Jalen Hurts, Jalen Reagor and More in Eagles 2021 Mailbag

Eagles mailbag: How long is Jalen Hurts’ leash in 2021? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s officially game week and it showed by the dozens of questions I received for this mailbag call.

I answered the first two rounds this weekend.

Here’s Part 1.

And Part 2.

But there were still some left. So let’s get to it. (If I didn’t get to your question this week, my apologies.)

I guess there could be some scenario in a game where Hurts is really struggling, the Eagles are barely hanging in a game and then Nick Sirianni lets his competitive nature take over and wants to bring in a backup. … But I don’t see that happening. This season is about Hurts and finding out whether or not he can be the Eagles’ long-term starter.

This is Hurts’ opportunity. Because there might be some skepticism — even from inside the building — about whether or not he can be the franchise quarterback. But the Eagles need to find out. That’s what this season is about.

The reason the Eagles came up this offseason whenever Deshaun Watson’s name was mentioned was because they have the assets to be very flexible and aggressive to get the QB they want. They will likely have three first-round picks next year and with a seemingly unsettled quarterback position, it would make sense for Howie Roseman to go after a top quarterback through a trade or in the draft. But here’s the thing: The Eagles would obviously be in a much better situation if Hurts proves himself to be worthy of the job. Because then the Eagles use those picks (and that cap space) to bring in pieces to build a team around Hurts. I still don’t know if he’s that guy or not, but he deserves every opportunity to prove that he is.

We went with some rapid fire questions here:

1. He just has to be OK. A lot of the pressure is off Jalen Reagor this year because of the addition of DeVonta Smith. We have to remember that being a bust and being worth a first-round pick are two different things. I’m not sure Reagor will put up huge numbers in Year 2 but he has enough talent to avoid being labeled a bust. He just has to be an adequate option for Hurts. No reason to think he won’t be that.

2. Hurts is clearly under more pressure. He has this season to prove that he’s the franchise quarterback. At least Nick Sirianni is a first-year head coach and the Eagles aren’t a knee-jerk reaction team. He’s going to get more than one year to prove he’s the right guy for the job. Hurts probably won’t get that long.

3. I’d give a nod to the defense. I like what Jonathan Gannon has been doing in training camp and that defensive line is going to be a problem for opposing teams.

4. I mentioned him on a previous mailbag so I’ll stick with it: Javon Hargrave. He’s a big reason for my answer to question No. 3 too. He’s healthy and disruptive and this defensive scheme will get the most out of him.

This is a good example of bust vs. a player who isn’t worth a first-round pick. If Reagor has 850 receiving yards this season you could say those clearly aren’t first-round pick numbers, but that’s not a bust either.

The two names mentioned here: Jeremy Maclin and Nelson Agholor. Very different careers, but neither guy was a bust.

Maclin didn’t top 1,000 yards until his last year here but he was a solid receiver until then, averaging 863 yards per season in his first four years. Not Pro Bowl numbers, but not a bust.

And we all know about Nelly’s weird career here. He never played like a first-rounder but there’s no parade without him. And he did have eight touchdowns in 2017.

In general, the expectation is that Sirianni will stick to the run a little bit more than Pederson did. We will likely see a more balanced offense but don’t expect the Eagles to look like the Titans this season either.

Is Sanders a workhorse back? Not exactly. Don’t expect him to get 20 carries per game. But he’s clearly the top guy and will get significantly more touches than Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell.

The big fear about Sanders is his issue with drops. He dropped eight passes last year and then struggled with them again in training camp. Maybe he eventually starts losing some snaps because of it. But in order for him to be fully utilized in Sirianni’s offense, Sanders need to catch the ball. And since he’s the most talented running back the Eagles have, the coaching staff is going to have to live with a drop here or there. They can’t limit him just because of it.

Oh, there are going to be a ton this year. The practice squad rules are the same as last year, which means teams can elevate two practice squad players for each game. Before last year, practice squads were pretty much all developmental but with COVID rules in place, this has really become an extension of the active roster. The Eagles have a nice blend of developmental players and guys who can help them right now in a pinch.

Good question. As you might expect, special teams coordinator Michael Clay didn’t want to reveal that when we spoke to him last week. The Eagles have some options, but some of their best options are also guys who play on offense. So some of this will be dictated by availability.

Based on what we saw in training camp, I’d put Reagor atop the punt return depth chart and Quez Watkins there as the kick returner. But both of those guys are starting receivers too, so that could change.

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