Donning a red noncontact jersey with his name and No. 1 in bright lime lettering, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts rumbled out of the tunnel with his midnight green helmet in hand. His entrance generated one of the loudest cheers from the crowd of 25,896 at Lincoln Financial Field, where the team hosted the first of its two public practices in this year’s training camp.
It might have been only a practice, but the environment leading up to Sunday evening felt more like a traditional game day in South Philadelphia ... for the first time since 2019.
After being limited by COVID-19 restrictions over the past year, the Eagles finally reopened their home stadium with no capacity restrictions. In fact, Sunday’s attendance total was more than the combined attendance for all three home games that a limited number of fans attended last year.
Before they packed in the 100 level, fans gathered in the surrounding parking lots and tailgated in celebration of a new season.
“I always love going over to the Linc, but it’s special having fans there,” 11-year veteran center Jason Kelce said. “It’s such a home-field advantage for us. To be able to go out there and be in front of people, competing with each other, it always intensifies things a little bit.”
The padded practice consisted of a variety of individual and team drills. Sunday’s workout marked the 10th session of camp. It came on the heels of Hurts’ worst performance of the summer on Saturday, which also was his 23rd birthday.
“He’s been pretty consistent since he’s gotten here,” Kelce said. “He’s a great leader. He’s got a great attitude about him. All he wants to do is win. You can feel that each and every day. When it doesn’t go that way, you can feel his frustration. I really like Jalen’s intangibles and how he goes about his work. I don’t think that’s changed in the least. Now, it’s just new plays and coaches and everything. So we’re all starting from scratch again.
“But that work ethic and who he is as a person will carry him through that.”
Hurts rebounded nicely.
During 11-on-11 work, he completed his first pass attempt to tight end Zach Ertz. On the following play, Hurts faked a handoff to running back Miles Sanders before taking off to his right side for a short gain in the red zone. The team hasn’t allowed any tackling thus far, which makes it difficult to gauge whether Hurts would have scored on the play. His best throw of the night was a 50-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Quez Watkins, who outjumped safety Anthony Harris.
Hurt’s accuracy and decision-making clearly need work, but his speed and quickness are evident.
Last season, Hurts made four starts and completed 52% of his throws for 1,061 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He rushed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
“I kind of felt [Saturday’s] practice was neutral,” first-year coach Nick Sirianni said. “You come off the field sometimes and you’re like, ‘That practice stunk!’ and then you go and watch the tape and you’re like, ‘Man, it wasn’t that bad.’ Just sometimes it’s just watching those seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 periods and seeing what happened. The turnovers ... that’s what I want back from practice. We want those turnovers back.”
He continued: “[We want to see Hurts] continue to grow in the offense and throw in rhythm. We also understand that some part of his game is to move around and make plays. It can’t be all rhythm and it can’t be all scrambles. What’s the happy medium there? Right now, he’s getting some good throws on rhythm, but we want to make those numbers grow because we know how valuable his legs are.”
The Eagles host the Pittsburgh Steelers for their first preseason game at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Their season opener is scheduled for Sept. 12 at Atlanta.
Ahead of the regular season, a majority of Sirianni’s practices have been shorter compared to those of his predecessors. While on-field sessions have averaged just under two hours, the coach said the team has been attacking the meeting rooms.
For some players, though, effort doesn’t change, whether it be in a meeting room or on the field, or during a practice or game.
“If you’re not giving 100% effort, that’s when injuries occur,” linebacker Alex Singleton said. “The way I play, every rep like my last one. In the back of my head, I don’t really think about if it’s games or practice. That extra energy of having the fans there, it just makes it more exciting.
“We’re just glad to be back in front of the crowd for the first time with this new coaching staff and the guys. We’re revved up and ready to go, and it’s exciting to show everybody who we are.”