Eagles training camp 2021: Why Jalen Hurts has to play vs. the Jets

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Why Hurts has to play vs. the Jets originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Judging from what Nick Sirianni said after the Patriots game, it sure doesn’t sound like Jalen Hurts is going to play against the Jets.

Hurts played 10 snaps against the Steelers, and he was sick and didn’t play Thursday night against the Patriots. And with a three-game preseason this year, the Jets a week from Friday is the final preseason game of the summer.

Maybe I’m reading Sirianni wrong, but after the Patriots game, when he was asked about Hurts playing against the Jets, he emphasized that Hurts will get good work in joint practices during the week.

“Next week we have two practices against the Jets and two other practices,” he said. “I've said before, those are like games, so he is going to be able to get two more there. I'm pretty confident that we'll get a lot of good work against the Jets.”

Sounds like the decision has already been made.

Joint practices against the Jets and then shut him down.

That would mean the sum total of Hurts’ first preseason as a starting NFL quarterback would be two drives, 10 snaps, three completions, one field goal, one stomach ache and a whole lot of standing around watching.

Now, I love joint practices. I’m all for the Eagles holding two sets of sessions with other teams. That’s valuable work in a controlled setting that really helps teams get better without putting players at risk.

And I also don’t have a problem with the nature of Sirianni’s practices. They’re short, and there are no live periods, but the workouts are fast-paced, dynamic and efficient, and when supplemented by a healthy dose of classroom work and film study they’re an effective method of preparation. Everything is geared toward getting 53 guys to opening day healthy.

That said, football players need to play football to be ready for the season.

And 10 snaps isn’t enough.

This goes for the entire team, especially the offense, but Hurts in particular. He needs to play Friday night, and he needs to play significant snaps.

He needs reps with DeVonta Smith, who he hasn’t played a snap with in an Eagles uniform. He needs work with Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins, who the Eagles will be leaning heavily on. He needs work behind the starting offensive line, which he’s never gotten. He needs to face a live rush, which he hasn’t other than a handful of snaps against the Steelers. He needs to make the kind of quick decisions in the pocket that practice just can’t replicate.

Hurts has had a nice training camp, and I’m excited to see what he can do once the regular season begins in Atlanta on Sept. 12. But 10 snaps 31 days before the season opener is not enough to get him ready.

Joe Flacco was asked about his poor play against the Patriots Thursday night coming on the heels of two very good days in joint practices.

His answer speaks volumes:

“You have to come out and prove it every day in this league,” he said. “Just because you do something one day doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed anything the next. Practices aren’t games.”

Practices aren’t games.

Flacco may have been talking about himself and the second-team offense, but his words apply to Hurts as well.

Hurts just hasn’t played that much NFL football. He only played three games start to finish last year, and now he’s in a different offense with different plays and different coaches and a different play caller and different teammates, and considering all that, 10 snaps isn’t enough.

I want to see the starting offense take most of the first half Friday night against the Jets. I want to see Hurts do all the things he’s been doing in practice but in a live setting.

Let’s see an extended drive. Let’s see the football in the end zone. Let’s see the ball spread around. Let’s see Hurts take off and use his legs if it’s warranted. Let’s see Miles Sanders catch a pass,  Smith get down the field, Jalen Reagor finish a play, the o-line work together as a complete unit.

Joint practices are fine. But they’re not enough. They’re not football. And Hurts needs to play some football before Sept. 12.