Of Joe Flacco, his stance against COVID-19 vaccine and how Eagles, Jets benefit from trade

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·7 min read
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  • New York Jets
    New York Jets
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Philadelphia Eagles
    Philadelphia Eagles
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Joe Flacco
    Joe Flacco
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  • Jalen Hurts
    Jalen Hurts
    American football quarterback
  • Zach Wilson
    Zach Wilson
    American football quarterback

Joe Flacco's second stint with the Jets hasn't gotten off to a good start.

The University of Delaware star and South Jersey native couldn't practice that entire first week after the Eagles traded him on Oct. 25 because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

It's possible that Flacco would have started that first game had he been able to practice because the Jets had just lost quarterback Zach Wilson to a knee injury.

Flacco then had to miss another game last Sunday because he was a close contact of quarterback Mike White, who tested positive.

Flacco had to quarantine for five days.

The Patriots' Matt Judon, right, runs at Eagles quarterback Joe Flacco during the first half on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
The Patriots' Matt Judon, right, runs at Eagles quarterback Joe Flacco during the first half on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.

If Flacco had been vaccinated, he could have continued to practice as long as he tested negative.

Wilson was cleared to return for that game last Sunday against Houston, but there's a chance that Flacco could have started had he been available. That would have given Wilson's knee another week to heal.

A LASTING MISTAKE: How passing on wide receivers DK Metcalf, Justin Jefferson is still haunting the Eagles

HURTS STILL HURTING: Eagles' quarterback Jalen Hurts is questionable; will Gardner Minshew start vs. Jets?

Flacco did start in the Jets' 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 21. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 291 yards and two TDs.

What does that have to do with the Eagles?

The Eagles got a conditional sixth-round pick from the Jets. That pick could become a fifth-rounder if Flacco plays at least 50% of the snaps in four games.

Had Flacco been vaccinated, there's a good chance he would have had two, and maybe three, of those games under his belt by now.

No doubt, the Eagles are happy to get anything in return for a 36-year-old quarterback who didn't play a single snap through his seven games with the Eagles.

But Flacco did have some value for the Eagles. After all, this is Flacco's 14th NFL season. He's 19th on the NFL's all-time list for passing yards with 41,269. He was a Super Bowl MVP for the Ravens in the 2012-13 season.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, for one, appreciated all of that when asked what the team lost when Flacco was traded.

"I think it’s so crazy because Joe brought so much wisdom to the room when he got here," Hurts said.

That wisdom evidently doesn’t include getting a vaccine to protect against a virus that has killed nearly 800,000 Americans.

"He taught me so much," Hurts continued. "Him being in my ear, telling me different things that he saw within the game."

New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (19) throws during warmups before facing the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021.
New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (19) throws during warmups before facing the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021.

That is what Jets coach Robert Saleh said Flacco is bringing to Wilson and the Jets. Saleh said that makes the trade compensation worthwhile, even though the Jets, at 3-8, are rebuilding and well out of contention for a playoff berth.

"He’s been everything that we’ve hoped for," Saleh said. "He’s been a great example for Zach. And it’s not like we’re asking him to be a mentor. It’s just go about your business, and Zach can watch him because Joe’s been there, done that. He’s been through it all."

And, well, there's another way that Flacco can help the Jets: He knows the Eagles' offense, and he knows Hurts and Minshew.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws in the first half. The Giants defeat the Eagles, 13-7, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws in the first half. The Giants defeat the Eagles, 13-7, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford.

Remember, when the Eagles and Jets had their summer practices before their preseason game, Minshew was still with Jacksonville. The Eagles traded for Minshew on Aug. 27.

"Shoot, Flacco probably telling them everything we did," cornerback Darius Slay said. "That’s what you’re supposed to do as a vet to help a young guy out. Shoot, if I was on the other (team), I’d be telling them everything that was going on with the Eagles, too."

Added Saleh: "Obviously, he’s going to have some thoughts and all that stuff. But I’m sure Philadelphia is also aware of that, so I think it ends up washing itself out anyway."

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said he might have to change some terminology.

"There are a lot of times where you go to these great lengths to change verbiage and you screw yourself up," Sirianni said. "My experience is you go in there and you throw them off a couple times (by using different language on familiar plays)."

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) runs the ball during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) runs the ball during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia.

DeVonta explains tantrum

Wide receiver DeVonta Smith said he wasn't mad at Hurts or Jalen Reagor when he was stomping and yelling after the Eagles' final play on fourth-and-10 from the Giants' 27. The play ended up with Reagor's drop at Giants' 1-yard line in the final seconds.

"My quarterback seen what he seen," Smith said. "I’m not mad with the decision that he made. He made the decision that’s best for the team. As a competitor, you can ask any one of those guys on the field – they would want the ball in their hands at that time. ... As a competitor, that’s what it comes down to. You want to win every game."

On that final play, Smith was seen waving his arm indicating that he was open as he ran toward the end zone. But Sirianni said he wasn't really open.

He said Giants cornerback James Bradberry was underneath Smith, and there was a safety deep shading toward Smith.

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That would have forced Hurts, who at the time was under pressure, to throw a perfect touch pass to get it over Bradberry and underneath the safety who was coming to help over the top.

Sirianni also mentioned that Smith and Quez Watkins didn't have the proper "route discipline" early in the play. That could explain why Hurts didn't look to Smith as Smith headed toward the end zone. Hurts had already moved to the next progression – Reagor.

Smith said this was true.

"If I would have won better at the line of scrimmage, it would have left no doubt about where the ball was supposed to be, or what (Hurts) was seeing," Smith said. "That’s on me."

NY Jets quarterback Josh Johnson in the first half as the Philadelphia Eagles played the New York Jets in their final preseason game played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on August 27, 2021.
NY Jets quarterback Josh Johnson in the first half as the Philadelphia Eagles played the New York Jets in their final preseason game played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on August 27, 2021.

Prediction

No team has had more success against another than the Eagles, who have won all 11 games against the Jets, dating back to 1973.

The Eagles (5-7) should make it 12-0 against a rebuilding Jets team. They'll have to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. But there are some factors that could make it difficult.

If Hurts plays with his ankle injury, will he be able to run well enough to make the Jets worry about the Eagles' league-best rushing attack? The Eagles average 157.9 yards per game.

And who will actually run the ball for the Eagles? Miles Sanders sat out the fourth quarter last week with a sore ankle after missing the previous three games with that injury. He's expected to play, but how effectively?

Jordan Howard has already been ruled out, and Boston Scott hasn't practiced all week due to a non-COVID-19 illness. That leaves rookie Kenny Gainwell and perhaps Jason Huntley.

The Jets, meanwhile, aren't awful.

Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, has thrown 10 interceptions in seven games, but seven came in the first three games. The Jets are 2-2 in Wilson's last four games.

In other words, the Eagles will have to work for this one. It's just a question of who's going to throw it, and who's going to run it.

Score: Eagles 16, Jets 10.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: How Joe Flacco's stance against COVID-19 vaccine impacts Eagles, Jets trade