Eagles

Stop asking Jalen Hurts about being a gadget player

Stop asking Jalen Hurts about being a gadget player

Sometimes you learn more about someone by what they don’t say than what they do say.

Jalen Hurts chatted with the Philly media Tuesday on a Zoom call, and he was asked three times in slightly different ways about playing positions other than quarterback.

He was respectful, but it was clear he didn’t like the line of questioning.

And honestly - with all due respect to my distinguished colleagues - I don’t blame him.

He’s a 21-year-old kid who’s spent his whole life preparing for this moment. He worked his butt off to become an incredibly successful college quarterback. He played on a national championship team as a junior at Alabama and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a senior at Oklahoma.

And he’s just starting his first NFL training camp as he chases his dream of becoming an NFL quarterback and three of the first four questions he hears in his first press conference since draft day are about NOT playing quarterback?

This is how it went:

QUESTION: “Is your expectation that you will have a role in the offense even if you are not the starting quarterback?”

Jalen Hurts:(Sigh) I don’t look into the expectations. I don’t worry about those things. I’m  worried about just getting better as a quarterback every day. That’s all I’m worried about,.”

QUESTION: “How willing, how open and how comfortable would you be doing things other than quarterback?”

Jalen Hurts: “I mean (sigh), I don’t want to get into the semantics of those things. (Big sigh). I’m just worried about improving. I’ve said it three times and I don’t want to come off or come across any way, I’m just trying to improve every day. I’m trying to be the best quarterback I can be every day for this team.”

QUESTION: “What can you do besides play quarterback? What other positions can you play or are you prepared to play? 

Jalen Hurts: “I’ve played quarterback my whole entire life and I’m here just trying to grow at that position. Trying to take steps and be the best quarterback I can be for this team.”

I understand the interest in Hurts as a jack-of-all-trades or a Wildcat or a situational runner. He did rush for nearly 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns last year. And he’s obviously not going to beat out Carson Wentz for the starting job anytime soon. So it’s natural to wonder how he can help the football team as long as Wentz is on the field.

But think of this from his perspective. 

He piled up nearly 13,000 scrimmage yards in college, threw 80 TDs and 20 interceptions (including 57 and 11 the last three years) and had a 38-4 record as a starter playing in the SEC and the Big 12. His 176.0 passer rating was 2nd-highest in the BCS over the last three years, behind only former teammate Tua Tagovailoa.

Whatever you think of Hurts as a prospect and whatever you think of the Eagles taking him at No. 53 in April, I don’t want him doing anything right now other than preparing to play quarterback for this football team.

That’s where his full attention should be focused and that’s where it is focused. 

Sure, he’s a heck of a runner, a tremendous athlete and a versatile kid. And if he spoke for 10 minutes about how many different ways he could help the Eagles without playing QB, it would have made a better story. But I like the fact that he didn’t. 

I want him preparing like a quarterback.

This is a different kind of offseason, with no minicamps or preseason games and a stripped-down training camp. 

Hurts has 46 days to get ready to play NFL football because last time I checked Wentz has been having trouble getting to the end of the season, and the NFL is trying to operate amidst a pandemic that could knock a QB or two out of commission at any time.

There’ll be a time when Doug Pederson and the other offensive coaches sit down with Hurts and add a gadget play or two.

And if his number gets called, it’ll be fun to watch.

But right now there’s an offense to learn, wide receivers to throw to, defenses to study.

Jalen Hurts is a quarterback, and I’m glad he’s thinking like one. 

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Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Back in May, I wrote about the Eagles’ alarming lack of young talent. I ranked the Eagles’ top-10 players under 25 and as you can see the list drops off quickly once you get past Miles Sanders at No. 1.

The Eagles have reached the playoffs the last three years and won a Super Bowl in 2017 with a veteran roster, but Howie Roseman went to great lengths this offseason to re-stock the roster with talented young players. But just about every one of them comes with a giant question mark. 

People have noticed.

ESPN on Monday released an analytics-driven ranking of the under-25 talent on each of the 32 NFL teams, and the Eagles finished 29th, ahead of only the Vikings in 30th, the Patriots in 31st and the Falcons in 32nd.

The No. 29 ranking is actually an improvement over last year’s No. 32 ranking.

And while the analysis was flawed in one way and kind of ridiculous in another, the piece does correctly illustrate the concerning absence of proven young talent on the Eagles’ roster.

One absurdity in the ESPN piece: The Eagles are one of three teams listed with no so-called “blue-chip” players under 25.

Last we checked, Sanders is 23.

Sanders led all NFL rookies last year with 1,327 scrimmage yards, was 9th in the NFL in rushing average and had the 12th-most catches of all NFL running backs yet wasn’t one of 79 players listed as a blue-chipper.

That’s just silly.

Another absurdity: In explaining why the Eagles improved from 32nd to 29th, the piece credits the Eagles’ success with players drafted in “later rounds” of the draft and uses Sidney Jones as an example. But Jones was a 2nd-round pick and played more than 3 snaps in only two of the Eagles’ last nine games.

But despite the piece’s flaws, it does correctly highlight a general lack of young, proven talent on the roster.

As of now, the Eagles have only four slam-dunk projected under-25 starters: Sanders along with Andre Dillard, Derek Barnett and Avonte Maddox, who are all 24. T.J. Edwards, who is 24, is a likely starter, and either 23-year-old J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or 21-year-old Jalen Reagor will likely start as well.

For the sake of comparison, the Giants rank second in the ESPN piece after being No. 5 last year. They are listed with five “blue-chip” players under 25 (Will Hernandez, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas). 

Washington is No. 11 with five blue-chippers (Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin).

And the Cowboys are No. 24 with four blue-chippers (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb).

The five teams with the most under-25 talent according to the piece are the Ravens, Giants, Cards, Bills and 49ers.

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The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

 

The hidden value of Jason Avant, a ridiculous Kevin Curtis stat and the Cre’Von LeBlanc conundrum.

That’s just a taste of what lies ahead in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. Bringing Jason Avant in as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program is a really under-rated move. A few people complained on Twitter that it makes no sense to bring in one of the slowest receivers to work with this group of speedy receivers. But that’s exactly why it makes sense. Because it takes a lot more than just speed to make it as a WR, and Avant is proof of that. Jason’s 40 time at the 2006 Combine was 4.62, which ranked 38th out of 41 WRs who ran that year. Yet he went on to catch 346 passes for 4,118 yards in 10 seasons and was one of the NFL’s most dependable slots for a decade. Avant is here because although you can’t teach speed, you can teach everything else: “I was a technical receiver,” Avant said on the Eagles’ web site. “I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's just not about speed and movement.” Great move.

2. Speaking of slow receivers at the 2006 Combine … nobody in NFL history had more 85-yard touchdown catches than Hank Baskett, who ran a 4.50 at that same 2006 Combine. Hank had two in 2006 and one in 2008. In NFL history, only Cliff Branch, Bob Hayes, John Taylor and Wesley Walker had as many 85-yard TDs as Baskett, who was undrafted. Baskett had as many TD catches of at least 85 yards from 2006 through 2008 as every other Eagle has combined over the last 30 years.  

3. The last Eagles WR with consecutive 100-yard games: Jordan Matthews vs. the Cards and Redskins in 2015. Since then, 52 different NFL receivers from 29 other teams have had back-to-back 100-yard games.

4. It sure seems like Avonte Maddox will get the first crack at CB2 opposite Darius Slay, with Sidney Jones backing him up. And it sure seems like Nickell Robey-Coleman will get the first crack at the slot. If I were Jim Schwartz I’d make sure I found ways to get Cre’Von LeBlanc on the field. The guy is active, tough, smart, physical and instinctive. Good things happen when he plays. I don’t know where he fits in, but Schwartz and d-backs coach Marquand Manuel need to make sure he DOES fit in.

5. Misleading stats can be fun. Here’s one: Kevin Curtis averaged more yards per game in his Eagle career (56.3) than Harold Carmichael (49.9).

6. I wrote about 5-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith the other day in my piece on 10 great NFL players who began their careers in obscurity with the Eagles. How much of a difference would Smith have made if the Eagles kept him instead of Jeff Sydner at the end of 1994 training camp? From 1999 through 2005 - the seven years where Smith and Donovan McNabb were both in the league - Smith had 8,249 receiving yards. During the same span, the Eagles’ leading receiver was Todd Pinkston, with 2,816 yards. Imagine how much would have been different if Kotite had seen the greatness of Jimmy Smith staring him right in his face? 

7. We talk all the time about how incredible Nick Foles was in the 2017 playoffs, but right along with his remarkable performance is the fact that he dropped back 108 times and was sacked twice - once in the Falcons game and once in the Vikings game. Foles’ 971 passing yards in the 2017 postseason are the most in NFL history by a QB who was sacked two or fewer times. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks were the heart of that o-line, but Big V and Stefen Wisniewski were both huge during that run as well.

8. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: In the summer of 1971, there was a kicking competition in Eagles training camp between incumbent Mark Moseley, who the fans were furious with after his 27-yard miss cost the Eagles a 1970 win over the Falcons, and rookie 4th-round pick Happy Feller, the overwhelming fan favorite. “‘I’ll probably go out there to kick and the fans will all want to see Happy,” Moseley told Chuck Newman in the Aug. 13, 1971, Inquirer, before the first home preseason game of 1971. “Maybe they’ll boo, but that’s their privilege. The fans have their favorites.” As it turned out, the Eagles kept Feller and released Moseley. Feller went on to go 6-for-20 on field goal attempts in 1971, and that 30 percent accuracy is the worst in the NFL in the last 50 years. Feller spent a couple years with the Saints and made 37 percent of his career field goals. Nobody else in the NFL over the last 50 years has been under 50 percent. Moseley kicked in the NFL for 17 years and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

9. Crazy that there are more assistant coaches than players still with the Eagles from the Chip Kelly Era. Six coaches, two players. And there are more players remaining that Andy Reid brought in (five) than Chip brought in (two). And there isn’t a single player from either the 2014 or 2015 drafts still in the organization.

10. Need more evidence of Duce Staley’s ability to get the most out of his players? Since 2015, the Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn’t had a running back with 200 carries in a season. During that five-year period, Duce has made do with an ever-changing rotation of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Josh Adams one year, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Boston Scott. Yet with that unsettled group of young unproven backs and veterans at the end of their career, the Eagles are 9th in the NFL in rushing during that five-year span. Of that group, Murray, Blount, Ajayi, Sproles and Mathews are all out of the league. 

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