One of the reasons Jalen Hurts wasn’t sacked in his starting debut against the Saints was that rookie right tackle Jack Driscoll did an amazing job blocking Cameron Jordan. But it came at a cost. Driscoll was playing with a knee injury and it shut him down for the season after an exam the next day.
Hurts was sacked six times Sunday at Arizona, five of those coming in the second half. While it would be unfair to say Driscoll’s replacement, Matt Pryor, was the only reason things went so much less smoothly, Pryor certainly was one of the reasons. Twice, Cardinals pass rusher Dennis Gardeck easily got around Pryor to sack Hurts. Pro Football Focus also charged Pryor with five hurries, in bestowing a horrible 42.4 pass-blocking grade for his outing.
The first Pryor-Gardeck sack, on third-and-15 from the Eagles’ 46, set up the blocked punt that gave Arizona the ball on the Eagles’ 8. Kyler Murray’s touchdown run then established the home team’s 16-0 first-quarter lead.
At his Monday news conference, Doug Pederson stood up for Pryor, possibly because he has little choice. Neither Lane Johnson (ankle) nor Driscoll is coming back this season. It’s either Pryor, former Army tackle Brett Toth and his 18 career snaps, or practice squad tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, a sixth-round rookie who has yet to make his NFL debut.
“I thought overall he did well. Again, gave up some sacks, but listen, having gone back and looked at the film, sacks aren’t always on the offensive line,” Pederson said. “The quarterback, Jalen, needs to know that on a three-step drop, for instance, the ball has to come out of his hand, because of the technique and the aggressiveness that we ask our offensive line to do. As a quarterback, you just know that, and you’ve got to get the ball out of your hand, and that happened to us yesterday on a couple of those sacks on quick game timing.”
This was Pryor’s second start at right tackle this season and his second two-sack game in that spot. He has started six games at right guard.
“We’ve asked a lot of him this year, to play guard, to play tackle, and bounce back and forth,” Pederson said. “We’ll work again this week and get him prepared for Dallas.”
Developing story lines
The Eagles started the 21-day practice clock on yet another return from injured reserve: wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The regular season ends on Jan. 3 with a visit from Washington. The team also brought offensive lineman Casey Tucker back to the practice squad.
Reporters will have a lot to talk to special teams coordinator Dave Fipp about Tuesday. Looked like Marcus Epps didn’t pick up Ezekiel Turner on the punt block that led to a Cardinals touchdown, and that Epps might have been the player expected to account for Turner when he caught the 26-yard pass on the Cardinals’ fake punt. That mishap didn’t end up mattering when Arizona’s drive ended with a failed fourth-down conversion. The Eagles, obviously, are really hoping punter Cam Johnston clears the concussion protocol before they play Dallas.
That Jordan Hicks fellow had some nice moments for Arizona at linebacker. Seems like the Eagles had a guy who looked like him, but kept getting injured. How many games has this Hicks missed in two seasons with Arizona? Hmm. Looks like he has played in 30 of a possible 30. Must be a different guy.
When coaches speak of a player sticking his foot in the ground, what they’re talking about is what Quez Watkins did with the screen pass, on that spin move.
My favorite Jalen Hurts moment might have come late in the game, when the ball was knocked out of Hurts’ hand as he scrambled. Hurts calmly picked it up, rolled right and found Dallas Goedert for a 14-yard completion. “Oh my God, Brandon!” Fox analyst Aqib Talib said to play-by-play announcer Brandon Gaudin.
That you could do a respectable job at cornerback while giving up eight catches for 158 yards? Michael Jacquet forced a red zone fumble early, then his sack of Kyler Murray allowed Nickell Robey-Coleman to knock the ball out of Murray’s hand for the second of the Cards’ three turnovers.
Jacquet, an undrafted rookie who played all 68 defensive snaps Sunday (his career total going in was 51) mostly covered DeAndre Hopkins, who isn’t human. Recognizing that Jacquet was nearly always in solid coverage position, Pro Football Focus gave him a decent 62.6 coverage grade, nonetheless.
Jalen Hurts has thrown a fourth-down touchdown pass in each of the last three games.