Jalen Hurts isn’t interested in talking about his ankle.
It’s fair to wonder how many lingering effects the Eagles’ quarterback is feeling from the high ankle sprain he suffered a month ago. He was a full participant in practice Thursday, but Hurts hasn’t run as frequently or effectively in the two games since he returned from the injury. Against the New York Giants on Sunday, Hurts had an uncharacteristic two carries for 7 yards, both career lows for him since he became a full-time starter last season.
When asked how his left ankle was feeling, Hurts brushed off any concerns, pointing to the team’s record since his return.
“It feels fine,” he said. “It’s been good enough for us to get two wins.”
It’s true, Hurts’ ankle has been “good enough” in the Eagles’ two games last week. He threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants in a blowout win Sunday and had 296 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception in another against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 21.
Still, Hurts has been a major part of the Eagles’ successful run game this season and he hasn’t been much of a factor as a runner in the past two games. He had three carries for 15 yards against Washington and has looked slowed by the ankle at times. He’s also had a fumble in each of the past two games while unsuccessfully trying to evade the pocket.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said his play calling took Hurts’ health into account in the last two games, but he also acknowledged the way Washington and New York played against Hurts also had a role in the lack of carries.
“A little bit is what the defense was giving us and a little bit was just being extra careful with his ankle,” Sirianni said Monday.
Will Sirianni continue the cautious approach against Washington on Sunday with a playoff berth on the line?
“I think we’re past that point,” he said. “I think we’re able to do anything he needs to do for us to win the football game, so that means just playing how we need to play to win. So, I don’t see there being any restrictions moving forward.”
Several Eagles players and coaches have discussed how much of an impact Hurts’ ability to pull the ball on running plays has on opposing defenses. The Eagles lead the NFL with 2,448 rushing yards and Hurts is the team’s second-leading rusher with 740 yards, 14 behind Miles Sanders. He’s second among quarterbacks in rushing yards, too, trailing only the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
The Eagles are 160 yards away from breaking the franchise record for most rushing yards in a season, something right tackle Lane Johnson said is largely due to Hurts’ presence as a runner.
“You have a guy that dynamic who can do what he can do with his legs, it puts the defenses in a bind,” Johnson said. “He’s the common denominator when it comes to that.”
The Eagles’ run game did mostly fine without Hurts’ regular contributions in each of the past two games. They ran for 238 yards against Washington and 130 against the Giants. It might be a result of teams still showing Hurts respect even though he hasn’t run much of late, something that could change if he doesn’t return to his running ways soon.
“They have to be prepared for that,” Sirianni said. “They know what a threat he is to be able to keep it. ... Now, if you continue on a streak like this where he’s not carrying it or if his ankle is not getting better, then maybe you see a difference. But he’s done a great job rehabbing. He’s feeling better every day, what he tells me. He’s getting better every day.”
Sirianni expects it to be a moot point, though.
“We’re feeling more and more comfortable, and Jalen is feeling more and more comfortable to be able to do the things we need to win the football game.”