It’s a familiar tale in Eagles lore. Starting quarterback plays well for a long while. Starting quarterback struggles for a shorter stretch. Starting quarterback gets hurt or is benched. Coach tweaks offense to accommodate the backup quarterback. Backup quarterback plays well.
It happened with Donovan McNabb and A.J. Feeley. It happened with McNabb and Jeff Garcia. It really happened with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. And it happened again Sunday, in the Eagles’ 24-21 victory over the Saints, with Wentz and Jalen Hurts.
Assuming he was the one doing the play-calling, Doug Pederson made it clear that he wasn’t going to rely on Hurts’ throwing the ball downfield in the way that he usually relies on Wentz. There were plenty of zone reads, plenty of short passes, plenty of rollouts, plenty of Hurts carries, and plenty of Miles Sanders. Hurts and Sanders each rushed for more than 100 yards, and Sanders had 18 touches. He has had that many only twice in a game since Week 3.
There’s going to be something else out of Sunday’s game: There’s going to be murmurs and assertions and proclamations that Hurts’ performance proves that he should be the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the rest of this season and perhaps longer. That’s fine. That’s to be expected. One word of perspective and caution: Back in 2016, Carson Wentz won his first start, too. And he won a few more after that. And still, here we are.
OK, one more word of caution
Hurts carried the ball 15 times Sunday. He was incredibly productive, gaining 110 yards and keeping the Saints’ defense off balance. But that strategy, having a quarterback carry the ball that much, tends to have a pretty short shelf life in the NFL.
» READ MORE: How the game unfolded in our live blog
Jenkins knows all
There were a few plays in which Saints safety and erstwhile Eagles defensive leader Malcolm Jenkins seemed to know ahead of time what his old team was going to do on offense. The most consequential of those instances was the final play of the Eagles’ first possession, a fourth-and-2 handoff to Miles Sanders. Jenkins was waiting for it, as if he still had a copy of Pederson’s play sheet downloaded in his brain, and wrapped up Sanders for a three-yard loss.
Of all the problems that have afflicted the Eagles this season, their defense generally has been one of the less-consequential. It hasn’t been bad, all things considered. Still, given what Jenkins meant to the unit and — according to what he told reporters last week — how little it would have cost the Eagles to re-sign him, you have to wonder how their season would have gone if they hadn’t decided to let him walk away.
Can they trade him to the Colts?
Eagles kicker Jake Elliott clanged a 22-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright on the final play of the first half. He had already missed two extra points in the previous two weeks. A year ago, the Eagles signed Elliott to a five-year extension. Looking forward to the discussion this week about which NFL teams could take on Elliott’s contract.