PHILADELPHIA — The team that the Eagles have been through two games this season is a team that we have seen here before, and it is not a team that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman particularly care to see. The victories over the Patriots and Vikings? Sure, Lurie and Roseman will take those. Anyone would. But the Eagles are as mindful of long-term patterns and goals as any franchise in the NFL. It’s rarely just about the here and now with them. They have a philosophy about how to win as many games as possible over a season, two seasons, three, and everyone knows it, and the Eagles want to stick to it as much as they can.
Which is why Jalen Hurts is an issue right now.
No, he is not a problem, certainly not a major one. No, he is not going to get benched, nor should he. Let’s continue to live in the realm of the real. There’s no need to exaggerate or overstate matters. It is enough to acknowledge the obvious: Hurts has not been all that productive either throwing the football or carrying it through Weeks 1 and 2. He hasn’t passed for 200 yards in a game yet. He’s gaining 6.5 yards per passing attempt, by far the lowest mark of his career, and fewer than 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. He has been sacked seven times. As Capt. Jack Ross would say, these are the facts, and they are undisputed.
Now, it is to the Eagles’ credit that they have overcome Hurts’ subpar play so far. Their defense, depending on how you want to look at it, has either forced a mess of turnovers or benefited from the sloppiness of New England’s and Minnesota’s offenses. Jalen Carter looks like Jerome Brown 2.0. Their offensive line demonstrated, with that 16-play, enough-of-this-stuff touchdown drive against the Vikings, that it can still pound away at an opponent who dares the Eagles to use a conventional running game to move the ball and score. Those are good things, and they are a testament to one of the foundations of the Eagles’ roster-building approach: The lines matter as much or more than any other position on the field.
Any position except quarterback, that is.
Put it this way: When Nick Sirianni and Brian Johnson set aside their call sheet of running plays early in the fourth quarter Thursday and instead had Hurts try to chuck the ball deep, A.J. Brown wasn’t the only person they were likely looking to placate. The Eagles have a philosophical and financial track record that speaks for itself: Teams win by scoring a lot, and teams score a lot by throwing the ball. So they hunt for a franchise quarterback, and they are willing to spend money and resources not only to acquire someone whom they believe to be a franchise quarterback, but also to provide him with the supplementary blockers and skill-position players he will need to thrive. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Mailata, Cam Jurgens — high draft picks and/or lucrative, multiyear contracts all around.
There’s a reason that Lurie was disheartened that the Eagles scored just 16 points in a playoff victory in Chicago in January 2019. There’s a reason that he wasn’t thrilled when they relied on Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders to beat the Packers in Green Bay later that year. There’s a reason that, after Hurts’ uneven first season as their full-time starter, after Sirianni and Shane Steichen made that midseason switch toward accenting the run game — and that run game immediately became the best in the league — the Eagles kept getting mentioned in trade rumors involving Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson.
There’s a reason that, once Hurts unfurled his marvelous 2022 season, Lurie signed him to that five-year extension, worth as much as $255 million, in April. And that reason wasn’t so that Hurts could stand by and watch D’Andre Swift become a hometown hero in his Lincoln Financial Field debut.
“We’re not in a panic mode or anything like that,” Sirianni said. “Have the pass numbers been down? Yeah. Does the defense play into that? Of course it does. Fortunately for us — and not everybody has this luxury — but fortunately for us, we’re able to win on the ground, and we are able to win in the air. And so you are able to balance off what the defense does.
“I thought Brian and the offensive staff did a phenomenal job of saying, ‘Hey, OK, they’re packing this in the middle of the field right here and keeping all these guys high and having this three-down front. All right, cool. You guys are doing that. We’ll do what we have to do to win the game.’”
It’s nice that the Eagles can do that. It’s one of the qualities that makes them a Super Bowl favorite. But it doesn’t change the fact that, at their core, they don’t really want to do that. And make no mistake: Against the 2-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Monday night, there will be pressure on Sirianni and Johnson to get Hurts going. Just being real.
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