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Mailbag: The end of the road for an Eagles legend?

Production, performance, and projection

Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

There’s no NFL football on the field this weekend, but we can field some questions on the internet.

Cooter16: Is Jalen Hurts ever going to get better?

This is the question that will dominate the season. We might as well hit it head on.

We have to be careful to not confuse improved production with improved performance.

Here are Hurts’ season stats and then his season split into the first 7 games, where the Eagles tried to play a traditional offense, and his last 8 games, when they went ground heavy. All categories have been prorated to 17 games.

Jalen Hurts 2021 Rankings

Category Full Season Rank First 7 Games Rank Last 8 Games Rank
Category Full Season Rank First 7 Games Rank Last 8 Games Rank
Att 490 19th 588 10th 404 25th
Cmp% 61.3 28th 61.2 28th 61.6 28th
Yds/Game 209.6 26th 245.1 13th 178.5 32nd
TD% 3.7 23rd 4.1 17th 3.2 28th
INT% 2 12th 1.7 7th 2.7 23rd
Rating 87.2 22nd 89.5 21st 84.3 27th
Y/A 7.3 14th 7.1 18th 7.5 8th
AY/A 7.1 15th 7.2 15th 7 16th
Sack% 5.6 12th 5.5 12th 6 16th

It is possible that Hurts could plateau or take a step back on film but his stats improve to say, a completion percentage in the high 20s and top 10 in yards per game simply by having passes caught by AJ Brown and Zach Pascal instead of Jalen Reagor and, well, nobody else. Reagor had eight games where he caught one pass or fewer. The fourth most targeted WR last year was Greg Ward, who was thrown to just 11 times. It really was that bad.

In such a scenario there will be people–not just fans but media members both local and nationally–who say he has improved his performance simply because he has improved his production. In their third seasons Baker Mayfield improved his passer rating from 31st to 15th; and Daniel Jones improved all of his rate stats, we know how those turned out.

That said, I do think Hurts will perform better this season. We already saw him improve from his rookie year to his second; by all accounts in training camp he improved areas of weakness; and we know he has the work ethic and mentality to continue to improve his game. I would be surprised if we don’t say “Hurts wasn’t making that throw a year ago” several times this season. The frequency of how often he is doing things he wasn’t in 2021 in November and December will be the gauge.

If during the second half of the season we’re not really talking about how much better Hurts looks because he’s been doing it week in and week out and we’ve become accustomed to it, then the Eagles ceiling is sky high.

If we aren’t talking about it because he hasn’t really shown that improvement, then the Eagles are shopping for a QB with the six 1st and 2nd round picks they have over the next two drafts.

And if we’re talking about it because he does it inconsistently, then the front office has to ask itself if they want to see what Year 4 of Jalen Hurts brings. Spoiler alert: they would not.

Kingramrod: Will Fletcher Cox actually get out of his two year subpar play?

*giggles* yeah I just took questions from Cooter and Ram Rod.

Fletcher Cox had a subpar year in 2020 by Fletcher Cox standards, but was still a starting caliber defensive tackle. However, 2021 was definitely a continuation of that decline. The Eagles know it too, they tried to trade him, and wound up releasing him. And of course in free agency he signed with… the Eagles. It was weird and totally avoidable if the Eagles hadn’t foolishly restructured his contract in 2021 for no reason.

Not only do I have difficulty seeing how Cox rebounds this year, but I would not at all be surprised if this is his final season in the NFL. His Eagles legacy is secure, he is a Super Bowl winner, and he turns 32 this season. The NFL is not kind to players his age, defensive tackles are no exception. Worryingly, many of his top tier peers who dropped off around age 31 did so because they got hurt.

Jurrell Casey, Geno Atkins, and Gerald McCoy all made at least five straight Pro Bowls then got hurt in their early 30s and never played again. Other good but not great DTs were done or effectively done around Cox’s age. Sheldon Richardson is a free agent at age 31, Marcel Dareus was out of the league at age 30, Dontari Poe was at age 31, and Linval Joseph started for two seasons at age 32 and 33 for a bad defense and is now a free agent.

Unsurprisingly extremely large men who sumo wrestle other large men in order to chase players around break down as they age.

It’s not all bad! Ndamukong Suh was a starter for all five seasons in 30s including for a Super Bowl winner. Kyle Williams made the Pro Bowl in four of his five full seasons in his 30s. And Aaron Donald remains a freak of nature.

Could Cox rebound from 2021? I wouldn’t completely rule it out, and we don’t have to squint to see this scenario: Jordan Davis takes a good portion of his playing time and with fewer snaps Cox is fresher and more effective.

Cox is probably in a situation opposite the one with Hurts. With the revamped roster it looks like Jonathan Gannon is going to play 3-4 when he gets the chance. If so, we’ll see Cox play some DE in a three man front as he did under Chip Kelly. Those were also two of his least productive seasons, in 2013 he had a career low 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss and for the only season in his career didn’t force a fumble, in 2014 he had 4 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. He was also really good those seasons and was recognized for it, making second team All-Pro in 2014. So while I don’t think it will happen, it’s possible Fletcher Cox plays less and plays a different role half the time, but plays better and has nothing on the stat sheet to show for it. The Eagles will gladly take that.

Tyler Jackson: Which heralded Eagles player is most likely to actually hate the city and the fan base?

Oh my god TJack. This is mean. The question does not specify a current Eagle so I am taking advantage of this loophole looking at a former Eagle.

Is it Jason Peters? He is signing with the Cowboys. You’ve let everyone down Jason.

When Terrell Owens signed with the Cowboys, there was absolutely spite involved. Could there be some under the radar spite here? Peter’s last two seasons with the Eagles ended in not the most ideal circumstances. In 2019 he signed a one year contract, and then the team drafted Andre Dillard in a last minute change of direction. In 2020 they again signed him to a one year contract and asked him to move to right guard. I don’t have any inside information that Peters has any kind of grudge against the team, but back-to-back one year contracts, seeing the team trade up to draft your replacement, and asking to play a new position are ingredients for spite.

Unless… unless he takes a bunch of money and then tanks. Jason Peters: Sleeper Agent would cement his legacy in Philadelphia. Duane Brown signed with the Jets for $9M guaranteed after Mekhi Becton got injured. If Peters can get that kind of money from Jerry Jones to not really be an improvement then he is doing some mighty fine work.

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