Eagles training camp position preview: Quarterbacks.
Philadelphia Eagles training camp is right around the corner! Players are scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex 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 the quarterback position.
If one was to make a list of NFL players (not just Eagles players) under the most pressure in 2021, they would be remiss not to include Hurts. The 22-year-old has a massive opportunity in front of him. There’s a legitimate path for Hurts to establish himself as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future.
It won’t be so easy, though; Hurts has much to prove. The second-year signal-caller enters the 2021 season in the conversation as one of the very worst starters at his position. While you might think that to be harsh, there are a number of relevant metrics to back up that assertion. He was the NFL’s least accurate passer last season.
This isn’t to suggest Hurts is doomed. There are multiple reasons to believe he can improve. A new coaching staff could do him favors. A healthier offensive line should help out. Adding DeVonta Smith to the wide receiver corps is a big deal. And those are just some of the external factors. We all know Hurts, who by all accounts is very hard-working and coachable, is champing at the bit to get better.
The question is: just how much can Hurts improve? Is he really going to bridge the gap from being one of the league’s worst starters to one of the top 10 quarterbacks? It’s not impossible, no, but it’s incredibly far from a foregone conclusion.
The feeling here has been that Hurts showed just enough last year to inspire a level of intrigue. At the very least, we already know he’s one of the NFL’s best running quarterbacks. He just needs to make a leap when it comes to, you know, actually throwing the football.
Or, for the Eagles’ sake, maybe he doesn’t. The team is in an unusual position (at least compared to recent years) where they’re not totally committed to their Week 1 starter as their long-term quarterback. In a way, those lowered expectations are kind of freeing from a fan perspective. It’s not like it was with Carson Wentz where his failure spelled doom for the franchise. If Hurts flops, the Eagles have the resources (thanks to trading down from No. 6) to pivot to a new starter. Whether that’s trading for an established player (see: Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson trade rumors) or package picks to move up in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The tricky part could be if Hurts plays at a level that has the Eagles internally divided on his status as the Eagles’ starter moving forward. And it feels very possible he’ll land somewhere between obviously excellent (read: erase all doubt that he’s the guy) and obviously awful (read: no question it’s time to move on).
There’s an argument to be made the Eagles won’t be able to fairly evaluate Hurts since he’s hardly surrounded by a strong supporting cast. It’s not like he has a ton of offensive weapons to work with. The Eagles’ coaching staff is very much unproven. But that much might actually work in Hurts’ favor. If he’s able to thrive under less than ideal circumstances, that would bode well for his long-term viability. Such an outcome doesn’t seem likely but, again, the opportunity is in front of him. It’s up to Hurts to seize it. He can help himself by having a strong camp and then building on that in the regular season.
First, I feel the need to reiterate how nonsensical it was for the Eagles to sign Flacco to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million guaranteed.
The “But mentorship!” leg isn’t the sturdiest one to stand on. Flacco previously scoffed at mentoring young QBs and Sam Darnold had the worst season of his career last year.
Also, Eagles already have former NFL vet QB Alex Tanney, who retired this offseason, on coaching staff.
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) March 23, 2021
All your Flacco rebuttals have already been countered so I’m not going to dive deep into them again here. After all, the damage is already done, and this post is meant to focus on Flacco’s outlook … which isn’t very bright.
One of my biggest concerns about the 2021 Eagles season is having to watch Flacco play at all. From an aesthetic standpoint, he’s just not fun to watch. And there isn’t really any value in him taking snaps for this team. He’s obviously not going to be a long-term contributor. And how much short-term value does he really add for a team that admittedly is in a “transition phase” and isn’t seriously competing for a championship this year?
The best-case scenario is that Flacco never plays. The next best-case realistic outcome is he makes a start or two and keeps the season afloat for Hurts to return from injury and lead the Eagles on a playoff run.
Signing Mullens for the minimum as QB2 would’ve been preferable to signing Flacco to his contract.
2020 QB STATS
Joe Flacco (age 35): 0-4, 55.2% completion, 6 TD, 3 INT, 6.4 Y/A, 80.6 passer rating, 39th out of 42 QBs graded by PFF
Nick Mullens (25): 2-6, 64.7% completion, 12 TD, 12 INT, 7.5 Y/A, 84.1 passer rating, 38th out of 42 QBs graded by PFFhttps://t.co/88ZSKLMlWe
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) June 14, 2021
Mullens is young enough that you could argue he still has some developmental potential. In theory, he could be a long-term No. 2 option. There’s a pretty good chance Mullens just is what he is at this point, though.
Mullens needs to have a strong summer to convince the Eagles to keep him as the third quarterback behind Hurts and Flacco.
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
Long-term, the Eagles’ quarterback situation is unsettled. Short-term, it’s pretty cut and dry. Hurts is the starter. Flacco is the backup. The only question is if Mullens will make the roster or not. And that decision doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
WHO COULD BE A SURPRISE CUT?
No real candidates for this designation. The only realistic “surprise” that could come at the quarterback position is the Eagles trading for the aforementioned Deshaun Watson. All has been quiet on that front lately but there were previously a number of rumors about the Eagles’ interest in the Houston Texans’ star quarterback. Of course, Watson is facing some major allegations, and it’s unclear what the future holds for his NFL future. A Watson trade (be it him moving to the Eagles or elsewhere) could be more likely to occur in 2022.