Eagles

Christian Hackenberg growing, learning, preparing to get cut

Christian Hackenberg growing, learning, preparing to get cut

Christian Hackenberg is smart enough to understand the reality.

He's the fifth quarterback. Nobody keeps five quarterbacks. Nobody keeps four quarterbacks. A lot of teams don't even keep three.

He also understands a bigger reality. He's in a place where he can become a better quarterback every day.

And that's the reality he's choosing to focus on.

"At the end of the day, you only have control over what you have control over," Hackenberg said before practice Sunday.

"There's a lot of variables and a lot of speculation that goes on and I think the more narrow-minded you can be and kind of just focus on the day-to-day and the process, the better off you are.

"Things like picking up the offense as fast as you can, pushing yourself, kind of getting lost in those things, and being able to separate yourself (from worrying), and at the end of the day, some things work out, some things don't.

"I just have to do everything I can with the resources that have been provided to me to make sure that whatever gauge or time or whatever there is that's going to go into the evaluation process that puts me in the best position to be able to grow. Because that's the end-game.

"Getting better and continuing to take baby steps. I'm still young and those things for me are big. That's the coolest part for me. Really enjoying it and staying day-to-day, hour-to-hour."

The Eagles signed Hackenberg, the Jets' 2016 second-round pick, last weekend and have begun the process of teaching him the offense and working on his mechanics.

It's really a pretty cool thing. Both sides understand there isn't a roster spot for Hackenberg. Both sides understand, barring several very unlikely developments, he'll be released on Sept. 1.

But both sides simply value the process of a young quarterback getting better. Doug Pederson loves working with young quarterbacks, and Hackenberg is a willing student.

And that's where everybody's focus is.

"Just feels good to kind of get back in the swing of things," said Hackenberg, who had been out of football after being released by the Raiders in June.

"It's kind of hard to gauge things coming in so late, but just making sure I'm taking advantage of every opportunity I get. Studying extra, making sure I catch up as best I can and then taking advantage of some of the resources in the building.

"There's a lot here. They do a great job with providing you everything from strength and condition to nutrition, all that stuff. Just trying to get myself in the best position so when those opportunities do come I can go out and do what I've got to do.

"But it's been great. I love the environment, I love the building. Really excited for the opportunity and just trying to take full advantage of it."

We watched Hackenberg throwing before the Patriots preseason game, and his arm jumps out at you. He's got a rocket.

At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he sure looks the part.

If the Eagles trade a quarterback, which isn't out of the question, there's a chance Hackenberg could wind up as No. 3.

But that's getting ahead of ourselves. Right now, he's just enjoying some relative anonymity after two years of drama in New York.

"I've [gotten better at] having to compartmentalize outside pressure and all these things that are getting put on you," he said. "So when you have time when you're not in the league or not with a team ... you can sit or mope about it [or] just put in the work."

Hackenberg won't play Thursday night against the Browns, but with Wentz and Foles not playing in the preseason finale a week from Thursday, we should get our first look at Hackenberg.

Opponent? The Jets.

"It's not my decision, but I'm definitely putting in the time that I can," he said. "Staying late, coming in early.

"It's a great room, great quarterbacks coach (Press Taylor), Carson's awesome, ton of respect for him, Nick's great, Nate's great, Joe (Callahan) has been awesome.

"Those guys have done a great job accepting me and bringing me in and pushing me and giving me a lot of good stuff to work on and chew on. It's been great."

Hackenberg sounds happier than he's been in a long time. Even though he knows it'll all probably end in 12 days.

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Eagles-Saints NFL Week 11 predictions

Eagles-Saints NFL Week 11 predictions

The Eagles (4-5) are coming off a tough loss to the rival Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and now they have to travel to New Orleans to face the Saints (8-1). 

The Eagles opened as nine-point underdogs. It was the first time they opened as underdogs all season. 

To the predictions: 

Reuben Frank (5-4) 
Maybe I’m crazy. This one looks so lopsided, looks unwinnable, looks like a completely lost cause. Heck, I can’t even figure out how the Eagles are going to keep things close Sunday against the Saints. But the NFL is weird. It seems like so often when everybody in the universe is convinced a game is going to go one way, it goes the other way. I’m banking on there being enough pride left in a team that just nine months ago won a Super Bowl to stand toe to toe with the 8-1 Saints and get out of the Superdome with a win. I don’t know how. 

The Saints don’t have a great defense. They don’t need a great defense, but maybe the Eagles’ offense suddenly solves its red-zone issues. Maybe Doug Pederson magically recalls his 2017 play-calling touch. Maybe the defense makes up for the last two months and forces a few turnovers. Maybe a few balls bounce funny and right into somebody’s hands. Maybe the Eagles simply outscore the Saints, who are allowing nearly 27 points per game. I know one thing. As long as No. 11 is out there, the Eagles have a chance. This team rarely gets blown out, and I don’t think it will Sunday. It’s just a matter of whether the offense can get untracked. I say yes. I say Eagles over Saints. No, really.

Eagles 43, Saints 37 

Dave Zangaro (2-7)
Drew Brees has been playing so well and the Saints seem pretty much unstoppable. They’re averaging over 36 points per game and I don’t know how the Eagles are going to stop them or keep up. The Eagles are without Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod. Having Sidney Jones back will help, but it won’t solve the problem. 

If the Eagles were to somehow pull off a win, they would need to play an almost perfect game. Carson Wentz will need to guide them to the best offensive performance we’ve seen from the Eagles all year. I’m not saying there’s no chance the Eagles win; I just don’t see it happening. 

Saints 35, Eagles 27

Derrick Gunn (3-6) 
It's bad enough the Eagles gave one away to Dallas, but now they hit the road to face the hottest team in the league. Brees is playing out of his mind right now with a 77.3 completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, one interception, and has been sacked just nine times. Nobody sees the field better than he does.

The Eagles’ banged-up secondary has to find a way to control Saints WR Michael Thomas, and the front seven’s task is to keep the backfield duo of Alvin Kamara (4.4 ypc) and Mark Ingram (4.5 ypc) from running over it the way Ezekiel Elliott did. Also, the Eagles’ D could use a few turnovers to go its way; it has forced only seven this season, and the Saints don’t give the ball away often.

Pederson said his offense is not that far off numbers-wise from where it was a season ago. That may be true but having scored more than 24 points in a game only once this year is unsettling. Wentz must find a way to get this offense moving, and fast. The Birds’ offense is 17th in red-zone efficiency (55.9 percent) and converts on 41.2 percent of third-down situations. 

I’ve looked at this matchup from every possible angle trying to find a ray of hope for the Eagles, but because of their injuries, inconsistencies and the team they’re playing, it doesn’t look good. 

Saints 37, Eagles 21

Ray Didinger (4-5) 
Crazy things happen in the NFL. Let me take you back to December 2015. The Eagles were coming off a humiliating 45-14 loss in Detroit. Jeff Lurie was about to pull the plug on Chip Kelly. The franchise was in ruins. So what happens? The Eagles go to Foxboro and knock off the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, 35-28. Who saw that coming?

So is it possible the Eagles could go to New Orleans on Sunday and cool off the 8-1 Saints? Look, if Sam Bradford can beat Tom Brady, it is certainly possible Wentz can beat Brees. The Saints lost at home to Tampa Bay and Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this season, so it's not like it can't happen. Of course the Bucs had to score 48 points to do it, so good luck with that, Pederson.

The Eagles are underdogs — nine points this time — and they seem to like that role but the matchup of a red-hot Brees and the Eagles' patchwork secondary is downright scary. Yeah, any given Sunday and all that jazz, but I'm not feeling it this week.

Saints 35, Eagles 24  

Andrew Kulp (4-5) 
I don't think it's a question of whether the Eagles are going to lose, but by how much. With all the injuries, they appear to be completely outclassed by the Saints, who look like the best team — or at least the hottest team — in the NFL right now.

Brees should absolutely dissect this secondary, and while the Eagles could score some points, they haven't demonstrated the ability to do so with any consistency. This could get ugly.

Saints 34, Eagles 20

Corey Seidman (3-6) 
The NFL is a week-to-week league. Losing to a mediocre team one week does not mean you're going to get blown out by a good team the next.

I think the Eagles' offense wakes up in a big way in this game and it ultimately falls just short against a Saints offense that can do whatever it wants.

This is the best Saints offense we've seen Brees engineer. Kamara runs precise routes and catches everything. Thomas runs even more precise routes and catches everything. Taysom Hill makes the Saints borderline unstoppable on a 3rd-and-3 or shorter.

Saints 36, Eagles 33

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Eagles will wait 1 more week to get Tim Jernigan back

Eagles will wait 1 more week to get Tim Jernigan back

The Eagles won’t have Tim Jernigan for this weekend’s game in New Orleans. 

Even though Jernigan has been practicing for two weeks and has been rotating in with the starters, the Eagles are going to give him another week to get ready. If Jernigan was going to play this weekend, he needed to be activated by 4 p.m. Saturday. That deadline has passed. 

During the past week, head coach Doug Pederson said twice (most recently on Friday) that he was optimistic Jernigan would be able to play against the Saints. 

The lack of a move with Jernigan was signaled early on Saturday, when the Eagles put Ronald Darby on IR and brought up De’Vante Bausby. And on Friday, they activated Richard Rodgers to the 53-man roster. 

Because Jernigan is still on the non-football injury list after offseason back surgery, the Eagles weren’t required to put him on their injury report this week and didn’t need to give an official game status for him. 

Jernigan was cleared to return to practice on Nov. 5, which started a 21-day practice window. By the end of that window, the Eagles must decide to either activate Jernigan to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the year. That window will end next Saturday, so the Eagles will likely have him for next week's game. 

The fact that he was even close to returning this week makes it seem like he will return this year. That will be a boost for the Eagles, but it might also be too little too late. 

The Eagles have really missed Jernigan this season and they’ll probably miss him again this weekend. Haloti Ngata (knee) enters the weekend listed as questionable. If he can’t play, they’re down to either Treyvon Hester or T.Y. McGill next to Fletcher Cox. In fact, that spot next to Cox has probably been one of the weakest starting positions on the depth chart this year. 

For a long time, there were serious questions about whether or not Jernigan would be able to return at all this season. His injury still has plenty of mystery surrounding it. It seems like he’s getting close, though. Maybe next week.

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