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Could Jalen Hurts take over for Carson Wentz this season? That's among 4 scenarios for the Eagles

Martin Frank
Delaware News Journal

As the Eagles season careens into a state of hysteria, there is a growing sentiment to finding out the potential of rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts was the Eagles' second-round draft pick last spring, even though the Eagles had committed to Carson Wentz as the franchise quarterback, and even though the Eagles had needs at other positions.

Yet Wentz continues to struggle through the worst season of his career after the Eagles' 27-17 loss to the Giants on Sunday. He's ranked 31st out of 33 quarterbacks in passer rating (73.1). He's thrown the most interceptions (12) in the NFL and has been sacked the most times (35). 

It took until Sunday, the ninth game of the season, for Wentz to have his first turnover-free game.

The Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) throws downfield Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Hurts has played just 30 snaps this season after getting in for three against the Giants.

For the season, Hurts has run 11 times for 50 yards after running the ball twice for minus-1 yards Sunday. He has thrown two passes, completing both, for a total of 25 yards. He has caught 1 pass for 3 yards.

He didn't throw or catch a pass against the Giants.

So, what is the plan for him for the rest of the season? Here are four scenarios:

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws the football as backup quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld, center, and Jalen Hurts watch during an NFL football training camp practice in Philadelphia, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

1. Taking over for Carson Wentz

This isn't the ridiculous thought that it would have been at the beginning of the season.

The Eagles (3-5-1) aren't there yet because they're still in first place in the NFC East.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson is not pulling the plug on playoff chances. Instead, he's planning to increase Alshon Jeffery's playing time now that the wide receiver is back from a nearly year-long absence because of a foot injury that required surgery.

He's still playing left tackle Jason Peters over Jordan Mailata, and will presumably have tight end Zach Ertz return to his regular role as soon as this Sunday if he comes off injured reserve.

But all of that can change.

The Eagles are beginning a stretch of five games against teams either 6-3 or better. Overall, their combined record is 32-13.

If the Eagles lose all five, they'll be 3-10-1 with two games remaining At that point, there's no doubt the Eagles will want to know if Hurts is capable of becoming their starting quarterback in 2021.

It could happen sooner if Wentz gets hurt, or his play continues to nosedive.

But how ready is Hurts?

Last week, Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was asked what percentage of the playbook Hurts is able to run should he have to take over:

"I don't know if I'd put a certain number on it," Taylor said. "It's like anything, you're going to ... tinker our game plan to fit his strengths.

"He's done a great job of learning our playbook and everything we do."

In other words, if Hurts did have to play, the Eagles would design a game plan for him. If he can handle it, they'll expand it. If not, they'll have their answer about his future.

The Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) warms up before facing the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field.

2. Playing more and throwing more

It was suggested to Pederson that if defenses are starting to key on the run more when Hurts is in the game, why not take Wentz off the field, like the Saints often do with Drew Brees when Tysom Hill comes into the game?

Defenses know that Wentz isn't a real threat as a receiver, mainly because the Eagles don't want him to get hit. So they'll focus more on Hurts at the line of scrimmage.

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Pederson acknowledged this, saying that when Hurts was in the game earlier in the season, the Eagles were averaging "close to 11 or 12 yards" per play, whether Hurts was lined up at quarterback, in the backfield or out wide.

"I would say here, recently, defenses are playing him a little bit differently," Pederson said. "They have had chances to scout him."

Again, why not take Wentz off the field in those cases?

"Sure, yeah, that's a good idea," Pederson said sarcastically.

Maybe Pederson is worried about Wentz's ego. But if Brees is willing to do it, Wentz should be too.

Why not give Hurts three or four plays in a row? Anything to jump-start an offense that has averaged just 5 points in the first half over the last four games.

Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) turns away from a tackle from Baltimore's Pernell McPhee (90) Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 30-28.

3. Playing the same amount

Ever since Hurts starting playing in Week 2, he has gotten anywhere from 2 to 7 snaps, an average of 3.8 per game.

It seems like the Eagles have deduced that amount is enough to get the opposing defense out of rhythm, while at the same time not disrupting the Eagles' rhythm.

Against the Giants, Hurts didn't get into the game until midway through the third quarter, after the teams traded touchdowns on their first possessions.

Hurts came in on the second play of the second drive. Jason Kelce's snap was low, and Hurts bobbled it. Miles Sanders picked the ball up and ran 7 yards for a first down. Hurts came out, and the Eagles continued on the drive and scored another touchdown.

Hurts came in on the next drive, with the Eagles facing 2nd and 10. Hurts carried the ball and lost a yard. Wentz came back in, threw incomplete and the Eagles punted.

It's the third time this season the shotgun snap between Kelce and Hurts has been botched. But when asked if Hurts has a fumbling problem, Pederson said it was more Kelce's fault than Hurts'.

"I've talked to Kelce about this before, and he's had a little history and he knows it," Pederson said. "Listen, he's a pro and he's going to get it fixed. But we have to get that center-quarterback exchange dialed in.

"So I wouldn't put them all on Jalen, no."

Eagles' Jalen Hurts (2) heads to the locker room after a 30-28 loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, at Lincoln Financial Field.

4. Not playing at all

This would seem ridiculous, even if the Eagles find themselves battling to the end for a playoff spot.

Not using Hurts would be an admission of a wasted pick. And the Eagles are already going through that with one of their two 2019 second-round picks in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

So Hurts will most likely keep getting chances. Depending on how the Eagles' season goes could determine how many.

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