1. Through 10 starts, what are your thoughts on Jalen Hurts as the Eagles’ starting quarterback? Is he the future of the franchise or should the organization look elsewhere, or somewhere in between?
Hurts is a rootable player. It’s not hard to understand why people WANT him to be the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. He checks all the boxes from a leadership and intangibles standpoint. His mobility is a weapon, he’s demonstrated nice touch throwing the ball, and he’s tough.
Unfortunately, Hurts is likely a limited passing talent. He just doesn’t have the same arm that the NFL’s elite quarterbacks boast. He hasn’t been able to really work the middle of the field thus far in his career and inaccuracy has been an issue. Nick Sirianni has admitted he’s broken the pocket too early at times. Leaving big plays on the field (read: opportunity cost) has hurt the offense.
There’s a lot of talk about Hurts being young and, as you pointed out, he only has 10 starts under his belt. I don’t disagree that he can get better. But to what extent is he really going to improve? Is he ever going to be one of the league’s very best passers? It’s not easy to believe he’s going to bridge that gap.
I think the realistic best-case scenario for Hurts is that he becomes a solid but unspectacular starter in the league. Good enough to get you to the playoffs, perhaps, but you’re probably never going on a championship run with him. Thinking he might fit in the tier with Andy Dalton in his prime, Tyrod Taylor, etc.
The Eagles didn’t draft Hurts at No. 53 overall because they thought he was a long-term starter. They clearly had reservations about him in the offseason, as evidenced by their maneuvering to acquire three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft and their heavily rumored interest in Deshaun Watson.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is admittedly obsessed with having an elite passing offense. It’s hard to imagine he’ll settle for less at the most important position in the sport. Hurts still has time to prove he’s the franchise guy with 11 more games to play. But he’s currently not on track to clear the very high bar that the Eagles likely have set for him.
2. It feels like we’ve been waiting for Dallas Goedert to take the proverbial next step for a few years now. Do you think that has more to do with him not having as many opportunities while playing behind Zach Ertz, or a sign that he hasn’t been developing the way the organization would like? Building off that, how do you think Ertz’s departure will change Goedert’s role moving forward?
Splitting playing time and targets with Ertz certainly has certainly prevented Goedert from being a dominant TE1. I wouldn’t say he hasn’t developed the way the team has liked. They have confidence he can step up in a volume role. He’s done it before when Ertz has missed playing time.
One would figure Goedert’s usage will go way up. He’s currently sitting at 3.8 targets per game this season. Ertz was at 5.2 before getting traded.
I don’t know exactly what Goedert’s workload will look like this week against the Raiders. He missed Wednesday’s practice while still on the reserve/COVID-19 list and he was limited to conditioning work on Thursday. I anticipate he’ll have a role but I don’t know that the Eagles will be looking to run their offense through him.
3. Lane Johnson said on Twitter that he’s coming back this week. What does he bring to Philly’s offensive line and how does his return shake things up from what we’ve seen from them up front over the last few weeks?
Johnson is one of the best players on the roster. Arguably THE best on offense. His return is certainly welcomed. With Johnson at right tackle, the Eagles can move Jordan Mailata back to left tackle. Mailata has much more experience and success at that spot than he does on that right side. So, overall, the offensive line is just better.
And that’s important when it comes to this week’s game because the Eagles strongly believe in winning through the trenches. Johnson’s presence gives Philly a chance to limit the damage that Maxx Crosby can do. With the Raiders having a lighter front (Johnathan Hankins excluded), the Eagles might be able to have some success running the ball.
Their ground game has been effective; they’re logging 5.2 yards per carry and rank third (!) in rushing DVOA. It’s just that Nick Sirianni has inexplicably refused to run the ball more often. Perhaps the mini-bye coming off Thursday Night Football has allowed Sirianni to reflect on his mistakes? We’ll believe it when we see it.
4. At least for me, Javon Hargrave has been the biggest surprise on the Eagles’ defense this year. He’s got an elite 90.2 PFF pass-rush grade and 19 pressures on the year, so I’m curious if he’s caught you by surprise too, or has he been a guy that a lot of people in Philly thought would break out soon and the rest of the world is finally taking notice? And has he taken over for Fletcher Cox as the Eagles’ best pass rusher?
Hargrave showed some flashes down the stretch in 2020 after getting past the injuries that slowed him early in the season. Being healthy has clearly made a big difference for him in 2021. Hargrave dominated training camp; he was the team’s best player from their summer practices. In that vein, it hasn’t been surprising to see him be a beast in the regular season.
He’s definitely a more effective player than Fletcher Cox at this stage in his career. Cox isn’t a bad player by any means but he’s not the consistently elite difference-maker that he used to be. That being said, Cox (and Hargrave) could cause some issues for a Raiders team that doesn’t exactly boast the best interior offensive line situation in the NFL.
5. Can you give us a matchup between Philadelphia’s secondary and Las Vegas’ receiving corps that you think favors the Eagles and vice versa?
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has really stressed not giving up big plays. Philly has mostly succeeded in this regard. How have they achieved this? Well, the Eagles play a lot of Cover 2 with their safeties lined up especially far back. So, this might not be the week that Henry Ruggs III really pops off for big gains over the top of the defense.
Preventing big plays has come at the cost of allowing teams to do damage underneath. Derek Carr could have a lot of success dinking-and-dunking down the field to the likes of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. If Carr can consistently drive down the field like other veteran quarterbacks (see: Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott) have been able to do against Philly, it could be a long day for the Eagles’ defense.