Eagles overreactions: Hurts shows 1 way he can keep QB job originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Just when you think you have a handle on what this Eagles team is, Nick Sirianni's squad crosses the country and hands the Broncos a beat-down.
Are the Birds officially back and rolling? I'd be more convinced if they'd won in Week 9 against the Chargers, but this win absolutely has to feel good. So let's go crazy and overreact to a big victory.
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1. Ok, Jalen Hurts can be the QB again next year
You've got to admit when you're wrong, and I know it was just one game, but this column is called Eagles Overreactions, not Eagles Measured Takes. So here goes: I was wrong about Jalen Hurts when I said he wasn't a starting-caliber quarterback.
And, yes, he can be the Eagles' QB next year. Not SHOULD be. Not WILL be. But CAN be.
I still think the Eagles should take a big swing at an established QB or try to find a young guy in the draft to bring in, if at least for a competition with Hurts and Gardner Minshew.
If the big swing for veteran QBs doesn't happen, and the team agrees that this is a weak QB class, I'm totally good with bringing him back and loading up on young talent with those three first-round picks. Because he's finally showing the kind of growth we've been waiting to see.
Hurts showed growth Sunday - and, frankly, has over the last few weeks - especially in terms of his decision-making. In the first quarter it seemed he was going to bail on a pocket early once again, but instead of putting his head down and going all run, he kept his eyes downfield and found Dallas Goedert for a big first-down conversion:
(That was unfortunately the play that took Goedert off the field for the rest of the game.)
Hurts has also shown that he plays to the team's strengths; he's constantly looking for his top targets in Goedert and DeVonta Smith, two bona fide playmakers who are far and away the best skill players on the Eagles' roster. I'm all for spreading the ball around, but when you have good players, you're best served to continue to look their way, and Hurts has regularly looked to get those two guys the ball this year. That's a good thing.
Hurts is extremely turnover- and mistake-averse, which led to some questionable decisions earlier this year but overall is a huge plus, especially when he's playing in an offense based around running the ball. Having a mobile quarterback makes it so much easier to run the ball - just ask Lamar Jackson's Ravens - so why Nick Sirianni didn't try this out earlier in the year is beyond me. But now that it's working, bringing Hurts back in an offense better schemed to fit his skillset seems feasible.
(The interception that Hurts threw late in the third quarter was an unacceptably bad throw. That can't happen.)
And while I still have my concerns about his ball placement and accuracy when working down the field - see the interception - Hurts has shown at least a little improvement on some of these throws. His pass to DeVonta Smith for the highlight-reel TD was great, but Hurts' best throw of the day was the should-have-been third touchdown of the game, a dart to Quez Watkins in the end zone that Watkins simply dropped:
Hurts as QB1 next year still isn't my ideal scenario, but I'm no longer opposed to the idea if the Draft and free agency don't bring you an obvious solution at the position.
2. The Eagles are going to make a playoff push
With Sunday's victory, the Eagles are tied with the Falcons, Vikings, and Seahawks at four wins apiece. The Panthers and Saints are the final two playoff teams with five wins each.
Like it or not, the Eagles have a very real chance at making a playoff push down the stretch.
With a game against a very beatable Saints team coming up (hello, Trevor Siemian) followed by five games against objectively bad teams - the Giants, the Jets, and the Washington Football Team - the Birds could easily have eight or nine wins heading into Week 18, when they'll face a Cowboys team that will have the division wrapped up and might or might not care about the game.
Normally, I'd be frustrated by the idea of a clearly-not-good Eagles team turning it on juuuust enough to try and reach the playoffs. This team has a ton of holes that need to be fixed with superior talent, and the best way to do that is to draft guys who can be difference-makers. Higher draft picks, better draft picks, etc.
But having three first-round picks, including one that belongs to the Dolphins, will absolutely soften some of that blow if the Birds really do go on a run and maybe even sneak into the playoffs in that No. 7 seed.
Plus getting some of the young guys a shot at the postseason would be fun - DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and the like - so early in their careers. And football is supposed to be fun, first and foremost.
Now, when this prediction comes back to bite me after they lose three in a row, I don't want to hear about it. I don't think this is a playoff-caliber team in a vacuum, but outside of the elite teams the NFC is kind of a free-for-all, and the easy schedule makes it entirely possible.
Should be an absolute blast down the stretch!
3. The Eagles need to sit Derek Barnett
The 2017 first-round pick is officially the Eagles fanbase's least-liked player on the current roster.
Barnett has made a career of bad, boneheaded decisions, taking miserable backbreaking penalties at an outrageously high clip. It's almost incredible that he gets caught so often, just because there's so much going on during a football game and refs miss stuff all the time.
But this is the kind of stuff that creates a reputation:
Barnett has somehow lost all the good will he accrued with the strip sack in the NFC championship game and the fumble recovery in the Super Bowl.
And if defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon really wants to put an emphasis on accountability among his guys, he'll tell Sirianni he's going to sit Barnett in Week 11. Enough is enough.
Barnett recorded a sack Sunday, but his play simply isn't good enough to outweigh the countless mistakes and poor decisions the fifth-year defensive end makes. He's clearly not taking coaching to heart if he's doing the same old stuff this long into his pro career.
Eventually you need to show the guy you're serious and hand him some serious consequences. And I'm not terribly worried about a long-term problem with the guy, because the Eagles shouldn't bring him back next year. Let him take his paltry pass-rush numbers and excruciating personal fouls elsewhere and spare us all the collective headache.
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