EAGLES

Eagles overreactions: How to judge Hurts' game vs. WFT

EAGLES

The Eagles' long-awaited Week 15 matchup with Washington basically couldn't have started worse, with a physics-defying interception, an ugly Jalen Hurts fumble, and just general chaos across the board.

But once the Tuesday night weirdness settled down and the Eagles actually played some football, they looked pretty sharp against a shorthanded Washington squad en route to the 27-17 win.

RELATED: Watch Hurts throw turn into weirdest interception ever

It wasn't a perfect game, but the Eagles don't have a losing record for the first time since they were entering Week 3, and there were a lot of things I liked from the Birds.

Let's overreact to a weird midweek win in South Philly:

1. Jalen Hurts actually had a great game

There was a lot of weirdness in the first quarter, which led to wide swaths of Eagles Twitter getting angry with Hurts and starting to think about G***ner M***hew. I was kind of surprised to see the fans get so uncomfortable so fast, considering Hurts hadn't played football in 23 days and the first mistake of the game wasn't even his fault.

I've been hard on Hurts this year because I'm not convinced he's the future, but it seemed like he didn't get the benefit of the doubt Tuesday night - when I think he should've.

His fumble on the second drive of the game was tough, as was his miss on a wide-open Kenneth Gainwell in the end zone when he tried to force a pass into double-coverage to DeVonta Smith.

 

On the whole, though, I thought Hurts played a very strong game on Tuesday night. He made plays both with his arm and with his feet, and he didn't make any plays that had me truly scratching my head. Was he perfect? No, not at all.

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But there were moments in this game that made me think he's growing as the season goes along, which is what he needs to show if he wants another chance at the starting job next season.

I loved this throw in the second quarter, for example. Here Hurts moves the pocket but doesn't bail, as he did earlier in the season. Instead he buys time, sees Dallas Goedert open at the second level, and puts some extra oomph on the throw to hit his tight end right in stride:

That's really good quarterbacking.

I also really loved this throw in the first quarter. It was clearly an unreal catch by DeVonta Smith, a player who needs more opportunities to make plays. But Hurts here did something you'll often see Patrick Mahomes do: as he's rolling out of the pocket to his right, Hurts starts moving inching the line of scrimmage, making it look like he's about to take off and run, but he toes the line and doesn't cross it while keeping his eyes downfield, eventually finding a player who is coming back to the ball:

Those are two plays I don't see happening in the first 10 weeks of the season as Hurts was largely relying on his mobility to make the really big plays.

And that's not even mentioning the absolute dart of a touchdown throw midway through the fourth quarter to Greg Ward, a perfect anticipation throw that landed exactly where it needed to be.

It's exciting to see the second-year QB making strides, and for his sake I hope he continues in that direction. The Eagles certainly need him to do so.

2. Nick Sirianni has really grown into this job

Nick Sirianni wasn't the Eagles' first choice when they sought out a new head coach last offseason, and he was only interviewed by one team during the coach-hiring process.

But right now, other than Brandon Staley out in Los Angeles, it seems the Eagles made the best hire of the bunch.

Sirianni came out of a 16-day layoff with the same verve that Andy Reid often possessed after he was given time to think during a bye week. The Eagles were using misdirection to their advantage all night both in the pass and run game; they were bunching up wide receivers at the goal line before sneaking it with Hurts; they were tossing Darius Slay out there on offense as a decoy in order to pick up a first down.

 

READ: Turns out Sirianni wasn’t joking as Slay gets snap on offense

Sirianni was flat-out balling Tuesday night, and every coming week has made the first-year head coach look more and more like an absolute steal.

Ironically, I really loved the play design on the Hurts throw that bounced off Goedert's ankle for an interception in the first quarter. It was a great way to play the threat of their dynamic run game off the threat of Hurts' feet. It just turned into a weirdo play.

But Sirianni went back to the well later in the first quarter, just flipping the play to the other side of the field, and the Birds picked up 20:

That's good, creative play design that plays off your team's strengths. That's excellent.

Sirianni has also shown he has a great handle on the balance between the pass and the run, something that eluded him in the early part of the season but has become a major weapon in the Eagles' return to the playoff picture. For all of their tremendous successes, neither Andy Reid nor Doug Pederson were particularly good at striking that balance, even in the good times.

Sirianni has coached just 14 games so far, but I'm absolutely ready to rule the hire a success. He's growing every week and showing more and more to get excited about.

3. Jason Kelce is absolutely a Hall of Famer

This third overreaction isn't much of an overreaction as far as I'm concerned, but the path of an offensive lineman to the Hall of Fame is never easy. Because they don't have the obvious counting stats of a wide receiver or running back, some of the greats can get lost in the shuffle.

I think Jason Kelce has a very strong Hall of Fame case, and another Pro Bowl selection this year would help.

But, when it comes down to it, you might just want to send this clip to the voting panel as evidence for just how uniquely special Kelce is at center:

That is a 34-year-old man absolutely FLYING down the field at the same speed as the running back 10 years his junior, ready to throw opposing defenders into the stands because he's simply a one-of-one athlete with no peer.

It's so easy to forget to watch the offensive line during any given play during an NFL game, but watching Kelce - really focusing on him, for a drive or for a quarter - is an absolute treat. You never know where he'll end up on the field, but you know he's going to give the guy across from him hell.

Kelce has been mauling guys this season, as he has for years, and the dude needs to be a household name the way someone like Quenton Nelson or Trent Williams is. We're watching the 11th season from a generational talent.