PHILADELPHIA – At this rate, forget about quarterback. The Eagles might need Jalen Hurts to play running back, wide receiver, tight end, and heck, if he can block a little bit, maybe on the offensive line, too.
Make no mistake, the Eagles’ second-round draft pick needs to be on the field – a lot – in order for the Eagles to have a chance to win.
The Eagles’ season depends on it.
That’s not to say Hurts should replace Carson Wentz, who has played better the last three games after a brutal start. Rather, the two are more dangerous when they’re on the field together.
As wide receiver Travis Fulgham put it: “Jalen is out there making people look silly.”
Wentz called him “a playmaker,” then added: “You bring him in off the bench and defenses have to be ready for where he’s at, and where I’m at.”
And yet, Hurts hasn’t been out there enough. Not yet, anyway.
Hurts only played seven snaps on Sunday during the Eagles’ 30-28 loss to the Ravens. He got on the field for the first time with 5:32 remaining in the first half.
Up until that point, the Eagles had six possessions, and the results were punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt. They had minus-7 yards of offense, total.
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Yet on Hurts’ first play, he lined up in the shotgun formation, took the snap and ran up the middle for 20 yards.
One play later, Hurts ran for three yards on second-and-2. Then on the play after that, Hurts again lined up in the shotgun. He threw backward to Wentz, who then threw all the way across the field to Hurts.
The play gained only three yards. But it was clear that the Ravens had something else to contend with as the Eagles drove down the field only to give the ball up on downs at the Ravens’ 20.
“At the time, we had been struggling a little bit offensively, especially running the football,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said about deciding to go to Hurts.
Yet Hurts wasn’t used much in the second half, especially after the Eagles fell behind 30-14, and Miles Sanders and tight end Zach Ertz had left with knee and ankle injuries, respectively.
That was a mistake. And it will have to change for an injury-ravaged offense that is left with only two starters – Wentz and center Jason Kelce. On the offensive line, the Eagles were down to their third left tackle, their third right guard and third right tackle.
“We have had some injuries before,” Kelce said. “But obviously this is on another level.”
Wentz was sacked six times and hit 16 times. Hurts can offset that.
Hurts was on the field when Sanders had his 74-yard run in the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown when J.J. Arcega-Whiteside recovered Sanders’ fumble in the end zone.
On the play, Wentz handed the ball off to Sanders as he faked a reverse to Hurts, who was lined up as a wide receiver.
“I guess I could have put him in there one or two more times,” Pederson said when pressed on why he didn’t use Hurts more.
It’s hard to see Sanders or Ertz playing Thursday night against the Giants. Pederson said Monday he doesn’t have injury updates on any of his injured players, and has not ruled Sanders out yet.
Sanders is third in rushing in the NFL with 434 yards. His average of 6.1 yards per carry leads the NFL. The Eagles’ other running backs, Boston Scott and Corey Clement, combined to average 3 yards per carry.
Hurts has 49 yards rushing on seven carries, averaging 7 yards per carry.
“Obviously, you saw yesterday some of the what we call ‘X plays,’ or some of the plays that are sort of unscouted with him,” Pederson said. “(They) have been productive for us in the last three or four weeks. I think it’s something we gotta continue to explore.
“It does give us the ability to run the football with him, so he’s like another – I don’t want to say he’s another running back – but he’s a quarterback that can run the zone-read plays from the quarterback position.
“It has been successful for us. I can see things continuing each week that way.”
Hurts can also help as a receiver, even with the possible return Thursday of DeSean Jackson, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, and Alshon Jeffery, who has yet to play this season after having foot surgery last December.
Heck, let Hurts throw the ball, too. Hurts threw his one and only pass of the season last week against the Steelers. He completed it for 18 yards to tight end Richard Rodgers.
His impact could be like that of Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was lethal both passing (186 yards, 1 touchdown) and running (108 yards, 1 TD).
Sure, there could be some mistakes, considering that Hurts is a rookie. But really, that’s what the Eagles are down to at so many positions right now.
The Eagles have seen that already with receiver John Hightower, who dropped what should have been an 88-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the game. But Wentz went back to him later in the game and Hightower caught a 50-yard pass, setting up a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Then again, look at Fulgham, who has easily become the Eagles’ top receiver in just three games after his promotion from the practice squad. His 284 yards receiving are by far the most on the team. He’s third in receptions with 18.
“It means a lot that Carson trusts me now, and we continue to build on it,” Fulgham said. “I just wish I could’ve made more plays for the team, and we just need to do more to get the win.”
Hurts can make more plays for the Eagles – if they’ll give him the chance.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.