Eagles should make Jalen Hurts the No. 2 quarterback

Eliot Shorr-Parks
August 18, 2020 - 7:19 am
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The Eagles opened the door to the media on Monday for their first padded practice of training camp, and among the many things that stood out about the 2020 team, there was one clear takeaway from the day. 

Jalen Hurts should be the backup quarterback. 

Not in a few weeks. Not later on in the season. Not by the end of training camp. Not even by next week. 

Now. 

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-Nate Sudfeld take. Sudfeld definitely has some attractive qualities as a quarterback. He has a strong arm, he is mobile for his size and knows the offense. Sudfeld has value on the roster. 

It is just obvious that Hurts is better, and that really shouldn’t be a controversial statement. Hurts was a second-round pick, a Heisman finalist, a National Champion and the only quarterback in history to lead two teams to the College Football Playoffs. Sudfeld, for all of his strengths, isn’t. 

That much was obvious watching the team for the first time since the team drafted Hurts, as the second-round pick had an awesome day of practice on Monday, not looking anything like a quarterback who is going to need months to be the top backup to Carson Wentz.

Hurts best throw of the day came in an 11-on-11 drill. After dropping back, Hurts floated a pass perfectly about 30-yards down the sideline over the shoulder of rookie receiver John Hightower and into his hands. The pass hit him right in stride and allowed Hightower to run through the attempt by Rasul Douglas to bring him down. In a practice where Carson Wentz was outstanding, Hurts’ throw was the best throw any quarterback made on Monday. 

Hurts also performed well in the red zone on Monday, a great sign of how he is handling the speed of the game and his ability to make quick reads. Hurts attempted five passes in the red zone, two of which went for touchdowns on impressive throws to the corner of the end zone. 

Hurts’ first touchdown pass was on the run, as he rolled out of the pocket to the right and found receiver Deontay Burnett in the back corner of the end zone. Hurts put the ball out just enough where only Burnett could get it, but left enough room to allow the receiver to stay in bounds. His next touchdown came on the very next play, as he connected with Burnett again, only this time on the left side of the end zone. 

While it was well known what kind of athlete Hurts is, it was still eye-opening to see how much more dangerous he can be on the run than the other Eagles’ quarterbacks. Hurts is quick to the sideline when he needs to be, but still did a great job keeping his eyes down the field when he rolled out, trying to pass it until he had to run. For an offense that is going to emphasize rolling out the quarterbacks, which is a strength for Wentz, having Hurts ready to go should Wentz go down will keep the offense dangerous and allow them to keep that part of the playbook. 

Off-the-field, and in the long-run, playing Hurts over Sudfeld also makes far more sense for the organization. If the team hopes to trade Hurts, then getting him ready to play so he can succeed if he were to take the field helps his trade value. If Wentz suffers another serious injury (which hopefully doesn’t happen), then the Eagles need to get Hurts ready to play for a potentially extended amount of time so they can get an answer on just how good he really is. Playing Sudfeld doesn’t help with either of those goals. 

Of course, this isn’t to say that Hurts is ready to go. He is still a rookie that has had exactly one day of padded practices in the NFL.

But that is the point. 

Hurts needs the reps. He is the better of the two quarterbacks, and at this point, giving Sudfeld reps feels like wasted time. At quarterback, the team should have two goals — get Wentz ready, and then get Hurts ready if Wentz were to go down. 

The good new is it looks like that might secretly be the Eagles' plan. Sudfeld got 17 reps on Monday. Hurts got 16. The near 50/50 split was surprising considering the head coach Doug Pederson has insinuated multiple times there might not be many reps for Hurts in training camp as they prepare Wentz and Sudfeld for Week 1. 

It is also far more of a 50/50 split than the team had between their top two backups, Sudfeld and Clayton Thorson, last year.

Last year, Sudfeld routinely got double, if not triple, the amount of reps as Thorson, who was also a rookie. On the first day of practice last year, Sudfeld got nine reps. Thorson got two. In the first four days, Sudfeld had over twice as many reps — 88 to 36 — as Thorson. 

With limited practices left, that is the path the Eagles need to take with Hurts. Give him twice as many reps as Sudfeld. Get him ready to play, and trust that even with limited reps, Sudfeld’s experience in the offense would help him if he had to go out on the field in an emergency situation — as the third-string quarterback. 

It is only a matter of time until Hurts becomes the backup.

The Eagles need to skip the charade, and starting Tuesday, move Hurts up the depth chart. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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