All eyes on Jalen Hurts

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Philadelphia Eagles training camp is almost here! Players must report to the NovaCare complex on July 26 before the first practice on July 27. As we count the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will preview every position on the Eagles roster. We start today by looking at – what else – the quarterback position.

JALEN MAL

No player will be scrutinized more this summer than the team’s starting quarterback.

And rightly so. Hurts is a huge X-factor when it comes to the Eagles’ championship chances.

There’s reason to believe Hurts can be better than he was in 2021. He’s entering his second full season as a starter at just 24 years old. He is incredibly determined to maximize his potential. He’s surrounded by a better overall roster and receiving corps with AJ Brown in the fold. He showed positive signs during two live practice sessions attended by the media.

It’s not so much about if Injuries can improve as much as they are to what extent. Hurts was largely a “win with” quarterback last year. The Eagles’ offensive turnover coincided with him throwing the ball less often and helped Philly rank dead last in passing game percentage. This style of play has helped the Eagles beat some bad, injury-depleted teams, but it’s just not a formula for winning the game. superbowl. At some point, Hurts is going to have to pass the ball at high level to beat the good teams.

Hurts can set the stage for a good season — and perhaps allay the Eagles’ doubts about him — with a strong performance in training camp. Allen Iverson might believe the practice is meaningless, but please differ based on past experiences. Back in 2017, Carson Wentz clearly looked like a vastly improved player in training camp ahead of his near-MVP season. In contrast, Wentz did NOT look good in the 2020 offseason before essentially being the worst full-time starting QB in the league that year. Training performance isn’t necessarily guaranteed to transfer to real games, but it’s still a valid barometer.

Two things from Hurts that we will be watching closely in camp: 1) timely decision-making and 2) midfield utilization. On the first thing, Hurts had the slowest average time to pitch each of his first two seasons. Can he speed up his treatment and not just drift out of the pocket to his right? On the second thing, Hurts only targeted between the numbers on just 10% of his throws last year. As much according to Football Underdog Almanac, who noted that the NFL average was 22%. Brown’s aforementioned addition could help in that regard with 60% of his targets coming in this area last year.

If Hurts can make major progress, the Eagles might be able to legitimately compete for the Super Bowl. That’s a very big “if”, though.

GARDNER MINSHEW

Minshew did some great things in relief last year even though he wasn’t in training camp with the Eagles. He should only have one full offseason to take reps into the system and establish rapport with his pass catchers. Barring a downright abysmal summer from Hurts, Minshew is in no position to seriously challenge the starting job. The mustachioed man instead appears to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

(Note: Have you ever thought about how the NFC East currently has some of the best No. 2 QBs in the NFL? Minshew, Taylor Heinicke, and Tyrod Taylor all have legitimate starting experience. Dallas is in the hottest spot. weak in that regard but, of course, they have the strongest starter on paper.)

STRONG CARSON

Strong is easily one of the most intriguing UDFA players to watch given how important his position is and the fact the Eagles paid him a important warranty ($320,000). The Eagles hope he shows enough to justify being QB3 behind Hurts and Minshew. With Minshew set to become a free agent after the 2022 season, Strong could eventually rise through the ranks to replace him. Strong’s training reps will be quite limited, with Nick Sirianni holding relatively short workouts. It’s up to him to make the most of his rare opportunities. He must also get rid of his worries about his health.

REID SINNETT

Sinnett’s stock is down after having to change its number multiple times this offseason, according to the all-important #JerseyNumberAnalytics. (From #7 to #17 to #13.) Strong’s addition weakens his chances of making the roster. But if Sinnett is playing well and Strong is really struggling, well, maybe he could stick around as QB3, either on the roster or on the practice squad. As is the case with Strong, his training reps will be limited. The advantage is that Sinnett should have the chance to play in pre-season games.

Hurts is the starter and it’s been a huge season for him when it comes to proving himself as a franchise quarterback. Minshew is the backup. Strong likely has the inside lane on the QB3 job, but that’s not just going to get handed to him.

Minshew won’t be cut, but he’s a prime trade candidate. To be clear, the Eagles shouldn’t be looking to offload him for any comeback. But what if a team that projects to be bad is willing to send at least one third-round pick? Well, they’ll have to think about it. Minshew provides value as a back-up behind Hurts, sure, but he’s also likely a goner in free agency after this season. In addition to offsetting an asset, trading Minshew would clear $2.54 million of cap space. He currently has the 20th most caps on this year’s list.

The Eagles could end up cutting Strong in hopes of getting him on the practice squad. It all depends on his performance this summer.

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