Estimated reading time: 19 minutes
Jalen Hurts Eagles in 2021, win now or rebuild. Are the Philadelphia Eagles poised to win now or are they in a transition period of rebuilding in the NFC East? This 2021 Eagles preview will dive into many different aspects of the organization. It’s not a predictive win/loss, based on the Birds schedule like many Eagles previews. It looks at the Eagles defense and what improvements have been made and the weaknesses that still remain.
- Rebuilding the team
- Jalen Hurts
- Jalen Hurts-Roll Tide
- Jalen Hurts stats
- Darius Slay
- What the Eagles should have done?
- DeVonta Smith
- Josh Sweat
Rebuilding the team
The Philadelphia Eagles are rebuilding in 2021 and it should take at least a of couple seasons to get back to the level that Birds fans have been accustomed to since the 1990’s ended.
This is OK, it’s fine. The biggest thing is that new head coach Nick Sirianni proves that he can be the team’s general and bring in the right talent via the NFL Draft and free-agency.
The new Eagles head coach spent the last three seasons as the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator under Colts head coach and ex-Eagles OC, Frank Reich.
There have been many great coordinators that weren’t great head coaches throughout the NFL’s history. In the end, what happens with Sirianni will depend on how he and the rest of the Eagles organization evaluates talent.
Vince Lombardi threw the ball about 15 times a game. The rest of the game the Packers were basically running the power sweep. All of their opponents knew it was coming but nobody could stop it.
It was an unstoppable play with hall-of-famers Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor running the ball behind tackle Forrest Gregg and pulling guard Jerry Kramer.
The Power Sweep
The point I’m trying to make is that if you have the talent, a coach can pretty much point to a play blindfolded and it will work.
Even when every team knew what the Packers were going to do, nobody could stop it.
Lombardi like Sirianni was an offensive coordinator. Personally, I prefer defensive minds being the head coach.
Calling defensive plays is more difficult. Most great defensive minds could call the offense if need be.
I’m not sure that the opposite is true. That doesn’t matter much though.
But the GM?
Some people may be saying “evaluating talent isn’t the head coaches job”. It isn’t always, but all really great coaches had a say in who they’d coach, the type of players that they envisioned in their system.
From Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren to Andy Reid or to the defensive tree of Bill Parcells and Bill Bellichick, even if they weren’t actually the teams GM, they might as well have been.
No great coach is letting other people decide the players they will coach. Input is one thing but letting a GM just basically choose, ABSOLUTELY NOT, especially with the first group of talent, that if you miss, you’re getting fired. This is what I care the most about concerning the Eagles future. How Sirianni handles managing the Eagles roster in the next 2-3 years.
I think the Eagles will have a top 5-7 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. I’m not talking about the Dolphins pick either.
I don’t see Philly having much success because I’m a realist who can evaluate talent. It’s just what I see and if they’re not going to be a contender, winning 7-9 games just means it takes longer to rise up. Many times mediocrity breeds more mediocrity.
Some Eagles fans don’t want to hear this, they want to remain optimistic heading into the 2021 season. Well, good for you. You should remain optimistic about the Birds season, if that’s what you want to do.
What I’ve witnessed since Ben Simmons hit witness protection is fans on social media EXPECTING the Eagles to be good in 2021. Being optimistic and wanting and hoping for the best aren’t the same thing as fooling yourself.
The Philadelphia Eagles won 4 games in 2020. Be optimistic, hope for the best, just don’t look for someone to blame or wonder what happened if the Eagles are what evaluations say they are.
They finished in last place in arguably the worst division top-to-bottom in the NFL since the division realignments. 2020 wasn’t a trick. They had some injuries but so does everyone else.
They don’t even have a franchise QB as of now. If they don’t acquire Dashaun Watson, the Birds will need to draft their future quarterback in the 2022 or 2023 draft. As of now, no one even knows what Watson’s status will be. If he will even be available to play in the NFL.
The Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The dual threat QB had 32 touchdowns as a Senior with the Sooners.
Now he is the Eagles starting quarterback, but Jalen Hurts isn’t an NFL franchise quarterback. I don’t think he’s an NFL starter. At best, I believe he is a premiere NFL backup.
He made his debut for the Eagles in 2020 against the New Orleans Saints. Starting the final four games of the season, winning one game and losing three. The Eagles starting QB will be Jalen Hurts
Carson Wentz would’ve won the NFL MVP in 2017, if he didn’t tear his ACL against the Los Angeles Rams in December. Nick Foles took the Eagles all the way to the Super Bowl and won it for the first time in franchise history.
The 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, Wentz received a $128 million contract extension in 2019 and then he was traded to Indianapolis after the 2020 season.
After a record setting season for Philadelphia in 2019, Wentz got DDT’d by Jadeveon Clowney in a Wildcard playoff game vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Carson had to leave the game with a concussion and that was really the beginning of the end for him in Philadelphia.
I think I seen Hurts more than any QB while he was in college at Alabama and Oklahoma. He doesn’t have the physical tools to be elite. The arm strength, the accuracy, or the height.
These aren’t needed though, just look at Tom Brady or Drew Brees. The difference is that if you can evaluate talent, when Brees was at Purdue, every Saturday you could see the field general.
When he was drafted with the 1st pick in the 2nd round of the 2001 NFL Draft, I told a friend, “a lot of teams just made a mistake”. It took him a few years to figure it out to be great consistently but once he did, the record books changed.
The same friend those first few years would ask me often, as a challenge to my evaluation skills “what about Drew Brees”?
For the next 15 years I’d often ask him “WHAT ABOUT DREW BREES”?
Jalen Hurts has never shown the control as a field general like Brady or Brees. If you’re not working with the prototypical equipment within your skillset, you must be in control like a general. This isn’t something you learn at the NFL level.
Tom Brady was the same field general at Michigan. In his junior season he became a starter, winning 10 of his last 11 games. Brady had to battle highly recruited Drew Henson his senior season. That’s until Henson got the Wolverines behind by 17 points and then Brady came in to win the game.
Jalen Hurts-Roll Tide
Jalen Hurts put up some pretty impressive numbers at Alabama but it should be understood that the offensive talent surrounding him was elite. Many times he was throwing the ball to players with no defender within 5-10 yards of his target. This won’t happen too often in the NFL.
Here are some of the skilled players that Jalen played with
- Josh Jacobs-HB-1st rd pick
- Damien Harris-HB-3rd rd pick
- Calvin Ridley-WR-1st rd pick
- O.J Howard-TE-1st rd pick
- Najee Harris-HB-1st rd pick
- Jerry Jeudy-WR-1st rd pick
- Irv Smith JR.-TE-2nd rd pick
- Henry Ruggs-WR-1st rd pick
- DeVonta Smith-WR-1st rd pick
- Jaylen Waddle-WR-1st rd pick
Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts played in 1.5 National Championship games as the starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide. In his first championship game, Clemson defeated Alabama 35-31 in a comeback victory.
Deshaun Watson, the Clemson Tigers quarterback, was 36-56-420 yards-3 TD. In the same game against a defense with a lot of NFL talent, Jalen Hurts was 13-31-131 yards-1 TD.
That’s not even a bad game in completion percentage and passing yards. It’s something much worse.
The following season Alabama returned to the College Football Playoff’s championship game. This time against fellow SEC rival Georgia. Jalen Hurts was pulled at the half in favor off Tua Tagovailoa. It turned out that Nick Saban was waiting for an opportunity to make the switch and he made it at the half of the National Championship game, trailing Georgia 13-0.
Jalen Hurts, the Eagles current quarterback was 3-8-21 yards in the first half. Tua led Alabama back to win the national championship.
Jalen Hurts stats
2016: 240-382-62.8%-2,780 yards-23 TD-9 int
2017: 154-255-60.4%-2,081 yards-17 TD- 1 int
A look at TUA TAGOVAILOA with the same team & talent
2018: 245-355-69.0%-3,966 yards-43 TD-6 int
Jalen Hurts got drafted by the Eagles in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This really happened, it wasn’t a joke. He finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 2019.
The Sooners lost to LSU in the Peach Bowl 63-28.
Joe Burrow was 29-39-493 yards-7 TD, while Jalen Hurts had his best bowl game, 15-31-217 yards-1 INT.
Jalen Hurts-2019: 237-340-69.7%-3,851 yards-32 TD-8 int
Now for the numbers of the previous two Oklahoma QB’s with basically the same talent around them.
Baker Mayfield-2017: 285-404-70.5%-4,627 yards-43 TD-6 int
Kyler Murray-2018: 260-377-69.0%-4,361 yards-42 TD- 7 int
Jalen Hurts is the Eagles QB but he wasn’t a franchise QB in college, why would he be one in the NFL. Just ask Nick Saban.
“I would say the difference in vision is much more about where we’re at as a franchise, As I said, we’re at that point. It’s a transition point and we’ve got to get younger and we have to have a lot more volume of draft picks and we have to accumulate as much talent as we possibly can that is going to work in the long run with a focus on the mid-term and the long term and not on how to maximize 2021.Jeffrey Lurie on the Eagles future – 2021
Bringing it back for a second to Jalen Hurts being the Eagles quarterback, just to make it clear, I don’t think the Birds won’t be successful in 2021 because of him.
I said I think he can be a premiere backup in the NFL, this isn’t a knock on him. He’s just not going to be an elite NFL quarterback.
He could be the guy that if your franchise signal caller goes down, that it’s not a doom and gloom situation with Hurts taking over. There would still be hope for a contending team. When you look at the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart and roster for 2021, they aren’t contending now.
What’s going to stop the Birds from being successful is the Eagles defense, and by defense, I’m referring to the back 7 of the defense.
You can’t give up 35-40 points-a-game and realistically expect to win with any consistency in the NFL.
defensive back 7
Some fans may think the Eagles have a top notch defensive line. They do, they have an exceptional defensive line. They led the NFL in sacks in 2020. The Eagles defense had 15 more sacks than any team in the NFL in 2020.
I mention this because some fans have alluded to the line being back to form in 2021. IT WASN’T OUT OF FORM IN 2020. The back 7 is so bad that even when the opponent needs 17 yards on 2nd or 3rd down, they get 20+ often. This is because the back 7 is terrible.
The Eagles defense was tied for last in the NFL, giving up 12 passing plays of 40+ yards. They were 2nd to last in running plays of 40+ yards with 7 too. It’s not passing or rushing that the Eagles defense has issues with, it’s a mixture of both. They surrendered 19 plays of 40+ yards in 2020. That’s more than one a game.
The Eagles defense is very balanced when it comes to giving up huge plays to their opponent.
The Eagles defense is ranked in the bottom third of most defensive stats, both rushing yards and passing. They excel in pass rushing but falter in almost every other aspect and as 2020 showed having 15 more sacks that any other team doesn’t matter much when you can’t stop the big plays in the passing or running game. It led to 4 victories in the end.
Darius Slay was a big pickup for the Philadelphia Eagles defense before the 2020 season. The 30-year-old is a 3-time pro bowler and was believed to be the All-Pro cornerback the Philadelphia Eagles needed at the top of their depth chart.
Iggles fans are hoping that he is much better in 2021, well it’s almost impossible for him to be any worse. Philadelphia’s opponents in 2020 completed over 76% of pass attempts directed at him.
We’ll see what Nnamdi- I mean Darius, it’s Darius Slay, what he does in 2021.
What the Eagles should have done?
What the Eagles should have done a couple years ago was trade for Rams super shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey. I wrote an article about this when Jacksonville was trading him.
There aren’t shutdown cornerbacks in their mid-20’s like Jalen Ramsey available.
There just aren’t really shutdown corners and usually when there is one, a team isn’t letting him go. This was a rare opportunity for a rare talent at a position that isn’t readily available.
A team could have five straight top picks and not find a lockdown cornerback. People that cover football use lockdown corner when what they’re talking about is just a 5-time pro bowler or even a future hall-of-famer.
Not all hall-of-fame cornerbacks are lockdown corners. They are as rare as it gets and Philadelphia was the runner-up for this special talent. A move that as I said when it was happening could have change everything.
If the Eagles make this move back in 2019, today in 2021, they would still have holes but they would be able to fix them much more easily around Ramsey. The way the Rams have done, making them one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.
He can lockdown any threat in the NFL on defense. The future, moving forward, would look so much brighter had this happened.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense will have its issues in 2021 but the wide receiving corps that was also a weakness in 2020 should be on the rise.
The Birds selected 2020 Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith out of Alabama with the 10th overall selection. The 6’0, 185 pound Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns as a Senior for the Crimson Tide, averaging 15.9 yards-per-reception. Many expect him to be at the top of the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart for at least the next decade.
He could be a special talent. Many comparisons to Marvin Harrison have been made but even future superstars at WR most of the time don’t catch 100+ passes or have 1,000 yard seasons as rookies. You could count on your hands the players who put up these type of numbers as rookies and some of them who did weren’t even great receivers.
Most great wide receivers in the NFL make the leap around year 3. A great rookie season for most WR’s is 700-800 yards receiving and 5-8 TD’s. That is a rookie receiver living up to his potential. It’s not much different from a productivity standpoint than what a great rookie season for a top quarterback looks like.
It isn’t the same as what is expected from a veteran franchise quarterback. If you look at the career of an elite quarterback, whatever his stats were from his rookie season, they weren’t what they would become as he got more experience under his belt.
The same thing goes for receivers. It’s laughable when people in Philadelphia are already dismissing 2020 first round pick Jalen Reagor. Reagor may turn out not to be a good pick but it’s just to early to tell now.
It takes time, most of the time. Smith and Reagor have to get used to facing cornerbacks week in-and-out that are better than anything they have ever faced before. They have to learn all the tricks that veteran coverage guys use against young and inexperienced receivers in the NFL.
This can only be done from playing, practicing, and learning.
The Iggles transition to contending football team could be a tricky endeavor because of the ages of some of the players on the Birds roster. Here’s what I mean
- Jason Kelce-C-34-years-old
- Lane Johnson-OT-31-years-old
- Fletcher Cox-DT-31-years-old
- Joe Flacco-QB-36-years-old
- Brandon Brooks-OG-32-years-old
- Ryan Kerrigan-LB-36-years-old
- Brandon Graham-DE-33-years-old
- Rodney McLeod-S-31-years-old
- Zach Ertz-TE-31-years-old
These players have accounted for 27 Pro Bowl selections combined. This makes up all the Pro-Bowl selections on the Eagles roster.
It will be somewhat difficult to navigate fixing the holes and the possible positions that could use an upgrade while the nucleus of the team is aging.
Philly will be trying to fix the back 7 and possibly upgrading the quarterback as the offensive and defensive lines continue to age. Depending on how long it takes to fix the weaknesses, the strengths of the team could become weaknesses in the not to distant future.
The Eagles organization has already started to draft possible replacements like 2021 2nd round pick Landon Dickerson to the offensive line. It’s obvious they understand the situation. Hopefully they maneuver threw it, while making the right choices.
Iggles proven future
The Eagles have young players that were college stars and who the organization thinks will be the same at the professional level. I’m not going to go into that. I’m going to stick to the proven players.
This list starts with two players on offense, TE Dallas Goedert and HB Miles Sanders. Both were 2nd round picks and both are capable of having breakout seasons at their respected positions in 2021.
Not only are they capable but both players are expected to take their games to the next level.
Josh Sweat was a 4th round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Before that he was the top rated football prospect in the country. Heading into his Senior season of High School, his size and athleticism was drawing comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney.
In his first two games as a Senior he had 25 tackles, 11 TFL, and 8 sacks. He was a verbal commit to Georgia and then he dislocated his knee and tore his ACL. Not happy with how Georgia handled the injury, he changed his commitment to Florida State.
He had a good career for the Noles but if Sweat doesn’t get injured before his college career started, he isn’t a 4th round draft pick. He has special talent and could be a special NFL player, if he is given the opportunity.
In the last two seasons, Sweat has 10 sacks in a limited role. He had 6 sacks, 3 FF, and 9 TFL in 2020.
I think in the end Jalen Hurts as the Eagles QB isn’t the answer and their back 7 is going to stop them from being a competitive team in 2021. After that, they have to upgrade these positions, while waiting for some young talent to develop and also reloading the strengths of the team before they become weaknesses because of aging.