The Eagles have plenty of corrections to make to their passing game after the loss to the Giants, but just how much they’ll be able to accomplish might depend on Jalen Hurts’ left ankle.
The quarterback is dealing with some soreness to the ankle after hurting it in the 13-7 loss on Sunday — a game in which he managed just 102 passing yards and threw a career-high three interceptions.
Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said Tuesday that the coaches are preparing the game plan with Hurts in mind as they wait to see how he feels later in the week.
“We’re getting ready for Jalen,” he said.
Hurts finished the Giants game without any obvious hindrance from the ankle, which was taped up during the second half. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Monday the team is hopeful he’ll be available for the Jets game, but he wouldn’t say whether the expectation is for him to play Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
“I’m not there yet,” Sirianni said. “Again, don’t want to put a timetable on anything. I’m hopeful. Jalen is hopeful that he’ll play. Again, you have to see how these things go, as you guys well know. We’ll see how the rehab goes the next two days and have more of an update for you on Wednesday.”
If Hurts can’t go, the Eagles will get their first extended look at backup quarterback Gardner Minshew. The 25-year-old has solid experience, having started 20 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars in his first two seasons, and he was promoted to the No. 2 quarterback spot when Joe Flacco was traded to the Jets before the trade deadline.
As they wait to see how Hurts’s ankle progresses, Steichen said the staff has discussed the possibility of needing Minshew to step in.
“That’s stuff we talk about,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going through that process right now with Jalen. We’re working through that right now.”
How much different would a Minshew-led offense look compared to the one the Eagles have built around Hurts’ athleticism?
“We’re going to run what we run,” Steichen said. “We’ve got to continue to do that. We’ve been pretty efficient running the football and obviously we’ve got to get our pass game to where we want it to be.”
Considering how much the Eagles’ current offensive identity relies on Hurts’ running ability, the 23-year-old’s mobility this week will be paramount. The offense has found success in four of the last five games leaning heavily on run plays that force defenses to respect the threat of Hurts keeping the ball and passing plays that give Hurts an outlet to take off.
Hurts is the team’s leading rusher with 695 yards and seven touchdowns. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (707) is the only quarterback with more rushing yards this season.
Steichen said the coaches would have to figure out how to deploy Hurts if he is slightly hobbled but still able to play.
“Yeah, he’s an explosive runner,” Steichen said. “Obviously, you know, he runs the football really well, so we have to work through those things.”
Part of working through the possibility of Hurts being slowed this weekend will include fixing what led him to have his worst day as a passer. The Giants put five or six defenders up on the line of scrimmage often to combat the running game and, as safety Julian Love said, dared the Eagles to throw the ball. It’s important to note the Eagles still had success running the ball — they gained 208 yards on the ground — but the struggles in the passing game doomed them.
Especially if Hurts can’t move like himself, they’ll need to sustain success through the air. It’ll start with the coaches, Steichen said.
“We’ve got to do a better job to put our guys in position to make plays,” Steichen said. “Obviously, this week will be different. It’s a different coverage scheme, so we’ve got to do a good job of getting completions and getting the ball out of their hands.”