NFL

Questions await Jalen Hurts this offseason but Eagles must address other offensive issues

Jalen Hurts Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts calls an audible at the line in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts’ first taste of the playoffs turned out to be quite a rotten one as the Philadelphia Eagles were bounced from the NFC Wild Card Round in ugly fashion by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 31-15 loss Sunday that wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreline suggests.

Against the defending Super Bowl champions, Hurts completed just 53.49% of his passes (23-of-43) for 258 yards, one garbage-time touchdown and two interceptions. Only after the game was it revealed that Hurts wasn’t playing at 100% as he donned a walking boot to support the same ankle he injured in Week 12 against the Giants.

It was a nightmare scenario for the Eagles and head coach Nick Sirianni, who had to abandon its game plan of run-first to keep up with the Buccaneers after they shot out to an early two-touchdown lead. Hurts was entirely neutralized and Philadelphia’s season was unraveled and as good as dead by halftime — providing further indication that the second-year man might not be the franchise quarterback that the organization is hoping for.

Hence the immediate conversations starting up about how general manager Howie Roseman might want to start looking for quarterback options this offseason.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni during the second half of the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hurts and the Eagles defeated just one team this season that finished with a winning record, taking advantage of an easy schedule to sneak into the playoffs. The quarterback rarely possessed the game-breaking capabilities to will his team to a victory, which doesn’t provide much promise that the Eagles can get to the top of the NFC East, let alone the NFC.

“This game does not define us. It does not define who we are. It does not define us at all,” Hurts said after Sunday’s loss. “We know all the different things that we’ve overcome. We know the environment that we built as a football team and in the organization, and with the youth we’ve had in which I’ve talked about all year. I know as a football team, we’ll be back. This is a feeling that will kind of simmer in our hearts and simmer for us all. With the youth on his football team, we’re definitely coming back hungry.”

But even Hurts the optimist had a difficult time masking his disappointment — which is only natural — as he attempted to place the blame of a Wild Card exit solely on him. That, of course, isn’t the case.

And it certainly appears that Hurts has the support of his teammates and the Eagles’ locker room.

“I see my QB solely take responsibility and say that it is on him,” offensive lineman Jordan Mailata said. “It’s not. It’s on me. It’s on every player. I messed up as well, not giving him enough time. It breaks my heart seeing him up here to take the blame for everything. That’s not true. I know there are a couple of plays there where I should have blocked longer. We all need to be better.

“I know that dude wants to win. I know that dude wants to fix his mistakes. It is all I ask, and that’s all they ask of us. When I see my captain doing that, and when I see my QB doing that, I’m going to do the same thing. It’s infectious for me. That’s the culture we’re trying to build around ourselves. Hold yourself at the highest accountability and keep pressing on. Learn from your mistakes.”

The Eagles moving on from Hurts now at just 23 years old and finishing his first full season as a starter seems somewhat premature. Especially because he wasn’t given much of a supporting cast in terms of pass catchers. Outside of DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia’s receiving options were inconsistent and unreliable, as seen on Sunday.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts looks on prior to the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line struggled against an active Buccaneers defense, forcing the hobbled Hurts to constantly run for his life to extend the play. He was sacked twice and hit 10 times in total.

With three first-round picks, the Eagles have an opportunity to address at least one of those shortcomings — and it appears Sirianni understands a more consistent supporting cast has to be built around Hurts.

“I feel really good with what we have in place right here at the quarterback position,” Sirianni said. “I thought he had a great year, and he came a long way. That’s what I expect from Jalen because of the type of football character he has. He has the toughness and a love for football.

“I can’t say enough good things about Jalen the player, and the person. I feel good about him. This was the game that none of us are going to be satisfied with, but I’m really pleased with how he came along this year and the leader he is on this football team.”

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