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Jalen Hurts: 'When it clicks, it's going to be real pretty'

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This is the right mindset, courtesy of quarterback Jalen Hurts, as the Eagles look toward the 3-1 Panthers on Sunday.

"It's been four games, a short amount of time," Hurts said on Wednesday. "I think I mentioned it earlier, I mentioned it last week, about that identity and still fine-tuning and finding that and finding who we are. I said it after the (Kansas City) game: We're close. Clearly, we're not there. We're not winning, but we're very close and that's the confidence in our preparation and what we do and what we believe and how we work together and the relationships we have with one another.

"But no one is a finished product. This team is not a finished product. We're working and we're working to come on."

At 1-3, the Eagles are hungry for a win. They opened the season with an impressive win at Atlanta, had San Francisco on the ropes in a narrow defeat, had very little go their way in a loss at Dallas, and then failed too many times in the red zone against Kansas City on Sunday to beat one of the best teams the NFL has to offer. This is the way things go for a team that is young in key spots, including the coaching staff: The bright spots are there and they flash, but the key is consistency for 60 minutes.

That's what is required to win in this league.

And that's what the Eagles are striving to accomplish: four quarters of outstanding football.

"We're going to continue to learn. We're going to continue to grow," Hurts said. "It's going to click and when it does, it's going to be real pretty."

Until that time comes, the Eagles just have to keep working and block out the noise. The offense has made some nice strides through four games with Hurts developing and stressing a defense on every snap – his 1,325 total yards are tied for second in the NFL among quarterbacks behind Tom Brady. Rookie receiver DeVonta Smith had his first 100-yard game on Sunday and runs crisp routes and catches everything thrown his way. Tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz are productive pass catchers. Jalen Reagor is explosive when he has the ball in his hands. Quez Watkins has improved by leaps and bounds. The 1-2 backfield combination of Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell has been versatile and making the most of its opportunities.

An offensive line that has had three different starting combinations in four games continues to be a strength. Once that group is solidified – the good news on Wednesday was that left tackle Jordan Mailata returned to practice on a limited basis after missing two games with a knee injury – the Eagles will have more of an identity on offense, following that big group.

Defensively, tackle Javon Hargrave has been dominating, end Josh Sweat continues to come on, and two tough games have overshadowed the opening two weeks in which the defensive performance was outstanding. The defense is a work in progress, as is the entire team.

That's really the theme of what Hurts said on Wednesday. We're working. We're making progress. We're getting closer. Our improvement isn't yet showing up in the win column, but we're going to keep working until that happens.

Sunday is the next challenge against a Panthers team that overhauled its roster, starting with a trade that brought in quarterback Sam Darnold from the Jets. Carolina has wins against the Jets, Saints, and Texans with a loss against Dallas on Sunday the most recent game. How good are the Panthers, who have been aggressively addressing the roster, trading for cornerbacks C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore in the last two weeks? Sunday is a great test for them, too.

How is progress measured? In wins and losses, ultimately, but for a team that has so much "new," it's a bit more nuanced. The Eagles have been penalized 44 times, the most in the league and far too many for Head Coach Nick Sirianni's satisfaction. The Eagles need to be more disciplined and focused and cut down on those mistakes and they say they have that in mind as the week of practice for Carolina ramps up.

"You just keep working," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "It's about us, not the other team. We know what we have to do to win games. We have to be better in a lot of areas."

So, the work continues as the Eagles search for their ultimate identity. They accept the challenge eagerly.

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