Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen brings a reputation for grooming quarterbacks to his new job. He inherits newly-minted starter Jalen Hurts in Philly, a guy that doesn’t expect to miss any rent payments during his sophomore season.
Steichen addressed the media on Thursday and gave his first impressions on Hurts while disclosing what the Eagles’ offense might look like in 2021. Much like his colleague on the defensive side, Jonathan Gannon, the new coach plans to tailor everything to his players’ strengths.
Steichen described a competitive atmosphere and talked about wanting to put players in a “position to make plays.” Hurts’ athleticism stood out on tape, especially his ability to make big scramble plays and get outside the pocket.
“Jalen has done a nice job,” Steichen told reporters. “Obviously, the last couple days we’ve had him on the grass, but he’s done a nice job throughout the process, especially on the Zoom. He works at it. He does a lot of good things on the grass, like I said, and obviously he brings a good skill set that you can do multiple things with him, so we’re excited about him.”
The Zoom part is an interesting quality to throw in there. Hurts was praised for “spitting back plays” last year during virtual workouts. He’s also been cautiously insightful and uber professional in every media interview to date (plus a cliche machine). On camera, Hurts looks the part of a franchise quarterback.
“It’s a ‘we all we got, we all we need’ mentality,” Hurts said. “And we’re going to go out there and go to battle, go to work with what we have. It’s going out there and executing your job. I think we’ll have complete belief in whoever we put on the field and we just want to go out there and play good football and win games.”
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Coaching Hard vs. Loving Players Up
Carson Wentz was vilified on his way out the door for not being able to take criticism. Whenever the coaches tried to point out mistakes or offer suggestions, the one-time franchise quarterback reportedly got offended and mad. Steichen was asked what kind of approach he might take with Hurts as the Eagles move on from Wentz. It’s a little bit of everything, including tough love when it’s needed.
“You’ve got to be honest with them, but also you’ve got to love them up when they do well, and you’ve got to correct them when they don’t do well,” Steichen said. “Obviously, playing the position as well, I’ve been there.
“They have to be who they are. You’re not going to change them personality-wise. These guys are who they are, and you’ve got to adapt to that. You can teach them and grow with them in their personalities, but I think you’ve got to let them be who they are and let them go play.”
Steichen, by all accounts, had a great relationship last year with Justin Herbert. The rookie signal-caller won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year under Steichen’s stint as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 2020. The Chargers ranked ninth in total offense and sixth in passing offense. They placed a huge emphasis on the screen game out there, so look for that some of that stuff to carry over.
“Anytime you can get the ball to the quarterback’s hands quickly and create explosive plays in the screen game, that’s big,” Steichen said. “And obviously the play-action game is big too. When you go into games, things are going to be different week in and week out.”
Evaluating the Skill Position Players
On paper, the Eagles look loaded at the skill positions. Finally. They can confidently roll out Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith as the starting outside receivers, with Greg Ward Jr. working the slot. They also have depth behind those guys: Travis Fulgham, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins, John Hightower. It could be a really dangerous group, especially if undrafted free agents like Jhamon Ausbon, Travon Grimes, or Khalil Tate pan out.
“We’re looking forward to working with these young guys and getting them reps and getting them involved in the new system,” Steichen said of the receivers, “and really honing in on the details and the fundamentals and the technique of the position to make them successful. I think, if we can do that with them, they’re going to become good players.”
Meanwhile, the upgraded backfield could be downright lethal. Miles Sanders returns as the starting running back after an offseason dedicated to better conditioning. He’ll be joined by veterans Kerryon Johnson and Jordan Howard, along with fifth-rounder Kenneth Gainwell and utility back Boston Scott.
“It’s a really good room. Excited about all those guys, that whole group,” Steichen said. “We’re all about competition here. All those guys are going to get reps, and we’re going to use them, like I said, to the best of their ability’s week in and week out and put them in position to make plays.”