Made for the Moment: Biggest Strength Revealed for Eagles’ Jalen Hurts

Shane Steichen

Getty Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has been impressed with Jalen Hurts' development in 2021.

Jalen Hurts will be making his first playoff start in the NFL on January 16 in Tampa Bay. Don’t think for one second that he’ll be at any kind of disadvantage against Tom Brady. No one prepares harder than Hurts, something Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen believes has him primed for the moment.

“He’s played big games in college and the way he prepares – I know I’ve said this a million times – but the way he prepares for every game, that’s what you want in a quarterback,” Steichen told reporters on Tuesday. “His preparation is second to none. He loves ball, he grinds every single day, mentally and physically, to get ready to play on Sunday. So, I know he’s going to be ready to go.”

Hurts played in five bowl games during his storied college football career. He went 3-2 in those contests, including the 2017 national championship game where Hurts was benched for Tua Tagovailoa. But one hiccup doesn’t make the man. Hurts set a slew of records during starting stints at Alabama and Oklahoma while finishing with a 51-5 record.

“He has great poise,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Hurts in 2016. “I don’t think the stage is too big for him at all.”

Hurts will need every inch of that poise to upset the GOAT. The dual-threat quarterback finished 12-of-26 for 115 yards with one touchdown and an interception when the Eagles and Buccaneers met on October 14. He also rushed for 44 yards and two touchdowns. He was good, not great. Throw all that stuff out in the rematch. Hurts has grown by leaps and bounds since then.

“He’s grown as a quarterback. You can see the growth that he’s made from that game to now,” Steichen said. “When someone plays and continues to play and play and play, you see the growth in what he’s doing. So, we’re excited where he is at, and I know he’s fired up for this game on Sunday.”

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Playing Keepaway From Buccaneers’ Offense

Brady and Hurts won’t be physically lining up against each other, but never under-estimate the mental part of football. The camera shots of a steely-eyed Brady staring down rivals – and sometimes teammates – from the opposing sideline have struck fear into lesser men. And created some of the best memes on the internet.

Steichen knows the Eagles need to win time of possession to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. That’s the chess match to watch on Sunday. It starts with winning the turnover battle.

“I think the biggest thing is any time you go into a game, we want to win the turnover battle, time of possession is huge and then we want to create explosive plays,” Steichen said. “Any way we can create explosive plays – when you win the turnover battle and create explosive plays, you got a high percentage chance to win the football game.”

Eagles Protect Four Practice-Squad Players

The Eagles protected four players on the practice squad ahead of Sunday’s wild-card playoff showdown. John Hightower was not one of them, maybe slightly surprising since J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was sent to injured reserve. The team has just four receivers on the 53: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward Jr.

In addition to Hightower, the Eagles have Deon Cain and KeeSean Johnson down on the practice squad. Neither player was protected or elevated.

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