WEEK IN REVIEW
The Eagles pulled off a major upset of the New Orleans Saints 24-21 despite entering the game as 6.5-point home underdogs. Jalen Hurts made headlines in his first career start, taking down the top-seeded team in the NFC team, becoming only the second rookie quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in their first career start, and providing a “spark” that Doug Pederson mentioned several times throughout the week. While it was far from a perfect game, Hurts only completed 17 of 30 passes for 167 yards, there was no denying the renewed energy in the offense, and it would be difficult not to be impressed by the poise Hurts showed against the league’s top-ranked defense.
While Hurts put forth a nice showing on the offensive side of the ball, the strong showing from the defense, especially the defensive line, really kept the Eagles in the game. The defense completely shut down Taysom Hill and the Saints in the first half, leaving them completely scoreless in the first half. The Eagles’ defensive front had a dominant performance which resulted in 5 sacks, 12 QB hits, and two forced turnovers. Linebacker Duke Riley came away with an interception on a rushed Taysom Hill throw, which was only the fourth team interception by the Eagles’ defense this season. If the defense can carry this momentum into next week, they may give Kyler Murray a tough time.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
The Jalen Hurts vs Carson Wentz saga will continue through the remainder of this season and the offseason as well. For as many answers that we think we uncover with this team, just as many questions arise. The offense looked very different with Hurts at the helm. There was more pre-snap motion, more play action, more boots, and a much larger percentage of passes outside of the numbers. It is very interesting to see how much the offensive scheme can shift over the course of just one week.
Doug Pederson is now 11-2 as the head coach of the Eagles when starting quarterbacks not named Carson Wentz (excluding the throwaway week 17 game in 2017). Rumors have circulated over time about Wentz's resistance to Doug Pederson’s play calling. Wentz changes plays pre-snap at one of the highest rates in the league, which leaves room for speculation that the plays he is calling away from are the more creative plays we saw with Hurts. Pederson has been quoted saying that Wentz has major input on the play calling when he is in the game and it is beginning to look like Wentz may be limiting the creativity we see on the field.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Eagles opened as 6.5-point home underdogs against the Arizona Cardinals, who are coming off a convincing 26-7 victory versus the New York Giants. Arizona boasts one of the league’s top-scoring offenses, and although they’ve fallen from the top spot they held earlier in the season, they are still extremely dangerous. Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is currently 3rd in the league in receptions and 5th in the league in yards, will be the Eagles’ biggest challenge on Sunday. With multiple injuries in the secondary, including lead cornerback Darius Slay in the concussion protocol and Rodney McLeod out with a torn ACL, Hopkins could be due for a big day.
The biggest wildcard matchup in this game is going to be Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts versus Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons. Simmons, who is one of the most athletic defensive players in the entire league, played linebacker, cornerback, safety, and sometimes running back during his college career at Clemson. He would be the best candidate on Arizona’s defense to spy on Jalen Hurts and limit his production as a runner. Simmons has not yet found a consistent role in the Cardinals defense throughout the season, but this responsibility may be the best fit for his skill set. If Simmons can win in this respect, it will be a true test of Jalen Hurts’ skills as a pure passer.