When you’re having an MVP-quality season like Jalen Hurts, stats and records are going to take a beating. You just have to hope the Eagles’ quarterback doesn’t take one in the process.
Hurts is the only quarterback in history to have 6,500-plus passing yards (6,632) and 1,500-plus rushing yards (1,653) in their first 30 starts.
If Hurts has any kind of lengthy career in Philly, his name will be all over the Eagles’ record book.
All of that success makes an anxiety-ridden fan base uncomfortable. Eagles fans tell me they hold their breath when Hurts takes off on a run — either by design or out of necessity.
Against the Packers, Hurts ran 17 times for a career-high 157 yards. That’s plenty of opportunity for head-hunting defenders to land a big hit. Hurts has run 127 times, compared with 139 times in 15 games last season.
- “I think he has a natural feel for it [protecting himself], to be honest,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said.
- “He’s been a runner for a while, obviously in high school and college. Just having a feel for when to get down and when to get out of bounds and protect himself. I think that’s a natural thing.
- “Obviously, you got to coach some of those things up, but he has a nature knack for that.”
Millions of Eagles fans hope so.
Hurts, by the way, was just named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against the Packers.
One of the season’s surprises is the lack of playing time for rookie linebacker Nakobe Dean. The third-round pick from Georgia was heralded as “the steal of the draft” and the Eagles didn’t do much to discourage those words.
Dean arrived in Philadelphia coming off a national championship and winner of the Butkus Award as the country’s best linebacker. He dropped to the third round, reportedly, because of a pectoral injury that scared off teams that might have drafted him in the first round.
Ironically, linebacker has been a position not always prioritized by the Eagles. Now, they have two excellent linebackers — T.J. Edwards, one of the NFL’s top tacklers, and versatile Kyzir White.
And Dean? Well, 11 games in and we don’t know what the Eagles have in Dean. And now, undrafted rookie safety Reed Blankenship looks as if he will get significant playing time replacing C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who reportedly has a lacerated kidney.
Dean had three defensive snaps in the opener at Detroit, then didn’t play until Week 9 against Houston, where he took one defensive snap. That’s four defensive snaps out of 723.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon remains confident in Dean’s talent and work-ethic.
- “Nakobe is ready to go,” Gannon said. “I have no fret of him going in and functioning at a very high level …
- “This guy improves every day. He’s playing scout team, as well, like all our [back-ups] do … And they play our calls, so he’s getting time on task into our calls with what we have up in the game plan.
- “When we need him, he’ll be ready to go.”
Edwards has played 696 defensive snaps (96.7 percent) and White has 551 (76.2 percent). Not much space for an untested rookie.
Dean has been an effective special teams player — despite the Eagles’ special teams struggles. Dean has played 210 special teams snaps, 74.2 percent.
COX STEPS UP
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has spent most of his 11-year career on the receiving end of double-teams by opposing linemen.
For good reason.
He made six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2015-20. He was first-team All-Pro in 2018. He always was a force on the defensive line — stopping the run and getting after the quarterback.
Cox has started 161 of 167 games. He has 474 tackles, 62 sacks, 13 fumbles recovered and 15 forced fumbles. He is one of the Eagles’ best defensive tackles ever.
With the recent addition of defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh, the Eagles have a line rotation and Cox doesn’t have to play most downs. It has made him fresher and more effective.
In the Washington loss, Cox played 70 snaps. His average for the other 10 games is 41 snaps.
- “I think Fletch is such a unicorn because he can play anything you ask him to play from all the spacings, all the different positions in those spacings,” Gannon said.
- “He doesn’t have a weak spot in his game … He was lights out on Sunday night [against Green Bay].”
STEICHEN TO UNLV?
Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen could be on a short list of head coaching candidates at his alma mater UNLV, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review.
The Rebels fired Marcus Arroyo on Monday after a 5-7 season. Arroyo was 7-23 in three seasons at UNLV.
With due respect to UNLV, Steichen could be a candidate for an *NFL* head coaching job after the work he has done with Hurts and the Eagles’ offense this season.
The Athletic’s mock draft has the Eagles picking Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee at sixth (the Saints’ pick). At 31, it has the Eagles selecting Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs, as Miles Sanders approaches free agency.
My guess: The Eagles will re-sign Sanders, who is having a monster year.