There was one series on Monday at the start of the second quarter that really epitomized the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 campaign. Jalen Hurts entered the game, sans Carson Wentz, for a 2nd-and-9 and Matt Pryor was called for a false start penalty. Hurts stayed in, completed a six-yard pass, and Wentz returned.
And immediately absorbed a six-yard sack on third down. Poof! Just like that, Hurts was gone in the blink of an eye. The Eagles punted on the next play and Hurts would see only one more offensive snap in the contest. The rookie quarterback finished 1-of-1 for six yards, along with a hand-off to Miles Sanders that went for zero yards. It was supposed to be Hurts’ coming-out party but the balloons are still in storage.
“I thought the guys tonight, for the few plays that Jalen was in, they handled it well,” head coach Doug Pederson said of his quarterback rotation. “It’s just something we’ll continue to work on. But yeah, it can be a little bit difficult, for either one of the quarterbacks unless they can get multiple snaps, but that just didn’t happen. We were too many three and outs.”
Look, don’t blame the Eagles’ 23-17 loss to Seattle Seahawks all on Wentz. That wouldn’t be fair. Although the franchise quarterback reverted to some of the same bad habits that have plagued him this year — off-target throws, interceptions, holding the ball too long — the entire offense looked dysfunctional.
Some alarming stats on #Eagles QB Carson Wentz, via @NFLResearch… including having one of the biggest dropoffs in NFL history compared to his passer ratings from the previous 3 years pic.twitter.com/grIH7nZJ8G
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 1, 2020
The offensive line committed penalties and couldn’t protect. Receivers got no separation or ran the wrong routes. And Pederson once again abandoned the running game too early. There were “breakdowns across the board,” according to Pederson.
“Sometimes when you get in these situations, you try to do too much,” Pederson said. “It’s just a matter of not chasing plays but making the plays when they come to you. We’re going to continue to work, and we’re not going to make excuses for anything.”
Carson Wentz this season:
-15 INT (most in the NFL)
-46 sacks (most in the NFL)
-95 off-target incompletions (most in the NFL) pic.twitter.com/58O6lUU5xU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 1, 2020
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Not Establishing Rhythm at QB Position
When Hurts completed his lone pass — on that mind-numbing series in the second quarter — the Eagles had to be tempted to leave him in, no?
Maybe if the rookie signal-caller could stack up a few plays and get into a rhythm, something positive would happen. Remember, the Eagles had punted three times prior to Hurts’ six-yard completion. Wentz was 2-of-7 (five incompletions) with his longest completion going three yards.
Did it ever cross Pederson’s mind to stick with Hurts for a series? “No.”
“Because it’s not about one guy,” Pederson said. “We had breakdowns across the board, and it doesn’t really matter who is back there; the mistakes were still going to be made. Something we’ve got to fix.”
🗣️ FREE JALEN HURTS pic.twitter.com/ofVDLSa6Fa
— PFF (@PFF) December 1, 2020
Pederson further elaborated by citing the way defenses have to react when he has two quarterbacks in the game. And vice versa, hence his decision to leave Hurts out there without Wentz on the field.
“Listen, when Jalen’s been on the field with Carson, defenses have been playing it a certain way,” Pederson said. “And as we have evaluated those two together, putting Jalen on the field by himself presents a little bit different picture for the defense.”
Alshon Jeffery Sees Season-High in Snaps
Another curious move on the personnel side has been forcing the issue with Alshon Jeffery. The one-time Pro Bowl receiver has looked like a shell of himself since coming back from Lisfranc surgery on his foot. It took him 10 weeks to make his 2020 debut after a year on the shelf.
Jeffery has two catches for 15 yards on seven targets, yet he logged only two fewer snaps than Travis Fulgham against Seattle. Pederson’s logic was that both players are big bodies — Fulgham (6-foot-2), Jeffery (6-foot-3) — who Wentz can exploit in jump-ball scenarios. Good idea, if only it were working out that way.
— Ducis Rodgers (@duciswild) December 1, 2020
“Well, I think, Travis he’s still a part of the offense and he knows he’s got to continue to work hard each week and play well,” Pederson said. “And Alshon is improving and getting healthier. We have to be able to use both of those guys, they are two big targets for Carson. We’ve just got to continue to work and make sure that both guys are ready to go.”
Jeffery finished with 35 snaps to Fulgham’s 37 who led all non-tight ends in receiving with two catches for 16 yards on Monday night. Greg Ward paced the receivers group with a team-high 48 snaps, with rookie Jalen Reagor recording 43 snaps. The latter continues to be a work in progress, including the head coach calling him out for making a “critical mistake” on a red-zone play.
“Some of it could be scheme. Some of it could be Jalen still learning and understanding what is asked of him,” Pederson said. “He had one critical mistake on a red zone play that we were going to throw him a screen and he made a mistake there.”
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