The Eagles are back in the building for a modified version of OTAs and we had a chance to hear from quarterback Jalen Hurts, center Jason Kelce, and defensive end Brandon Graham on Wednesday as they get acclimated to their new coaches and teammates.
Hurts was the most relaxed I’ve seen him in front of reporters on Wednesday — and I’ve covered each of his press conferences since the Eagles drafted him. He was full of big smiles and even cracked jokes with some of the media. Something that Graham spoke about was how the QB was able to have more fun now that he’s the guy for the team, and it definitely showed.
Here’s some of what the guys had to say:
The quarterback recalled the core values they had at Alabama and how that translated to success on the field, and he’s trusting that same process with Nick Sirianni. The new Eagles’ head coach has been preaching connection, accountability, competition, fundamentals, and football IQ — and Hurts admits that he knows that these values they’re trying to instill in Philly, no one is above it and everybody has to go to work.
When later asked about his status as the presumed starter, Hurts acknowledged that he isn’t above competition and all the values that Sirianni has brought to the team.
As far as the differences from last offseason, Hurts said that it was good to be in the building and to be able to get acclimated to the new coaches and new system. Hurts said that Joe Flacco has been great and the knowledge he brings has been very beneficial to the second-year QB.
Hurts talked a little about he grew up watching his new QB coach Brian Johnson, back when he played in East Houston and Hurts’ dad was a coach. Johnson has always been someone that’s been in Hurts’ life, and now they’re both excited for the opportunity to work together.
When asked about the Eagles drafting two of his former teammates, Hurts couldn’t help but smile.
“I think about DeVonta [Smith], and I always tell people the first thing about him, one, the competitor he is, kind of a stoic guy — kind of like myself in a few ways —, but he’s self-driven and to bring someone in like that, I think it helps.”
Hurts recalled back when he hosted Smith for his visit at Alabama, and instead of trying to get into something, or go to a party, he was more interested in getting in work. The QB didn’t get to play with Landon Dickerson, but he’s heard good things from his former teammates who did line up with Dickerson.
The center talked about how his job as a veteran player is to buy in to the new system and continue to lead by example — that doesn’t mean, however, that he won’t be asking questions or voicing his opinion.
Kelce also talked a little bit about Jordan Mailata who had a good opportunity at the end of last season to show how far he’s come at his position. He also named Nate Herbig and Matt Pryor as guys who did a tremendous job to step in as needed last season.
“I know the offensive line wasn’t quite as good in a lot of the metrics and whatnot, but quite frankly, we missed the best right guard in the NFL with Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo went down early, Lane Johnson was out of the lineup a lot. So, when you really look at it from that perspective, and how many guys really played football at this level for the first time in their careers, I was really very happy, honestly, with a lot — not just their production, but the way they went about their business.”
The veteran also had a chance to have lunch with second-round pick Landon Dickerson and said that the rookie seems to be as advertised: loves football, has a great personality, big, physical, strong, smart, and has all the tools. Kelce said that he’s excited to work with Dickerson and to see what he brings to the OL room.
He confirmed that the energy Nick Sirianni has is definitely not an act, and is something that is on display. The first-time head coach is excited about his opportunity to build a staff in Philly, and Kelce noted that it’s obvious Sirianni puts a lot of emphasis on developing relationships among players and coaches, rather than just worrying about on-the-field stuff.
Sirianni has also been emphasizing fundamentals and technique, both to the media and his team, and Kelce believes that the team opting out of some offseason activities actually lends itself better to getting those fundamentals and techniques in place. Kelce acknowledged that there is plenty of time between now and training camp to get in good work, and this year they have preseason games as well, in terms of evaluating players and development.
The DE was asked about Jalen Hurts, and he acknowledged that even going back to last season, the quarterback was always working and doing the right things. But, also admitted that the bar has been raised now that Hurts is “the guy” — something that Graham attributes to the QB having more fun, and having a bit more pep in his step, once you have the confidence of the team behind you at QB1.
Graham wouldn’t go into specifics about the defensive scheme Jonathan Gannon is bringing to Philly, but noted that he’s going to utilize the talents they have on the roster and mix a little of what he did with the Colts and what they already had installed. Gannon is a guy with a lot of energy, which Graham said he loves because he’s a high energy guy, too. He also thinks that the coaching staff is coming up with good plans for them to be ready to go full-speed at training camp.
BG was asked about the signing of Ryan Kerrigan, and Graham said he knows from experience that you can never have too many pass rushers — especially ones who are comped to Chris Long.
“Kerrigan is a beast. He’s been with, what’s the name, for 10-plus years, and to see him on the other side now with us, I’m excited because I know what he brings to the table.”
When asked about the familiarity of the Nick Sirianni regime, Graham likened it to the same kind of schedule and structure under Andy Reid, but a more modern and hip approach. He pointed to a lot more competition and high energy around the building, but also noted that Sirianni worked under Frank Reich who also has some of those Coach Reid tendencies.
Graham could not have been more complimentary of the young guys joining their room, saying that they look game-ready, are already in shape, and are making sure he stays on the top of his game. He admits that he’s at the tail-end of his career so he’s at a place where he wants to bring up the young guys, since they’re the future of the position. But so far, he’s really happy with what he’s seeing, and is excited for the group of guys they have.