By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Breaking News: QB Jalen Hurts will start this Sunday against the Saints. pic.twitter.com/VgGU54flLf— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 8, 2020
Giddy up, y’all.
The Philadelphia Eagles season is, barring a major turn of unforeseen events, essentially over. They would need to basically win all of their remaining four games and hope that the Giants and Washington Football Team collapse down the stretch.
If something wild like that were to happen in any division, it would be the NFC East, so who knows. Just don’t get your hopes up, because the murderer’s row of opponents isn’t done yet for the Birds.
The Eagles welcome in the New Orleans Saints, who have not lost a game in three months and currently have the best record in the NFC. Yippee.
However, this version of the Eagles has the potential to look a lot different. Or, they could continue to look just as bad or possibly even worse. Either way, I’m anxiously anticipating to see how it goes.
In uniform news, the Eagles have pulled out the, “In case of absolute chaos and disaster on all fronts,” uniforms this week, as they’ll be wearing all black. I can only assume that they are dressing for their own funeral.
Eagles Offense vs. Saints Defense
Alright lets get down to the obnoxiously large elephant in the room, and the reason most of you are reading this. Jalen Hurts will start at quarterback this week instead of Carson Wentz.
It was time.
Carson Wentz, as much as fans want to support him and see him have success, has downright stunk more than a fat guy on a summer’s day. He has struggled mightily all season long, there’s no debate about that. It reached the ultimate boiling point last Sunday, however, where the Eagles offense was quite literally on life support.
Turns out life support’s name is Jalen Hurts. Do I think Jalen Hurts is the answer and the Messiah sent from Heaven's above to fix all of this team's problems? Abso-friggin-lutely not.
Do I think he provided a much needed spark to a dead offense and was a large part of the reason that last Sunday's game became competitive in the second half? You bet your sweet ninny I do.
Hurts came into last week’s ball game and was decent, but still wasn’t perfect by any means or even good for that matter. With that being said, he was accurate, took shots down the field that paid off, and showed some gosh darn pocket presence.
Is he the Eagles future? I don’t know. Is Wentz still the Eagles future? I don’t know.
One thing I do know, though, is that these next four weeks could clear the answer to those questions right up, or it could just further muddy an already awful situation. That's a conversation for another time.
As for the rest of the Eagles offense, let’s hope that the turn to the younger guy at quarterback also means a switch to getting the other young dudes on the offense more opportunities.
That means playing Travis Fulgham over Alshon Jeffery. Give more snaps and targets to Dallas Goedert over Zach Ertz. Finally, for all that is good and holy, give Miles Sanders the doggone football.
The reason I believe these things will happen now isn’t necessarily because of Hurts being in at quarterback.
Rather, I am optimistic that the coaching staff and front office can realize this season is a wash at this point. Guys like Ertz and Jeffery are not going to help this team in the future, so why waste snaps on guys that will hopefully not be a part of this team’s long term plans? Especially when you have young guys like Fulgham who have shown major flashes of talent, and could possibly have a legitimate future on this team.
However, if this season has proved anything to me, it’s that I truly do not understand Doug Pederson’s thought process. Especially when he says things like this.
So literally everything he refused to do with Carson Wentz. Got it. https://t.co/26YjRHgsFy— Brenden Deeg (@BrendenDeegNFP) December 9, 2020
Before I pop yet another blood vessel, let’s move on to the Saints defense. Prior to the Los Angeles Rams game on Thursday night, the Saints were the number one overall defense in the league. Good luck in your first start, Jalen!
The Saints rank fourth in pass yards allowed per game and second against the run. New Orleans is also fourth in the league in sacks while also maintaining a +7 turnover differential. Is that good? That seems good.
New Orleans is led by a host of big name studs such as defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson (10.5 sacks, T-3 in NFL), linebacker Demario Davis, and cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Oh, and former friend to the program Malcolm Jenkins will make his much anticipated return to Philadelphia this weekend. Jenkins spent six marvelous seasons in midnight green and was an integral part of the championship team in 2017. However, Jenkins did not mince his words when talking about his decision to leave the Birds.
Malcolm Jenkins on return to Philly— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) December 9, 2020
“I gave everything I had to that city & team... It just wasn’t valued that much by the people making the decisions. For me it was about respect. I didn’t care what the money was. I wanted to see the respect. I wasn’t valued like I thought” pic.twitter.com/XeFyM7ZE8l
The game plan for the Eagles offense this week should be to open up the playbook. Run the ball with Sanders, Hurts, and Boston Scott. Let Hurts air it out to Jalen Reagor and throw comeback routes on the sideline to Travis Fuglham. Run some trick plays for the fun of it! Basically anything to keep the spark that Hurts brought to the offense last week.
With that being said, do not be the least bit surprised if Hurts struggles. Making your first NFL start against one of, if not the best, defense in the league, is a nightmare scenario for a debut. With the Saints having all week to prepare for #2 as well, this has the potential to be an ugly first impression.
Eagles Defense vs. Saints Offense
The Eagles defense matched an impressively horrid first half with an equally as impressive dominant second half against the Packers on Sunday. Well, until that 80-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones, but I digress.
Even with as badly as the Eagles secondary has been the past two weeks in guarding top receivers, the Birds are still the seventh best pass defense in the league. How, you ask? I simply have no idea.
Darius Slay has been so burnt the last two weeks he’s starting to remind me of a ghost of Eagles #24’s past in Bradley Fletcher. Meanwhile, Avonte Maddox can’t seem to cover a blanket at this point. I truly have no reasoning as to why this pass defense fails the eye test every week but yet still ranks in the top ten in the league in pass yards allowed.
Quite honestly I’m starting to equate this defense to football’s version of the Mandela effect. Even when it comes to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, I could have sworn the Eagles were going to have no choice but to fire him by season’s end. Now, I think he might be one of the only guys that I would want to stick around on this coaching staff.
Schwartz has been able to keep this defense ranked in the top half of the league in total defense while using spit, duct tape, and a whole lot of bubble gum at some positions. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember the last time Schwartz called for the sticks defense on a third and long.
Is it possible that every Eagles fan and I have vastly overreacted to Schwartz’s few, but extremely noticeable shortcomings? Nah, that doesn’t seem right.
As for the Saints offense, it’s looking like Taysom Hill will once again start at quarterback in place of the injured Drew Brees. The future hall-of-famer was activated off of injured reserve this week, but still likely isn’t fully healed from his 11 rib fractures. Yes, 11.
While Hill isn’t all that great of a passer, he has seen tremendous success for this offense as a dual-threat quarterback. He has been an electric runner for the past two or three seasons, and that hasn’t changed at all now that he’s been in the game full-time.
The Saints have some big name players at big-time positions. Running back Alvin Kamara is a stud in the open field, and is just as effective out of the backfield in the passing game as he is running the football.
Wide Receiver Michael Thomas missed a big chunk of the season due to injuries and throwing some haymakers in practice. Yet, he is still incredibly talented at creating separation off of the line of scrimmage. Darius Slay will have his hands full yet again.
Darius Slay covering DK, Davante Adams, and Michael Thomas all in a row pic.twitter.com/j5zkoX4FWx— Julian Spigner (@Spigatron) December 6, 2020
The Eagles game plan on defense should be obvious: stop the run, make Taysom Hill throw the ball. Hill is an inconsistent passer at best and would much rather do his best Adrian Peterson impression than stand in the pocket. Bad news for the Eagles is that the Saints have the seventh ranked rushing attack in the league, while the Birds rank just 25th against the run.
If, by some grace of God, the Eagles are able to contain Hill and the Saints rushing attack, the Eagles could remain competitive in this game.
Much like the few weeks prior, do not go into this game with any sort of expectations for the Eagles. It doesn’t matter that Doug Pederson finally made the long-time coming move to Jalen Hurts. This team still stinks. Hurts is not the savior, and he will not solve all of the issues this team currently has.
I expect this game to be close and competitive, much like the fourth quarter of the Birds game last week against Green Bay became. I think that both defenses will shine in this one, and it will be a closer game than most will expect it to be.
The Saints will get an early lead, but the Eagles will scratch and claw their way back in the second half as Hurts gets more comfortable. Hurts will have a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown, but will turn the ball over twice. Taysom Hill is guaranteed to run for a touchdown on Sunday.
However, it will be too little too late for the Eagles, as has been the case in so many games this season. Hurts will earn the start next week, but the Saints win, 23-17.
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass
Roseman said the Eagles didn’t draft Metcalf because he “ failed a physical.”— John (@PLotPodcast) December 4, 2020
He drafted Sidney Jones two months after he obliterated his Achilles’ tendon.