Quarterback Joe Flacco started on Thursday night when the Eagles hosted the New England Patriots in their preseason home finale.
But that wasn't the plan.
Jalen Hurts was scheduled to start and play a couple of series. He arrived at Lincoln Financial Field and told the team that he had pain in his abdomen. He went through pregame warmups and tried to play, but the team decided to send him to a local hospital for evaluation. He tested negative for COVID-19. He was diagnosed with a stomach infection and was sent home.
"He came in. He wasn't feeling great when he came in, so we put him through pregame warmups. He wanted to go out there and go through pregame warmups. He came back in and still wasn't feeling good. We evaluated him. We felt it wasn't in his best interest to play with what he was feeling. He's fine now. He's doing OK now," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said.
"He had pain in his abdomen. For a guy like that to tell us, he's a tough guy. He must have been hurting pretty good to let us know about it.
"He really wanted to play. We decided it wasn't in the best interest of the team and him. He was fighting me to play tonight. I know he would have wanted to, but that's where you have to lean on the doctors too and make a decision and that's what we did."
Hurts played 10 snaps in the preseason opener last Thursday against the Steelers. Sirianni would not be as concerned if Hurts were to miss the final preseason game a week from Friday against the New York Jets because of the extensive work in the joint practices against the Patriots and the Jets.
"Those intersquad practices are like games, so he's going to be able to get two more there (next week)," Sirianni said. "I'm pretty confident that we'll get a lot of good work against the Jets."
Once Hurts was ruled out, Sirianni altered the starting lineup along the offensive line. In order to give veterans Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson some rest, the Eagles started Nate Herbig at center, Jack Driscoll at right guard, and Matt Pryor at right tackle. Sirianni said that he would have gone with the full complement of starters along the offensive line if Hurts played.
Several veterans on defense also received the night off: defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Brandon Graham, cornerback Darius Slay, and defensive end Josh Sweat. Starting defensive end Derek Barnett and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave were sidelined due to injury.
Tight end Jason Croom suffered a knee injury early in the second quarter and was carted off the field. Safety K'Von Wallace exited the game early with a groin injury.
• Sirianni 'We've got to compete every day'
Head Coach Nick Sirianni was not impressed with his team's execution on Thursday night. Sirianni says there is no excuse but the blame should not just be on the players.
"You want to go out and you want to win every time you take the field. And just because we're not playing our starters or we're not showing some of our looks, that's not an excuse. We got to execute better. We got to play with better fundamentals. We got to coach better and we got to put them in a better position to make plays," said Sirianni.
Key players like guard Brandon Brooks, defensive end Brandon Graham, center Jason Kelce, tackle Lane Johnson, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox were on the sidelines against New England. But even though some top players have not seen much action on the field during these two preseason games, Sirianni will not accept that as an excuse for poor results.
"Every time we step on the field we want to compete our tails off, and today's game was no exception," Sirianni said.
The Birds had two joint practices earlier this week with the Patriots, so they got a little taste of what they could expect come gameday. Even after getting a little taste of their competition prior to the game, they did not play good enough, according to Sirianni.
"In the NFL, we look at our practice this week. We had a good day on Monday, Tuesday we competed pretty hard against the Patriots, and then today wasn't good enough and the message was, you know, this is like a season right," he added, "It's not good enough to come out and play a good game one day then you compete the next day and play a little bit better and then play bad the third day, that's just not going to work in this league."
Looking forward, Sirianni is using this game to show his team how hard they have to compete in this league ... and that's every day.
"It was a good example for our guys just to see that's just not what we do. We got to come out, we've got to play every day, and compete every day," said Sirianni.