Eagles OTAs takeaways: Jalen Hurts shines on the field, preaches need for change with gun violence

Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts dominated 7-on-7 drills during the team's OTAs workout on Friday at the NovaCare Complex.

PHILADELPHIA — Jalen Hurts didn’t waste time during Friday’s organized team activities workout at the NovaCare Complex. The third-year QB was ready to let it rip from the first snap of 7-on-7 drills.

Hurts, who has faced questions about his arm strength and accuracy throughout his first two years in the NFL, aired it out repeatedly during the session and looked good firing the ball down the field.

Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts shines in OTA workout

Hurts connected on his first six passes of team drills. On his first throw, he targeted wideout DeVonta Smith on a “go” route against cornerback James Bradberry. Hurts threw an excellent rainbow, roughly 30 yards down the field for Smith, who beat Bradberry by a step and hauled in the catch.

Then, after a pair of short throws to Greg Ward and Smith, Hurts aired it out again, this time for Deon Cain, who was on the practice squad throughout last season. Hurts pushed the ball roughly 25 yards down the field, and Cain used his size (6’2″, 202 pounds) to catch the pass ahead of cornerback Darius Slay.

After Gardner Minshew took a turn at QB — the backup completed 3 of 4 passes with the lone incompletion coming on a pass breakup by backup DB Andre Chachere — Hurts returned to the action. He connected with wideout A.J. Brown on an intermediate throw and hit Smith on another bomb of about 25-30 yards. Smith beat Slay by a few steps and hauled in a wobbled heave by Hurts.

Hurts’ first incompletion came on his seventh pass, a mid-range shot to Brown, who had to play DB on the rep, as Slay nearly came away with a pick. Hurts rebounded with a pair of wide-open throws to tight end Jack Stoll (crosser) and running back Kenny Gainwell (in the flat).

Hurts’ final throw was a deep ball to Brown that sailed far over his head and out of bounds. Brown got free from Bradberry on a “go” route, and Hurts simply overthrew him. Following practice, Brown told the media that he asked Hurts to try to overthrow him on deep balls as opposed to forcing it into a presumed jump-ball situation.

Hurts went 9 for 11 during 7-on-7 work and completed 3 of 4 deep heaves. It was a great day for the young QB.

Hurts and Jeffrey Lurie use their platforms to raise awareness

Following the workout, Hurts wasn’t in a rush to talk about his success on the practice field or the Eagles’ offense. Instead, Hurts started his post-workout press conference with a statement on gun violence.

Hurts, the son of a Texas high school teacher and football coach, discussed his empathy for the victims of the rash of recent mass shootings in the United States. Hurts, a Houston native, grew up roughly five hours away from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 21 people, including 19 students, last month.

“We have a lot of stuff going on in our world right now, a lot of very unfortunate, fatal things, and events, and deaths, and when I sit back and think about all of that — what’s happened in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa — whether it’s a grocery store or a hospital [or] an elementary school, that’s no place for fear,” Hurts said.

“Fear don’t belong in those places,” Hurts continued. “And me sitting here — a big brother, a big cousin — I sit here and think about — I can’t even imagine it. I can’t even imagine my little cousins not coming home from school, my little sister not coming home from school, my dad not coming home from work. … I know there are a lot of people in this community and this world that can relate to that. I just wanted to own my impact with that because I know it’s something that we all feel, and it impacts everybody.”

The Eagles wore special shirts during the OTA workout. The shirts had orange numbers which were meant to bring further awareness to the Wear Orange initiative, a movement that seeks to end gun violence. The players wore the shirts in honor of victims of gun-related violence, and the shirts will be auctioned off to benefit charities: Frontline Dads and Mothers in Charge.

Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie also released a statement on Friday as part of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

“Our hearts break for those who suffer through the trauma of losing a loved one to gun violence,” Lurie said. “These unspeakable tragedies wreak havoc in our communities and continue to occur with alarming frequency. As we search for ways to effect positive change in our society, we pray for those grieving in Philadelphia and around our country.”

In his statement, Lurie called for local and national officials to create laws that prevent the spread of deadly shootings.

“These senseless acts of violence will not cease to occur without a concerted effort from those who govern our nation and make public policy,” Lurie said. “As a country, we need to call upon our lawmakers to enact tangible change and address this public crisis through appropriate gun safety legislation. These horrific disasters continue to occur across the United States. That is completely unacceptable and disheartening.”

Lurie echoed the “enough is enough!” verbiage that has become a primary adage for those seeking gun reform. Hurts, without diving into politics, echoed that statement in a more specific way.

“Ultimately, getting these artillery [guns] off the streets and making true change,” Hurts said. “And that’s something we urge in all of our communities and the community of Philadelphia. Over 40 people getting shot this weekend. It’s got to change.”

OC Shane Steichen’s title isn’t just a title anymore

Last year, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen was initially hired by Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni as the right-hand man. Sirianni would call plays, while Steichen would largely work behind the scenes and help with the crafting of plays.

However, after an early skid in the first half of the season, the Eagles made some changes, including moving QBs coach Brian Johnson to the sideline to work with Hurts during games. Prior to that move, Johnson would stay upstairs and communicate with Hurts when needed, while Steichen would relay plays to Hurts. But with Johnson moved to the sideline, Steichen took more command of the offense, working with Sirianni on play calls.

Prior to Friday’s workout, Steichen acknowledged that last year’s changes have led to another change this offseason: Steichen will be calling the offensive plays in 2022.

“I think last year we were a new staff, and we were evolving as an offense,” Steichen said. “So as the season got going on, I ended up taking over more of the play calling midseason. Then again, Nick has a stamp on every single thing we do. So, in the meeting rooms, he has a stamp on everything we do, every play that’s on that call sheet, he makes sure it’s justified, boom, and we’re good to go. So going forward, I’ll be calling the plays next year, and we’ll go from there.”

Steichen previously called plays during his final year and a half with the Los Angeles Chargers. He took over midway through the 2019 season and kept the reins throughout the 2020 campaign. He also helped with the early development of Pro Bowl QB Justin Herbert.

With Steichen calling plays full-time, he will continue to develop Hurts and the offense in unison. Still, the OC says Sirianni will remain a key voice in the play-to-play operation.

“I’ll be calling the plays, but it is a complete group effort,” Steichen said. “It’s a complete group effort from the top down. It starts with Nick as the head coach. He does a hell of a job game planning. Then we go from there. On game day, he’s the head coach, and if he wants something called, he’ll tell me, and I’ll get it called.”

Big changes made to front office

The Eagles announced some notable changes to their front office on Friday.

After losing several key execs to other teams, the Eagles announced several corresponding moves, including naming two assistant GMs. Jon Ferrari, formerly the vice president of football operations and compliance, and Alec Halaby, formerly vice president of football operations and strategy, were both named assistant GMs.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell was promoted to senior personnel director/advisor to the GM. Former Eagles pass rusher Connor Barwin, who has been with the staff for two years, was given the title of director of player development.

Other notable promotions included Ameena Soliman being named director of personnel operations/pro scout, Max Gruber being named director of pro scouting, Phil Bhaya receiving the title of director of draft management, and Alan Wolking being bumped up to director of player personnel.

Bryce Johnston is now the VP of football transactions and strategic planning, and Dom DiSandro has the new title of senior advisor to the GM/chief security officer.

The team also announced the hiring of Brandon Hunt as the director of scouting and Matt Russell as the senior personnel director/advisor to the GM. Charles Wells was hired as a director of player personnel, Jeremy Gray was named assistant director of player personnel, and former NFL players Rod Streater and Ben Ijalana joined the scouting staff. Streater went to nearby Temple while Ijalana attended Villanova.

Hunt was previously the Pittsburgh Steelers pro scouting coordinator. Russell was previously the VP of Player Personnel for the Denver Broncos.

Quick hits from Eagles OTAs

  • Former right guard Brandon Brooks officially retired on Friday. He announced his retirement in March, but in order for the Eagles to receive a cap-space boost, Brooks had to wait until June to officially retire. The Eagles will save $1.12 million with the retirement officially on the books.
  • Cain, a one-time Clemson standout and former sixth-round pick, was the most consistent playmaker outside of Smith on Friday. With Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins not on the field, Cain hauled in four passes, including the deep ball during the first wave of 7-on-7 drills.
  • With left tackle Jordan Mailata, right tackle Lane Johnson, center Jason Kelce, and backup linemen Brett Toth and Le’Raven Clark absent from the voluntary workout, the offensive line crew was a bit short-staffed. The Eagles didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills, so the depth chart was mainly used with individual workouts. With that said, Andre Dillard (LT), Landon Dickerson (LG), Cam Jurgens (C), Isaac Seumalo (RG), and Jack Driscoll (RT) made up the “first-team” group. Josh Sills (LT), Sua Opeta (LG), Jack Anderson (C), Kayode Awosika (RG), and Jarrid Williams (RT) received “second-team” work.
  • Seumalo, who has recovered from a major Lisfranc injury last season, looks noticeably thinner. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who is switching from wideout to tight end, looks a bit thicker, especially in his upper body.

  • Backup safety Jared Mayden and rookie wideout Britain Covey are both wearing No. 41. Mayden offered up two moments of “41-on-41” crime during 7-on-7 drills. Mayden allowed Covey to snag a contested pass, but the safety out-muscled the wideout, knocked the ball out of his hands, and forced him to the ground. Later, Covey tried to haul in a pass over the middle, and Mayden jacked him up to force a breakup. Someone clearly doesn’t like sharing his number…
  • Lurie was in attendance during the workout, as was GM Howie Roseman.
  • Wideout John Hightower and tight ends Richard Rodgers and Tyree Jackson (ACL) were all spotted at practice but did not use helmets or participate in drills. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was among the notable absentees for the voluntary session.
  • Reid Sinnett and undrafted rookie Carson Strong each received a handful of 7-on-7 reps. They both looked comfortable tossing short and intermediate passes. Strong threw the final ball of the session, which was the pass broken up by Mayden against Covey.

Mike Kaye is the Lead NFL Reporter for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @mike_e_kaye.

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