"The Giants game has been flushed."
That's what quarterback Jalen Hurts had to say about Sunday's loss to the Giants as the Eagles move on and focus on the New York Jets and a return trip to MetLife Stadium. That's true, has been since early Monday afternoon, a 24-hour rule the NFL adheres to without question. As the team gets into the meat of its prep work for the Jets, let's take a peek at some of the stories around the NovaCare Complex ...
1. Injuries and what they mean for the Eagles on Sunday
We're in Week 13 of this 18-week 2021 NFL season and every team has injuries. Bunches of them. Every player has bumps and bruises and qualifies as "hurting" on a daily basis. That's just the way it is in the NFL. So, the Eagles have more injuries to deal with, but the operative word from the Eagles on Wednesday was "hopeful."
Hurts, who suffered a sprained ankle on Sunday, is bullish on his chances to play on Sunday. He's got the warrior mentality and, yeah, he's going to do everything he can do to go against the Jets. Head Coach Nick Sirianni was not quite as definite with his analysis of Hurts' status, saying instead that he is "hopeful" that Hurts will play. We'll know more later in the week, of course. The Eagles held a walkthrough practice on Wednesday and they literally walk through the practice. Had it been a real practice, Hurts would have been a limited participant.
At running back, the Eagles are "hopeful," (Sirianni's word) with regards to Miles Sanders, who suffered an ankle injury on Sunday. He was a limited participant in Wednesday's walkthrough. They'll hope for more clarity on Jordan Howard and his knee injury on Thursday. So, the operative thinking here is "we'll see" (my words).
Every team has injuries, right? The Eagles have had their share, starting with Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo along the offensive line (more on that below) and extending through Brandon Graham at defensive end and Davion Taylor at linebacker. The Eagles have done a good job of replenishing the roster all the way through the practice squad, so they'll be ready for whatever transpires from an injury standpoint on Sunday.
2. Getting the offense back on track
Hurts is itching to play. No doubt about that for a lot of reasons. He loves the game and he feels an incredible respect for his position on the team. The Eagles didn't have the kind of performance offensively on Sunday that made them happy, so the goal is to get back on track, to have balance in the attack, and to capitalize on opportunities.
"Playing my position, being patient, taking what they're giving me and going out there and protecting the ball," Hurts said of his approach moving forward. "That's something I've done a fairly good job of the majority of the year to this point, so to have a game like that is a lot for me to learn from. The most important thing when you go out there and play a game is to have the attention to detail and I think that's something we lacked as an offense and something that I lacked in last week's game so that's something that I want to do a better job of this week.
"I want to execute at a very high level."
To do so, ball security is vital. The Eagles had only nine giveaways prior to Sunday. They bunched four of them into 60 minutes against the Giants.
"The big thing was obviously taking care of the football," Sirianni said. "The biggest stat that we look at, again, are explosive plays and turnover differential. Those are the ones that we just really hang our hat on because those are the ones you say the odds are the best that, if you win those two things, you're going to win the game. So, the big one, just taking care of the football."
3. Jason Kelce's legend takes another step
Nobody has ever questioned Jason Kelce's toughness. He's started 117 straight regular-season games, currently the longest streak for an NFL center. He's a star player, a leader, and, according to Sirianni, in his own category for toughness.
"I can't say enough good things about him," Sirianni said of Kelce. "Not only do I think he's one of the best offensive linemen that I've ever been around – and I've been around some good offensive linemen – I also think he's the toughest guy I've ever been around."
Kelce suffered a knee injury in the first half of the game against the Giants and was taken to the locker room for evaluation. He returned to the sideline and went off with the team's athletic training staff and doctors to get into his stance and see how the knee and quad felt exploding into action. It didn't work initially, and then Kelce did the same after halftime and felt good enough to re-enter and finish the game.
"I really care about the game, I care about my teammates, and I care about the sport and this team, so I just try to do everything I can," Kelce said. "I think that's the way it should be done and I think for the most part that's the way guys in this organization go about it."
4. Defense prepares for Jets' first-round quarterback
Zach Wilson is the franchise quarterback for the Jets in his rookie season. It has been a typical roller-coaster for the rookie, who has thrown 10 interceptions and four touchdowns this season. A knee injury shelved Wilson for four games and he's taken a bunch of hits along the way. With all of that, the Eagles are impressed with what they've seen from Wilson, the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.
"We know he's got a great arm. We know he's going to get better over the years, but he's still good right now, so we've got to find ways to disrupt his timing right now and get after him," defensive tackle Javon Hargrave said.
"He can make all the throws. You can see that on film. Strong arm. Got a lot of swagger about him," cornerback Darius Slay. "He's young and just like every young quarterback he's learning. He's doing a great job over there."
5. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside keeps the right attitude
Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has made himself into a valuable player for the Eagles, it's just the kind of picture he envisioned as a second-round draft pick in 2019. Arcega-Whiteside caught 10 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown as a rookie and then had four receptions in 2020. This year, Arcega-Whiteside has been more of a special teams player and a blocker on offense – but he's made a couple of plays the last two weeks and he's keeping the right attitude. Arcega-Whiteside had a 23-yard catch-and-run to help seal the win against New Orleans and added a 13-yard catch-and-run last Sunday at New York. His offensive reps have increased, too – 12 snaps against the Saints and 15 against New York.
"It's been a process, and I've matured a lot," Arcega-Whiteside told me on Wednesday. "I still want catches and touchdowns and big plays and that was my mentality coming into the league, but I know I can help the team win doing other things, too. So, whenever I get an opportunity, I have to make the best of it. I feel like I'm getting better. I think my best days are ahead of me and I'm encouraged by the last couple of weeks, but whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to be professional and do it and make the best out of it.
"I know that if you have the wrong attitude, you're not going to be in this league very long. That's important for every player to understand. For me, hey, anything I can do to help us win, I'm going to do it. That's all I can do – work hard on my game and improve every day and do everything the coaches ask me to do."
For the entire Arcega-Whiteside interview, and it's a deep dive on his three seasons here, listen to Thursday's Eagles Insider Podcast.
6. The offensive line adjusts once again
The pieces continue to move along the offensive line, a unit that had enjoyed the luxury of six straight games with the same five starting players through Sunday's game at the Giants. This week, with right guard Jack Driscoll moved to Injured Reserve with an ankle sprain, the Eagles will likely go with Nate Herbig or Sua Opeta at right guard. It will be the sixth starting combination of the season.
"We have a lot of confidence in Herbie and Sua," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "With Stout (Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Jeff Stoutland), every player prepares to play. When somebody goes down, the next man plays and he plays well because he's been prepared to play. So it's going to be business as usual up front with us. That's the way we operate."