NFC champion Eagles try and shake off lackluster opener against Vikings
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts skipped the preseason, the NFL MVP runner-up is simply too important to risk an injury to play a meaningless snap.
He also knows how to run an offense, putting up some of the best all-around numbers by a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback in franchise history. He even led the Eagles to the Super Bowl, a feat sure to be recognized at Thursday’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
But maybe, just maybe, even with training camp and joint practices and offseason workouts, the preseason games on the sideline might have thrown off Hurts a bit.
His final line in Week 1 was as pedestrian as it gets: Hurts passed for 170 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 37 yards with a fumble in Sunday’s win over New England.
Did the time off hurt? If it did Hurts, who combined for 35 passing and rushing touchdowns last season, was loath to admit it.
“No, I don’t think there was an adjustment period there,” he said. “They were prepared really well. Put a lot of time into it. I think for us we just continue to grow through that. We all have standards. I have standards and they’re very high.”
Hurts wasn’t alone among the elite QBs who slogged their way through the NFL’s opening weekend. Hurts also has stout reason for optimism that he can make a fast turnaround in those numbers against the Vikings.
Last season, also in Week 2 against the Vikings, Hurts had 301 total yards in the first half in the breakout game of his young career and finished with three total touchdowns in a 24-7 win.
Consider, Hurts hit five receivers on 5-for-5 passing — highlighted by a 19-yard strike to A.J. Brown — in the opening drive and finished the drive himself with a 3-yard scoring run. In the Week 1 win against Detroit last season, Hurts failed to complete a pass on five attempts and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs on the first drive of the game.
So maybe it’s a pattern.
Or maybe Hurts and the Eagles might run into trouble against a revamped Vikings defense under new coordinator Brian Flores.
After ranking second-to-last in the NFL in yards allowed and giving up the fourth-most points in the league last season under defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, the Vikings turned to Flores and turned over more than half of their starting lineup.
The early results for Minnesota weren’t terribly promising — the defense allowed a fourth down conversion to extend Tampa Bay’s drive for the tiebreaking field goal and later let the Buccaneers drain the final 3:52 off the clock Sunday with a 15-yard facemask penalty and two third down conversions for a 20-17 victory.
“They create a lot of issues with the pressures that they bring at you, and so we see that they’re aggressive, well-coached, tackle well,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
TRYING FOR A REBOUND
Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson had six receptions for 48 yards in last season’s loss to the Eagles. Kirk Cousins was pressured into three interceptions.
Jefferson had 150 yards on nine receptions against Tampa Bay.
Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell and safety Reed Blankenship are out with rib injuries while cornerback James Bradberry is in the concussion protocol.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is questionable with rib injuries. The Eagles already placed linebacker Nakobe Dean (foot) on the injured reserve earlier this week.
With Gainwell out, the Eagles could look to turn to D’Andre Swift to handle the workload.
“You can always get it to him by just handing it off to him, but I see him being able to play any role that he’s in because of the type of back and the skill set that he has,” Sirianni said.
BLANKED IN THE OPENER
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert, who had six catches for 60 yards in the Super Bowl, was targeted only once in New England and failed to have a catch.
Goedert shrugged off the zero in his stat line. The Eagles know Goedert’s time to make clutch catches will come.
“Yeah, you never want it to happen, but it does,” Sirianni said. “I said to our coaches, ‘it’s not like we were throwing it to some bums on the outside.’ We were throwing it to A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.”
Smith finished last season with 95 catches for 1,196 yards, after he was shut out in receptions in the season opener against Detroit. Hurts worked quickly to get Smith involved, connecting with him a team-high seven times the next week against the Vikings.
“It’s not something that hasn’t happened before and it’s always turned out fine,” Hurts said.
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AP – 2023-09-13T22:02:07.483Z
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