’s preference often depends on his options. [
So, do any of those options seem like a path the Birds should take? Berman says yes...
My view: If the Eagles can land Wilson (who also has a no-trade clause), they should do what it takes to get him. That’s not a slight on Hurts as much as an indication of how an eight-time Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl ring could alter the trajectory of the franchise. It could be similar to Peyton Manning going to Denver in 2013, when he took over a team that made the postseason with Tim Tebow the previous year and invigorated the offense. [
A perk of keeping Hurts
Reuben Frank |
Over at NBC Sports Philly, Reuben Frank took a look at why the Eagles would actually benefit from bringing Hurts back another year. And this is one plan I actually agree with, especially if you're thinking the draft is the best option to find your franchise QB. Unless you can land someone like Wilson, the best option is to build around Hurts and his rookie contract, which will allow you to build at other positions. Then, when you're ready/there's a ready-made prospect, you do everything you can to go and get him.
By keeping Hurts for now, you maintain flexibility in a way that you haven't been able to since before Wentz signed that massive contract. You know, back when the Eagles were able to win a Super Bowl ... with a QB on a rookie contract.
The beauty of running it back with Jalen Hurts for another year is that there’s literally nothing to lose and so much to gain.
If the Eagles learn next year that Hurts isn’t the right guy to move forward with?
There’s no long-term contract to worry about, no dead cap money to get stuck with, no long-term commitment to try to get out of.
You just say thanks and move on. And in the meantime, you’ve dramatically upgraded the talent on both sides of the ball.
Hurts quarterbacking the Eagles in 2022 makes sense for so many reasons, but the biggest reason is flexibility. ...
Roseman talks constantly about the importance of getting younger and not relying on injury-prone older fading veterans. I could be wrong, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he turns one of those three 1st-rounders into a 2022 1st-rounder and another pick, but my hunch is that Howie wants to use all three picks because he knows the impact three stars can have on this team.
And if Hurts isn’t your quarterback, you can’t do that. [
What's up with the other Jalen?
Joe Banner |
Over at the Inquirer, in his recent Q&A with EJ Smith, Joe Banner was asked about another Eagles player on a rookie contract who is also named Jalen, Jalen Reagor.
Do you think Jalen Reagor will be on the Eagles next year? What did you make of what happened with him this season?
Here's what he had to say about the struggling former first-round pick...
I think he should go, and I think he will go. I don’t think he’s ever going to be even close to what they hoped for when they drafted him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get to the point of being a contributing player. He should be a good punt returner, but you can’t trust him. If he got a fresh start somewhere, could he develop into being a valuable asset? He shouldn’t be unable to contribute for the most part as a wide receiver, but that’s not where we’re at.
I don’t know why they kept playing him as much as they did, quite frankly, but they did. That should be a question with Nick Sirianni. He was flexible in changing scheme, but there were a couple of things that didn’t indicate he was great at evaluating the players. I still can’t believe, from everything I’ve heard or know, that based on Nick’s decision, Kenny Gainwell was the starting running back on this team [early in the season.] I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Gainwell, but that’s not his role and you did that while Miles Sanders is sitting there and healthy.
But Reagor should be gone, and I believe he will be gone. They need to replace him with someone better or at least more dependable and he needs to get to a space where he’s not prejudged by the history and the fact that he was a first-round draft pick. [
As for a potential return for Reagor?
"It’s anywhere from nothing to a late pick," Banner said.
What's next for Cox?
Chris Franklin |
Another player whose future is uncertain in Philly is veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who Banner was also asked about. But over at NJ.com, Chris Franklin took a longer look at Cox and whether or not he should be brought back next season or if the Eagles should look to move on...
The Eagles have always done well when they have two productive defensive line units to rush the passer and help contain the opposing team’s run game. Paired up with fellow defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, offensive coordinators must decide which player to double team. The presence of Cox helped Hargrave finish with 7.5 sacks, tying him with defensive end Josh Sweat for the team lead in that category.
Milton Williams would most likely be the replacement defensive tackle if Cox were to leave. After that, there is a bit of the drop-off in impact defensive tackles. Hassan Ridgeway is a solid defensive tackle that is stout against the run and provides the occasional push to collapse a pocket but needs another impact defensive tackle next to him on the second unit. The second unit would also keep Cox and Hargrave fresher as the season progressed, allowing them to have a better chance to get a pass rush.
Cox also played a lot better in the second half of the season, thanks to a change in philosophy by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Cox played better when asked to play more “downhill,” allowing him to penetrate the line and attack the quarterback or linebacker instead of reading and reacting, something Gannon asked Cox and the defensive linemen to do a lot in the first half of the season. [
Source : https://www.phillyvoice.com/eagles-news-trade-rumors-jalen-hurts-russell-wilson-aaron-rodgers-deshaun-watson-jalen-reagor-fletcher-cox/2618