PHILADELPHIA — Jalen Hurts was flushed out of the pocket on the opening snap of Friday’s preseason opener against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. But, instead of attacking the grass in front of him, the Eagles’ starting QB spotted wideout Quez Watkins crossing the field.
Hurts threw on the run, hitting Watkins on the money before the wideout slid out of bounds to an eruption of cheers, and more importantly, a 28-yard gain. Hurts has heard the criticisms about his arm since high school, but he sent Eagles fans home happy with his work as a passer in their 24-21 loss to the Jets.
Jalen Hurts’ perfect evening vs. Jets
Hurts played just one series against the Jets. However, in just seven plays, the QB did enough to score a personal “W” for the evening.
Hurts was accurate and efficient as a passer. His offensive line gave him plenty of time to work the pocket, and Hurts delivered on throw after throw. Hurts completed all six of his passes for 80 yards and a TD. His lone blemish as a passer — if you could even call it that — was a slow reaction to Watkins speeding wide open across the middle of the field. Hurts still completed the pass but could have easily set Watkins up for a bigger gain with a quicker release.
Hurts’ night didn’t come without drama, though, as the QB1 was hit high and late as he scrambled out of bounds on a 3rd and 5 play by Jets linebacker Quincy Williams. Hurts had clearly given himself up as he went out, and Williams came in a couple of ticks later to hit him high. The personal foul penalty kept the drive alive and eventually led to a 22-yard strike by Hurts to tight end Dallas Goedert for a TD score.
After three weeks of targeting new No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown relentlessly in training camp practice, Hurts accomplished a perfect drive without throwing to Brown once. Philadelphia is full of narratives about Hurts, and in one drive, he clearly attacked them all — with his arm and vision.
Zach Wilson goes down after rough start vs. Eagles
While Hurts made the most of his limited opportunities in the opener, second-year starting QB Zach Wilson didn’t get off to a good start and was eventually knocked out of the game.
Wilson’s first pass was completely off the mark to a wide-open Garrett Wilson, the team’s first-round rookie wideout. A few plays later, he threw a pick to linebacker Kyzir White, who jumped a route that he was directly next to. Wilson didn’t see White, who slid in front of wideout Corey Davis for the pick, which led to a Jason Huntley touchdown on the other end.
On the next series, Wilson came out firing. However, his success was short-lived, as he fell awkwardly on a 7-yard scramble and was down on the field for a few minutes. Wilson’s knee was then checked by the team’s medical staff.
He was able to walk to the sideline but didn’t return. Wilson was replaced immediately by backup Mike White. Wilson completed 3 of 5 passes for 24 yards and an interception.
The Jets’ staff later clarified that it was, in fact, a knee injury. Stay tuned to Pro Football Network for updates on Wilson’s status throughout the weekend.
Quick Eagles observations
- Watkins, the Eagles’ No. 3 wideout and primary slot presence, continues to evolve as a route runner. His speed is typically unmatched on the field, and his ability to manipulate the middle of the field with that speed is unique. He finished with two catches for 32 yards.
- After misfiring on a back shoulder throw to wideout Jalen Reagor, backup QB Gardner Minshew went right back to the former first-round pick. Reagor picked up 17 yards on a crosser in zone coverage. The pair then connected on a screen pass for 3 yards. If there were two players that the Eagles would want to spotlight during the preseason — for a potential trade — Reagor and Minshew would be the duo. Minshew ended up with a solid stat line, completing 8 of 12 passes for 81 yards. He also had 11 rushing yards on 3 carries, while Reagor caught 3 passes for 26 yards.
- With Kenny Gainwell (hip) and Boston Scott (concussion) sidelined, Huntley, the Eagles’ No. 4 RB, got plenty of run with the second-team offense. After returning the opening kickoff for 18 yards, Huntley ran 16 times for 48 yards and a TD. He also had a kickoff return of 43 yards in the third quarter. Huntley is competing to force the Eagles to keep four running backs.
- Rookie linebacker Nakobe Dean, the team’s third-round pick, had gotten off to a slow start during training camp. In the preseason opener against the Jets, he was all over the field, making tackle after tackle and finishing with five tackles. While White and T.J. Edwards are clearly ahead of him on the depth chart, Dean is going to push them all season long in practice.
- Second-year DE Tarron Jackson has had a strong summer. He made an excellent third-down play in the second quarter, smacking a Mike White pass out of the air for an incompletion and forcing the Jets off the field.
- Former Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole and Hugh Douglas were named as the latest additions to the Eagles Hall of Fame.
- Right tackle Lane Johnson, fill-in starting left guard Sua Opeta, and backup left tackle Andre Dillard were all called for false starts in the first half.
- While third-string QB Reid Sinnett had his early lumps, the passer bounced back down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, Sinnett led an 18-play, 75-yard TD-scoring drive to take the lead with 1:40 left in the game. His favorite target on the night was tight end Noah Togiai, who caught all four of his targets for 29 yards. Sinnett completed 9 of 17 passes for 81 yards and a TD.
Quick Jets observations
- Backup QB Mike White had an up and down evening after taking over for Zach Wilson. While he didn’t turn the ball over, there were a few off-the-mark throws. He also had some well-placed tosses as well, as he finished 10 of 20 for 98 yards on the night.
- Wideout Denzel Mims, who is seemingly on the roster bubble, had a couple of highlights and a glaring lowlight. He was targeted five times for two catches and 25 yards. He made a pair of nice catches on the Jets’ first TD-scoring drive of the game. He later dropped a wide-open pass near the sideline. The former second-round pick just doesn’t seem like a consistent contributor after two seasons in New York.
- DE Tanzel Smart, listed as a third-stringer on the unofficial depth chart, put together a nice night. He recorded a sack on Minshew in the second quarter and was in on a couple of run stops in the first half. Later in the game, Smart took Sinnett down for a 16-yard loss for a second sack on the night.
- Backup lineman Nate Herbig played left guard and center against his former team.
- Linebacker Quincy Williams, who had the late hit on Hurts, bounced back with a sack in the first quarter. He took down Minshew for a loss with the starting defense.
- Backup corner Isaiah Dunn nearly picked off Sinnett’s first pass, but he dropped the pick as he was going to the ground.
- Fourth-string QB Chris Streveler completed a 4th-and-goal TD pass to rookie TE Jeremy Ruckert to give the Jets the lead in the fourth quarter. He later threw the game-winning TD pass to rookie wideout Calvin Jackson Jr. Streveler completed six of nine passes for 62 yards and two TDs on the night. He also ran for 31 yards on two carries.
- Rookie RB Zonovan Knight scored a TD on a 2-yard run. He finished with six carries for 13 yards and a TD. He also had a 52-yard kick return ahead of the final drive of the game. Fellow RB La’Mical Perine picked up 51 yards on 10 carries.
- DE Jabari Zuniga did a nice job shedding a block by Eagles backup right tackle Jack Driscoll for a sack on Sinnett on a third-down play in the third quarter.
- The Washington Commanders, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, and Pittsburgh Steelers all sent scouts and/or executives to the game. The CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, Toronto Argonauts, and Winnipeg Blue Bombers were also in attendance.
What’s next for both teams?
Next week, the Eagles will head to Cleveland for joint practices (Aug. 18 and Aug. 19) with the Browns. Following a couple of practices, the two teams will battle in a preseason game on Aug. 21.
The New York Jets will host the Atlanta Falcons for Week 2 of the preseason. Prior to the Aug. 22 matchup, the Jets will host the Falcons for a pair of joint practices (Aug. 19 and Aug. 20).