Jalen Hurts carried the ball a whopping 17 times over the permafrost of Soldier Field on Sunday.
Hurts is a tremendous athlete but he’s not Walter Payton nor should he be. He’s a quarterback, one of the best in the league this season.
And now he’s injured, with a sprained right shoulder. The Eagles haven’t announced if Hurts will play in Saturday’s pivotal game at Dallas.
Hurts was injured when he was caught by an angry Bears defensive end who crushed him, shoulder-first, into the frozen turf. That was one play and could have happened to anyone.
But Hurts has endured a physical pounding all season. He’s carried the ball 156 times. Eventually, it’s not hard to assume, he’s going to take a hit from which he can’t readily recover.
In this week’s coaches’ critique — where we look at the performance of Eagles’ coaches, good and bad — we look at offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. We question why Hurts’ number was called so often.
MAKE THIS MAKE SENSE
- Have a healthy, 1,000-yard rusher
- Have a quarterback who has taken too many hits this season
- Said quarterback is the ONE player the Eagles cannot afford to lose
- Had the second-ranked running attack going against the Bears’ 27th-ranked rushing defense
- The 1,000-yard rusher barely touched the rock
- The quarterback ran 17 times
- The quarterback got injured
So what did they do against Chicago? Ignored the running back and overused the quarterback.
STEICHEN CALLS PLAYS
Steichen took over play-calling this season, after head coach Nick Sirianni relinquished the duties. Week after week, Steichen has been praised by his boss. The Eagles have the NFL’s third-ranked offense.
The Eagles are 13-1 and one win away from a bye and home-field in the playoffs. And they have a quarterback who might not be able to brush his teeth without pain.
Hurts makes the Eagles’ run-pass options work. They are a huge part of the attack. Hurts has the ball and decides — in a second — whether to hand off the ball, keep it, or pass it.
Whether the Eagles run too many RPOs is a matter of offensive taste. Fans are alarmed over the number of designed runs for Hurts, such as the first two plays from scrimmage against Chicago.
Eagles coaches know they can’t put Hurts in bubble-wrap. His effectiveness is running, passing and making the right decisions.
- “I think he’s got — what does he have, 13 touchdowns, different ways to do that,” Sirianni said.
- “Like I said, we’re always going to think about his safety first, and I know you guys are probably like, well, he got hurt. Well, he also ran for 180 yards against Green Bay, and I get it, sometimes it’s a result-based thing.
- “Well, he didn’t get hurt [in] that one, he’s our MVP, oh, he did get hurt, what are you guys doing. I get that. I get that that’s going to be part of the scrutiny, and I understand that.
- “But we are who we are as an offense, explosively, scoring-wise, all those different things, because Jalen can do so many things, both running the football and passing the football.”
WHERE WAS SANDERS?
Hurts isn’t without weapons *in his own backfield.*
Miles Sanders has gained 1,110 yards this season, his first thousand-yard season. He set career-highs in rushing in each of the two games before the Bears game.
Against the Bears, Sanders was nearly in hibernation. He carried the ball four times in the first half and 11 times total in the 25-20 victory.
- “Yeah, I have to give him just some called runs, and Shane and I, that’s our job is just to make sure we get him some called runs that he can get touches early,” Sirianni said about Sanders.
SANDERS’ BIG SEASON
Sanders, who had his first fumble of the season against the Bears, has run hard and effectively all season. He is hitting holes, breaking tackles, pushing for extra yards, picking off blitzers to protect Hurts.
He is a unique combination of power and speed. He also has scored a career-high 11 touchdowns on the ground.
- “I think he just keeps getting better,” Sirianni said. “I think he’s doing a really nice job of being decisive. I think he’s doing a really nice job of being physical.
- “I think he’s doing a really nice job — I say this after his only fumble, but he’s gotten a lot of touches; he’s done a nice job of protecting the football and then protecting the quarterback. I just think his whole game continues to evolve.
- “I’m really pleased with how Miles Sanders is playing. To your point, yeah, because I’m pleased with him, he should get the ball more. Make no mistake about that.”
Ball’s in your court, fellas.