Philadelphia Eagles training camp is nearly here! Players are scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex on July 26 ahead of the first practice on July 27. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles’ roster. We begin today by taking a look at — what else — the quarterback position.
No player will be more scrutinized this summer than the team’s starting quarterback.
And rightfully so. Hurts is a huge X-factor when it comes to the Eagles’ championship contention chances.
There’s reason to believe Hurts can be better than he was in 2021. He’s entering his second full season as a starter at just 24 years old. He’s incredibly driven to maximize his potential. He’s surrounded with a better overall roster and receiving corps with A.J. Brown in the fold. He showed some positive signs during two media-attended OTA practices.
It’s not so much a question of if Hurts can improve as much as it is to what extent. Hurts was largely a “win with” quarterback last year. The Eagles’ offensive turnaround coincided with him throwing the ball less often and resulted in Philly ranking dead last in pass play percentage. That style of play helped the Eagles beat some bad and injury-depleted teams but it’s just not a formula to win the Super Bowl. At some point, Hurts is going to need to pass the ball at a high level to beat the good teams.
Hurts can set the table for a good season — and perhaps quell the Eagles’ rumored doubts about him — with a strong training camp performance. Allen Iverson might believe practice is meaningless but I beg to differ based on past experiences. In 2017, Carson Wentz clearly looked like a significantly improved player in training camp ahead of his near-MVP season. By contrast, Wentz did NOT look good during the 2020 offseason ahead of basically being the worst full-time starting QB in the league that year. Practice performance isn’t necessarily guaranteed to carry over to the real games but it’s still a worthwhile barometer.
Two Hurts things we’ll be watching closely in camp: 1) timely decision-making and 2) utilizing the middle of the field. On the first thing, Hurts had the slowest average time to throw in each of his first two seasons. Can he speed up his processing and not just merely drift out of the pocket to his right? On the second thing, Hurts only targeted between the numbers on just 10% of his throws last year. This much according to the Football Outsiders Almanac, which noted that the NFL average was 22%. The aforementioned Brown addition could help in this regard with 60% of his targets coming in that area last year.
If Hurts can make major strides, the Eagles could be in position to legitimately compete for the Super Bowl. It’s a very big “if,” though.
Minshew did some nice things in relief duty last year despite not being in training camp with the Eagles. He should only benefit from having a full offseason to take reps in the system and build rapoport with his pass-catchers. Barring a downright dreadful summer from Hurts, Minshew is in no position to seriously challenge for the starting job. The mustachioed man instead figures to be one the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
(Side note: Have you ever thought about how the NFC East currently has some of the NFL’s best No. 2 QBs? Minshew, Taylor Heinicke, and Tyrod Taylor all boast legitimate starting experience. Dallas is in the weakest spot in that regard but, of course, they have the strongest starter on paper.)
Strong is easily one of the most intriguing UDFA players to watch given the importance of his position and the fact the Eagles paid him a significant guarantee ($320K). The Eagles will hope that he shows enough to justify being QB3 behind Hurts and Minshew. With Minshew set to be a free agent after the 2022 season, Strong could eventually move up the depth chart to replace him. Strong’s practice reps will be fairly limited with Nick Sirianni holding relatively short practices. It’s up to him to make the most of his few opportunities. He also needs to shed concerns about staying healthy.
According to the all-important #JerseyNumberAnalytics, Sinnett’s stock is down after having to change his number multiple times this offseason. (From No. 7 to No. 17 to No. 13.) The Strong addition weakens his chances of making the roster. But if Sinnett plays well and Strong really struggles, well, he might be able to stick around as QB3 either on the roster or the practice squad. As is the case with Strong, his practice reps will be limited. The upside is that Sinnett should get a chance to play in the preseason games.
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
Hurts is the starter and it’s a huge season for him when it comes to proving himself as as franchise quarterback. Minshew is the backup. Strong likely has the inside track on the QB3 job but it’s not just going to be handed to him.
WHO COULD BE A SURPRISE CUT?
Minshew will not be cut but he’s a prime trade candidate. To be clear, the Eagles shouldn’t be looking to offload him for merely any return. But if a team that projects to be bad is willing to send at least a third-round pick their way? Well, they’ll have to consider that. Minshew provides value as a backup behind Hurts, to be sure, but he’s also likely a goner in free agency after this season. In addition to netting an asset, trading Minshew would clear $2.54 million in cap space. He currently has the 20th biggest cap number on this year’s roster.
The Eagles might end up cutting Strong with the hopes of landing him on the practice squad. Depends on how he performs this summer.
On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ quarterback position? (5 being the most.)
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