Undrafteds Philadelphia Eagles preseason review! The Eagles are a team in need of recreating their identity. The identity of that team that took home the Lombardi feels like it’s no longer there in Philly, and there’s a new era on the horizon, whether that includes Jalen Hurts or not. Now of course the Jalen Hurts conversation is a pivotal part of this teams future, and the decisions that they make in the coming months will depend heavily on it!
When you think about the elite talent on that Super Bowl roster, Fletcher Cox, now 30, Brandon Graham, 33, Zach Ertz, also 30, there’s a good chance that at least a couple of them could be traded. Then the Quarterbacks on the roster at the time of course, Foles and Wentz, are both now on different teams, the head coach is no longer there, and GM Howie Roseman is very much so, for me, on his last legs. It feels like the Eagles are teetering on the edge of tearing it down and starting all over again, and considering their position against the other three teams in the division, it could be wise to head down that path sooner rather than later if they’re going to do it. Then two seasons from now, you’re right back in the mix challenging for the NFC East. However, if Jalen Hurts puts on a show this year, and can form a great relationship with offensive head minded head coach Nick Sirianni, and heisman winning talent DeVonta Smith, maybe the rebuild won’t be even slightly necessary.
Last season, the offence was troubling to watch. Travis Fulgham led the team in receiving yards with 539 and 4 touchdowns, the run game struggled at times too, and the back and forth situation at QB between Wentz and Hurts didn’t help to settle anything down. Ultimately, the Eagles poor showing and seeming internal struggles cost then Head Coach Doug Pederson his position, and in comes the new young talent Nick Sirianni to try and turn things around in the city of brotherly love.
The Head Coach
Any head coaching hire who hasn’t been a head coach before is a risk. But head coaches with plenty of head coaching experience are hard to come by, especially when the off season hosts several teams who are all in the hunt. Nick Sirianni, despite being only 40 years old, has been in the NFL since 2009, and comes with an impressive resume. He worked with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-2013, when he took a role with the then San Diego Chargers as their offensive quality control coach. He moved up from that role after one year into the quarterbacks coach position, and spent two years doing that, before then moving onto coach the wide receivers. He was then offered his first coordinator role with the Indianopolis Colts in 2018, where he spent 3 seasons before joining the Eagles this off season.
I like this hire for where the Eagles are at right now. I like it because Sirianni is an offence/quarterbacks first kind of guy. it means he can come in, make his judgement on Jalen Hurts game and how he wants to support in shaping him into an NFL quarterback, and at the end of the season can make an assessment on whether Hurts is the guy for the future of the franchise or not. I feel as though Sirianni has no pressure on his shoulders this year, not many are expecting the Eagles to win the NFC East, and in their current position, a top 5 draft pick wouldn’t be the end of the world.
It seems as though Sirianni is very much in Jalen Hurts corner… giving him high praise in this interview with Tim McManus of ESPN
“He is a relentless worker. He comes to work every single day with the intent to get better every single day. And even from the Zoom meetings when we got in, I just saw him take command of the offense … and was just on it. You ask him a question, he’s on it. And it’s really translated into walk-throughs on the field and in drill work. So really impressed with his command, his attention to detail, his work ethic. He’s got all those intangibles right there and I was really impressed with that from him.”
“And then just on the field, he’s just got a really compact throwing motion where he can get it out with ease. And super athletic when he’s throwing on the run and moving and reading the defense. So really pleased with a lot of the things that he did.”
I didn’t like the pick for the Eagles or for Jalen Hurts when they selected him in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft. It felt strange, and then the comments that followed about using him in QB packages with Wentz etc made it even more strange. However, as it transpired, there is now a clear path for Jalen to take over the Eagles and stamp himself as a franchise quarterback. But he needs to be given the opportunity to do so, and I like the sound of Nick Sirianni’s belief in his ability to do just that.
Hurts was thrown in at random points during the year last season, before getting his first start against the New Orleans Saints, in which Philly pulled out a shocking win. Hurts went 17 of 30 throwing attempts for 167 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 106 yards of his own too. He offers them something different to what they had with Wentz or Foles, and there’s real potential there for that to be a very fun offence to watch. They just need to figure out in Philly how to utilise Jalen Hurts skills, and pulling him off the field in week 17 when the season is already over is not the way to do that. Doug Pederson benched Hurts against Washington in the final game of the year, and the players, namely Jason Kelce and Miles Sanders, were not at all happy about it.
This year, you have nothing to lose. Let him play, there’s no way they’ve taken Joe Flacco up there to challenge him for the starting position. This year is all about seeing just how much value you got yourselves in the 2nd round selection of Jalen Hurts. Give him the season, give him weapons that can get open, DeVonta Smith will certainly contribute to that. and lets see how things are looking at the end of the year.
The Rookie To Watch
Well when the Heisman winner gets passed on by 11 teams and you get to trade down and STILL pick him, there can’t be many complaints. DeVonta Smith has been wrongly written off by so many ‘experts’ after putting together ridiculous numbers at Alabama last season, without a single cup cake game in sight. Alabama only played SEC opponents in the regular season due to COVID restrictions barring teams playing outside of their division, and Smith still notched 1,327 yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season alone, topping the previous seasons 1,203 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Smith is an incredible talent, who can blow the top off your defence, play across the middle, out jump a man in close man to man coverage, and fight for extra yardage. His size has nothing to do with it for me. He’ll pack a little more weight on as he moves into the NFL weight room, but don’t expect him to get anywhere close to 200 pounds. Plus, let him stay fast and play at a comfortable weight for himself. These analysts declaring him a bust before he plays a snap, after the production he’s just had in college, need to silence themselves.
Smith will go to work with Jalen Hurts every day and I hope we see a partnership blossom there between the two ex Alabama stars.
The New Kid On The Block
Anthony Harris has been performing at a high level for the Minnesota Vikings for multiple years now, and hit the market this off season as a free agent. The Eagles got him for a great deal and he signs on a one year, $4M contract. He’ll join a secondary that added Darius Slay last season, and offers some much needed experience at the safety position, which was something the Eagles haven’t replaced since Malcolm Jenkins left town.
Harris 2018 and 2019 seasons were the two years that put the rest of the league on notice, and if it hadn’t been for the franchise tag in 2020, he would have got himself a large contract with another team. In those two seasons combined Harris managed 10 interceptions, and 7 pass break ups, as well as 87 tackles. In 2020 the picks dried up, but his tackling rate was dramatically improved, and he was playing on a depleted Vikings defence.
Harris will be looking to prove himself once again this season, as he looks to find himself a longer term deal, and more money, ideally with the Eagles, but if not elsewhere. It’s a prove it season for him, and we could see him perform at a high level once again.
The Up & Comer
Anthony Harris’ partner in the secondary this year is likely to be Marcus Epps, who was also a Minnesota Viking along with Harris in the 2019 season. The former walk on at Wyoming prospect was drafted in the sixth round by the Vikings in the 2019 draft, before being claimed off waivers by the Eagles during the season.
In 2020 Epps was a regular contributor and one of the more consistent players across the defence. He rounded out the year with two picks in the last three games of the season, which he started all three of, and seems to be shaping up to start the season at free safety for Philly. I like the pairing of this young prospect with the experienced Anthony Harris, and there’s a window of opportunity for Epps to claim that role if he fits it well and performs.
Record Prediction: 7-10
I don’t believe the Eagles will be as bad as some are predicting they might be, and a lot of that stems from my belief in Jalen Hurts as a player, and as a leader. When he was benched last year the team was up in arms about it, and it certainly wouldn’t have helped with the already divided locker room between players and coaches.
The team had Hurts back and I do too. You’ll struggle to find anybody who works harder than that young man, who goes to work everyday with a chip on his shoulder. The Eagles can upset some teams this year, and they’re by no means a team that’s going to roll over and suffer a loss without putting up a serious fight. A 6 to 7 win season for the Eagles this year is a good season, and if they can make their Quarterback decision comfortably at the end of it, with a draft pick in the top 10, I like where they’re heading.
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