It's hard to believe it's Week 15, but the Eagles will be wheels-up to Chicago for a cold December game at Soldier Field. A playoff berth has been clinched, they stand at 12-1, but this team has their eyes set on much more. I'll take you inside the locker room and around the NovaCare Complex as the Birds chip away at a historic season.
DOES JALEN HURTS EVER GO HOME?
If you know anything about Jalen Hurts, it's that he's a hard-nosed student of the game. He's always described as even-keeled, never getting too high or too low. He sets a standard amongst his teammates, and he's the ultimate leader and competitor.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni and some of his teammates shed light this week on just how committed Hurts is.
"He works his butt off. He's always here. He's always in this building. It doesn't matter what time of day, it doesn't matter if the players are in that day or not – he's always here, always working on his craft, always working on getting his body physically ready, always working on his mind, and making sure that's mentally ready," Sirianni said. "Credit to Jalen – he's big-time. He's a stud."
"I come in for treatment on our days off, and I see his car already parked in here," left tackle Jordan Mailata said. "You want a leader like that, someone who shows character when the coaches aren't looking, when the fans aren't looking – he certainly embodies that. I think it's just a testament to the player he is and the person he is."
Wide receiver A.J. Brown laughed when he was asked about the time Hurts spends at the NovaCare Complex: "You might as well say he lives here."
Brown said he and Hurts talk all the time, "I'll FaceTime him, and he's still here," noting that Hurts has found his rhythm as a professional, and his commitment is a representation of how much the quarterback wants to win.
DUAL-THREATS DUEL ON SUNDAY
The quarterbacks who will face off Sunday have always been categorized as dual-threat quarterbacks, dating back to their high school recruiting days – 247 Sports listed both players as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback recruits in their respective classes. High school recruiting, however, brought them both to the SEC.
Hurts played three seasons at Alabama, while Fields was a Georgia Bulldog. They simultaneously departed the SEC for opportunities at Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively. In 2019, the pair were named Heisman Trophy finalists.
The Eagles went on to draft Hurts in 2020 and Fields followed in 2021 when the Chicago Bears selected him in the first round.
The start to their NFL careers weren't necessarily smooth transitions – Hurts began as a backup, while Fields joined a team that was in full rebuild mode. Following their rookie seasons, both quarterbacks would get new head coaches.
Hurts, now in Year 3, has positioned himself as an NFL MVP candidate, while Chicago has gotten a glimpse of the young talent they picked up just over a year ago. Both players rank atop the leaderboard in carries and rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks in 2022.
Hurts leads all quarterbacks with 10 rushing touchdowns, and Fields sits atop the group with 905 rushing yards. This duo represents the changing of NFL quarterbacks – being a pure pocket-passer isn't the only way to play the position anymore. Modern-day quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, who won the NFL MVP award in 2019, have proven what an advantage it is for teams to have a dual-threat quarterback. Seemingly, Hurts and Fields have followed suit.
"He's always been a player that I've had a lot of respect for," Hurts said about Fields. "At Georgia, at Ohio State, coming into the Bears, and doing what he's been able to do in a short time. He's just continued to climb. There's a definite threat over there. I know we have to be prepared for him."
The 2022 season has been the year Hurts' development in the pass game has seen significant growth. He leads the NFL in completion percentage from the pocket, while still being at the top of many rushing categories as well. Perhaps this type of growth is what the Bears hope for Fields in the future.
Nick Sirianni and new Bears' head coach, Matt Eberflus, have quite a history, too. They coached together in Indianapolis under Frank Reich. This week, Sirianni said he has a lot of respect for "Flus" and everything he stands for, calling him a "phenomenal coach."
"I'm happy for him that he's a head coach, and I just know how good of a coach he is, too, and that we're going to have to be on our stuff because he's going to have them on their stuff," Sirianni said.
From sideline to sideline, there's mutual respect, featuring two quarterbacks who have climbed the ranks, betting on themselves every step of the way.
AN OFFENSE OF PLAYMAKERS
The 21-day practice window opened for tight end Dallas Goedert this week who spent four weeks on IR due to a shoulder injury he suffered Week 10 against the Commanders.
When asked about Goedert's status for this week, Head Coach Nick Sirianni did not want to put a timetable on his return. His status for Sunday remains to be determined, but Goedert told reporters earlier in the week that he was excited to be back practicing.
In his absence, young tight ends Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra had big shoes to fill. The ball was also re-distributed, so A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith saw an increase in targets.
Sirianni shared that the response from the offense reconfirmed that there are a lot of capable guys on this offense.
"It's just been a lot of fun to watch them go out there," Goedert said about his teammates. "Nobody's really missed a beat. And it's good for everybody to get more reps in different positions, and I hope when I come back, I can help in any way."
In the first 10 weeks of the season, Goedert ranked second amongst tight ends in receiving yards (544), and Hurts was averaging an NFL-best 10.4 passing yards per attempt to a tight end.
Entering Week 15, the 2022 Eagles have 50 total touchdowns. The most touchdowns scored in Eagles' history is 54 and was done by the 2014 team. With four games to go, the Birds are on the heels of setting yet another franchise record this season.
On Tuesday, the Eagles hosted 35 children who the criminal justice system has negatively impacted for a very special event with REFORM Alliance co-chairs Michael Rubin and Meek Mill.
EAGLES SIGN MORE THAN 30 NEW PROSPECTS
Tuesday was a busy day at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles, Sixers, and REFORM Alliance hosted more than 30 local kids who are negatively impacted by the criminal justice system.
REFORM Alliance was founded by Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin, alongside rapper Meek Mill. They, along with other business executives, celebrities, and philanthropists, wanted to tackle the issue of unjust imprisonment through policy reform – turning parole and probation into an opportunity to create better pathways to the workforce and bettering communities.
This week, kids impacted by this system were treated to an unforgettable experience. They were an "Eagle for a Day," participating in a mini-combine, signing a one-day contract, taking tours of the NovaCare Complex, and meeting players such as Jalen Hurts, Jordan Mailata, Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, and Darius Slay.
"To just be able to impact those kids," Goedert said. "And it's a big issue that we need to get corrected as soon as possible. REFORM is taking great steps to do that and it was cool to be able to help out and give back to a good cause."
THE EAGLES GIVE A HOMETOWN GRANT
The Eagles and American Dairy Association North East announced the two recipients of this year's Hometown Grants: Clara Barton Elementary School and Watson Elementary School. The grants total $10,000 and are part of a Fuel Up to Play 60 partnership.
The announcement came as part of a pep rally at Barton on Thursday morning, where the exuberant students welcomed SWOOP, Eagles Cheerleaders, and Eagles Legend Jason Avant.
The celebration included remarks from Avant and dairy farmer, Colleen Hoover, as well as trivia questions based on exercise, movement, and healthy eating. Hometown Grants are designed to fight food insecurity in schools, as well as promote healthy lifestyles through daily activity.
These funds will be used to purchase new mobile meal carts to increase school meal accessibility.
"I remember being a kid and not having much as far as money, and I needed those meals," said Avant. "So the Eagles going out of their way to give money to help these schools and the kids that may be less fortunate, making sure they're eating, making sure they're playing and being healthy is going to increase brain function and they're going to become better students."