The Eagles believe injured quarterback Jalen Hurts will play Sunday afternoon against the Giants, according to the NFL Network.
At his news conference Monday, coach Nick Sirianni wasn’t ready to commit to Hurts’ availability.
- “Jalen has done all the rehab,” Sirianni said. “He’s always in there working.
- “I know they’re [Hurts and injured safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson] getting better each day as far as what they’ve done because of who they are, how they’re rehabbing, how our trainers and our doctors and our strength coaches help them out because we have top-notch guys right there.
- “They’re all a little bit better than what they were even yesterday. Obviously, we’re just waiting to see how they feel, continue throughout the week, to see what their status will be for this week.”
The Eagles need to defeat the Giants in the 4:25 p.m. regular-season finale to win the NFC East and clinch home-field for the playoffs. The Giants already are a wild card team and their playoff position cannot change. That means the Giants might not play some starters against the Eagles.
The teams met on Dec. 11 at the Meadowlands with the Eagles winning handily, 48-22.
The Eagles lost to the Saints on Sunday, 20-10, in a flat, uninspiring performance. Had the Eagles won, they would have clinched home-field and Hurts could have had two more weeks of rest and recovery.
Back-up quarterback Gardner Minshew, who played well in his first game replacing Hurts against Dallas, struggled against the Saints — as did most of the team.
- “Angry and disappointed,” Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce said after the loss to the Saints. “Angry that we had a great opportunity and we didn’t play our best ball. I didn’t play my best ball. Disappointed in the outcome for sure.”
With Hurts in the lineup, the Eagles were the NFL’s best team with the best record, 13-1.
SHOULD HE PLAY?
To play or not to play Hurts is the Eagles’ conundrum of the season. With Hurts, they are a potential Super Bowl team. Without Hurts, they feel and look like a .500 team.
Still, Hurts’ health should be their only priority.
Minshew’s shaky performance against the Saints intensified the calls for Hurts to return. Hurts, like most athletes, wants to play as soon as possible.
- “Yeah, I know Jalen wants to get back. That’s been his message to me ever since this happened,” Sirianni said.
- “It’s hard to keep him down because of how tough he is, the kind of competitor he is. He wants to go.
- “These last 24 hours I haven’t talked to him. I’ve been kind of dragging myself through the mud, trying to get it right on my end.
- “Jalen and I haven’t had a conversation since yesterday. Obviously, he’s disappointed like we’re all disappointed walking out of that stadium yesterday.
- “Jalen is an ultimate competitor, tough. Yeah, he’s just as disappointed as we all are.”
Hurts was playing at an MVP pace before he sprained the SC joint in his right shoulder on Dec. 18 at Chicago. He has missed two games, both Eagles losses.
Hurts’ magic sauce has been his ability to mix his running prowess with his improved passing game along with superior decision-making. Hurts has thrown for 3,472 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. On the ground, Hurts has gained 747 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
When Hurts returns, will his health allow him to make the dazzling plays he’s used to making? Can he run the ball as before? What about his arm strength?
- “Obviously, everything is taken into play as far as when he’s ready to come back,” Sirianni said.
- “We’re going to want him, first and foremost, we are always going to want him to be healthy enough to not put himself at danger. That’s first and foremost. But then also so he can perform at a high level, as well.
- “When you’re talking about throwing the football with an injured shoulder, it’s a little different than some other injuries …
- “He has to be able to throw the ball down the field. He has to be able to throw it accurately. He has to be able to throw it with velocity so he can be effective as a quarterback.”
‘CLOSE’ TO A RETURN?
Last Friday, Sirianni said Hurts was “close” to returning. “Close” isn’t found in medical textbooks, so the coach was asked Monday about the criteria he used to make that determination.
- “He was close. I based that off the doctors and what Jalen is telling me essentially,” Sirianni said.
“I’m listening to all the people that give me the information on those particular things, and that’s why we were saying it.
- “Obviously, you have to be able to go out there and practice in individual [drills], which is obviously closer than what he was the week before, doing individual, throwing the balls.
- “But, yeah, he didn’t get reps last week at practice.”
Last week, Hurts was a limited participant in practice. For him to play against the Giants, he will have to be a full participant this week.
Conventional wisdom says the Eagles can beat the Giants with Minshew at quarterback. Common sense says they want to play Hurts, if possible.
The waiting game continues.