Birds Roundup Week 14: Jalen Hurts wins his first career start; Defense shows out

It’s been awhile since the Eagles have won a football game — their last win came on Nov. 1 against Dallas. In Jalen Hurts’ first career start, facing the No. 1 overall defense in football, he helped guide the Eagles to a 24-21 victory.

Hurts showed some nice things, but the entire team really came to play in this one.

Here are a few observations from the Birds’ Week 14 victory.

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The Jalen Hurts Effect

It’s impossible to deny that Hurts brings some juice to Doug Pederson’s offense. With his running ability, he opens up a lot for everyone else and helps mitigate the struggles up front.

Hurts was decisive with the football, made some nice throws under pressure, and just had a calm, cool, and collective feel to his game. Facing a defense like the Saints, it’s easy for a 22-year-old rookie to fold under those circumstances, but Hurts welcomed the challenge.

Hurts finished the game 167 yards through the air, 1 touchdown, and a completion percentage of 56.6 while only averaging 5.6 yards per completion. He did most of his damage on the ground, scooting for 106 yards on 18 carries.

He certainly wasn’t perfect, and it’s way too early to crown this guy as the franchise quarterback over Carson Wentz just yet, but it was a great start. Now that teams have 60 minutes worth of tape on Hurts, it’ll be interesting to see how opposing defenses play him. This week especially, as the Cardinals are a potential playoff team and boast the 13th overall defense in the NFL.

Jim Schwartz’s crew came to play

All of the talk this week will be about Hurts’ performance, but I think the game ball should go to this Eagles defense. They stymied the Saints offensive attack all day and gave the offense an opportunity to put the game on ice after Josh Sweat had his sack fumble late in the fourth quarter.

The defensive line as a whole really had their best outing of the season this week. They recorded five total sacks — two a piece from Sweat and Javon Hargrave, and one from Fletcher Cox. And they did a really nice job limiting Alvin Kamara in the running game, as he only recorded 50 yards on 11 carries.

The linebacker duo of Alex Singleton and Duke Riley also played a big part in that. Singleton continued to prove he’s a force against the run, tallying 11 total tackles. Riley had his best game in an Eagles uniform as well, picking off Taysom Hill and recovering that onside kick at the end of the game to seal the victory.

It felt like the game was trending towards a Saints comeback in the third quarter, after New Orleans put up 14 unanswered and three of the four starters in the secondary left the game. But the defense stayed resilient and made the stops when they had to.

Travis Fulgham is all but phased out of the offense

Travis Fulgham being completely phased out of the Eagles offense is one of the strangest narratives of the season, and also one of the most frustrating. It’s not as evident and mind numbing when the team wins, but there’s still no excuse for playing Alshon Jeffery over him.

Fulgham finished the game with just 11 snaps played, while Jeffery played 31. Even Quez Watkins got more playing time than Fulgham, as he was out there for 22 snaps.

It’s hard to explain why Fulgham is no longer a part of this offense. Alshon being back plays a part in it, but how he’s able to completely overtake that position and push Fulgham to the side is beyond me.

Let Boobie Spin

Miles Sanders is a homerun hitter. He may not consistently get 4-5 yards a pop, but if you give him enough at-bats, he’ll hit one out of the park.

He did it again on Sunday, breaking off an 82-yard run in the final minutes of the first half to give his team a three possession lead. That run was the fourth-longest in Eagles history.

All in all, Sanders ran 14 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, along with recording four receptions for 21 yards. He was the best offensive player on the field for the Eagles on Sunday.

Pederson has refused to give Sanders the opportunity to carry this offense this season, even with his quarterback struggling immensely. Now that Hurts is the guy, likely for the rest of the season, Sanders should continue being a big part of this offensive attack.

Sanders and Hurts are the first two ball carriers to go over 100 yards on the ground against the Saints in over 50 games, and they’re the first QB/RB quo to both top 100 rushing yards since Donovan McNabb and Duce Staley did it in 2002.

The Eagles have a kicker problem

Once upon a time, I though Jake Elliot was as good a kicker as any in the NFL. That has changed drastically in 2020.

Elliot missed a 25-yard chip shot at the end of the first half on Sunday, the shortest missed field goal by an Eagle in 27 years. On the season, Elliot is 13-for-18 on field goals, 72.2 percent. The worst percentage by an Eagles kicker since 1999.

Typically, getting rid of a kicker is pretty simple. But in the Eagles’ case, it’s not as easy as just cutting the guy. Howie decided to give Elliot a five-year, $19 million contract prior to the year, meaning the team will have a $5.4 dead money hit if they release him.

The Eagles are already going to enter cap hell once this season is through, and losing even more money because a kicker’s contract is just flat-out embarrassing.

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