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How Jalen Hurts earned the Eagles’ starting quarterback job in the eyes of coach Nick Sirianni

Amid interest in a trade for Deshaun Watson, Hurts impressed the coaching staff this preseason and took the reins.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts stands on the sideline in the fourth quarter of the preseason game against the New York Jets.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts stands on the sideline in the fourth quarter of the preseason game against the New York Jets.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

When training camp began July 27, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was hesitant to name Jalen Hurts the team’s starting quarterback.

At the time, the first-year coach said he wanted to see the second-year quarterback “take the reins and roll with it.”

With veteran Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens behind him on the depth chart, Hurts took 100% of the snaps with the first-team offense throughout camp. He played in only one of three preseason games, but Hurts showed noticeable improvement over the past two weeks in joint practices with the Patriots and Jets.

And on Tuesday shortly after the team submitted its initial 53-man roster to the league office, Sirianni officially labeled Hurts the starter.

“Jalen is our starter,” Sirianni said. “Nobody else got any reps with the ones. Jalen’s known, ‘nobody else has gotten any reps with the ones but me.’ He’s done a great job.”

As far as taking the reins?

“We wanted him to take the reins and take advantage of the opportunity he got, and we feel with the preseason he had he did that,” Sirianni said. “I consistently saw a player that got better every day. I consistently saw a player getting better with his reads and his accuracy and his ability to run and when not to run. He did exactly what we wanted him to do.”

» READ MORE: Eagles announce initial 53-man roster for 2021 season: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in, Travis Fulgham out

Of the team’s three preseason games, Hurts played in just two series during the first exhibition. He completed 3 of 7 passes for 54 yards and rushed once against Pittsburgh. But Sirianni holds a high regard for performances in joint practices, which is where Hurts has shined the most. The 6-foot-1, 223-pound quarterback had a slow start to camp, but turned it up against live competition.

During 11-on-11 sessions against the Patriots and Jets, Hurts led the offense on multiple scoring drives, which resulted in practice “victories.” It’s worth noting Hurts missed the second preseason game versus New England with a stomach illness, but he didn’t miss any additional time and returned to practice less than three days later.

Hurts completed 52% of his throws for 1,061 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions in four starts last season. He also rushed for 354 yards and three touchdowns.

Said Sirianni: “He’s earned that right with a great preseason, and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him and in that room in general.”

Elsewhere in the quarterback room, the Eagles recently acquired Gardner Minshew from the Jaguars in exchange for a 2022 conditional sixth-round pick. Subsequently, Mullens was waived.

Sirianni labeled Minshew the third-string QB.

One league source told The Inquirer, “Tremendous value for a quarterback who’s shown he can perform in pressure situations,” in regards to Minshew, who has 20 career starts and has completed 62.9% of his passes with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

» READ MORE: Joe Banner: Gardner Minshew likely to become Eagles backup QB

By naming Hurts the starter, the Eagles have reaffirmed their commitment in the 2020 second-round pick amid trade interest involving Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson is currently being sued by 22 women in civil court for sexual assault and/or misconduct.

“We’re very confident and comfortable with the quarterbacks that we have on our roster,” general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday. “Any player that is on another team is property of that team, and we’re going forward with who we got here.”

As for Hurts, 23, he would become the franchise’s third-youngest opening-day starter. The Eagles are scheduled to begin the regular season Sept. 12 at Atlanta.

“I’m really excited to work with him because I think he’s got special playmaking abilities,” Sirianni said.