Six Eagles Takeaways: Hurts looks comfortable, Quez continues to turn heads in preseason opener
Jalen Hurts and the retooled Eagles took the field for the first time under new head coach Nick Sirianni last night as the Steelers came to South Philly.
With fans in attendance for the first time since early 2020, many were eager to see what their presumptive starting QB looked like in his first in-game action of the year. The starters only played a handful of series, but they showed encouraging signs in their preseason opener. Here are some of my takeaways from last night:
Jalen Hurts looks poised in the offense
One year removed from being drafted by the Eagles in shocking fashion, Jalen Hurts is now leading the charge under the center. With the majority of Hurts’ concerns centered around his passing game, Nick Sirianni wasted no time drawing up throws for the second-year QB.
The Eagles’ first play from scrimmage was a 7-yard completion to Ertz, followed by a 34-yard pass that Hurts fit in beautifully to Dallas Goedert. The following passes were drops by Reagor and Ertz respectfully. The throw intended for Reagor could’ve been a bit more accurate, but the receiver was able to get his hands on it — you have to come down with it.
Quez Watkins had his defender beat deep on the ensuing drive but Hurts overthrew him by a step. Hurts finished the day 3/7 for 54 yards in two series. Overall, the stats don’t tell the full story. Hurts looks comfortable in the offense and will only get better with more reps. If it were up to Hurts himself, he’d play the entirety of preseason.
Quez Watkins should see first-team reps
Jalen Hurts said it himself, Quez Watkins isn’t a secret anymore. The second-year receiver built onto his stellar training camp and showcased his highly-touted speed once again yesterday. Not dissimilar from his first career touchdown last season, Watkins caught a check-down pass from Flacco and outran the entire defense for a 79-yard score.
If Hurts hadn’t overthrown him, Watkins would’ve added a 98-yard TD to the box score as well. In summation, Quez has looked quick, his route-running has been crisp, and it won’t be long before he makes his way up the depth chart. As a result, Watkins should start seeing first-team reps in practice sooner rather than later.
Eagles WR Quez Watkins can flat out FLY 💨 💨 💨 pic.twitter.com/8l26sk2Q4y— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 13, 2021
Milton Williams is disruptive on defense
Williams drew pre-draft comparisons to All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald and we’re starting to see why. He played most of his snaps at left end; collapsing the pocket, throwing veteran offensive linemen around, and eventually drawing double teams. Williams looks to be a valuable piece to this defensive line rotation early on.
The 2nd group on the #Eagles DL had a few really nice rushes, but this one was the standout play. Excellent job from both TY McGill and Milton Williams here collapsing the pocket for a sack #FlyEaglesFly— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) August 13, 2021
Tune into #NEvsPHI | Aug. 19th at 7:30 PM on NBC10 pic.twitter.com/EyjRbBpz7U
Nick Mullens is QB3 for a reason
My Mullens > Flacco take died an early, painful death last night. For much of training camp, Mullens looked to be more productive than the 36-year-old; that was not the case last night. Mullens completed more passes to the opposing defense (2) than he did to his own teammates (1) and failed to pick up a single first down since taking over for Flacco.
I suppose there was a reason he was benched for C.J. Beathard last season.
Nick Mullens yesterday:— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) August 13, 2021
• 2 INTs
• 1 completion (4 yards)
• 0 first downs pic.twitter.com/kGIzK7OJm1
Jake Elliott can stick around, for now
I’ve tweeted “Jake Elliott pack your shit” more times than I care to admit last season, but he seems to have righted the ship temporarily. Elliott attempted three field goals last night, connecting from 47 yards out twice and hitting another from 50 yards.
Elliott missed several crucial kicks for the Eagles last season and is now heading into the second year of his 5-year, $21.8M deal. He’s going to have to live up to that contract in 2021.
Elijah Riley is playing his way onto the roster
The Eagles’ secondary has become crowded after the addition of Steven Nelson, but Elijah Riley is making a case to be on the final-53. He had a very nice special teams tackle on a punt return and intercepted Joshua Dobbs late in the game to give the Eagles a chance.
Mullens of course gave the ball right back, but Riley’s play may put him in the mix on the final depth chart. He was the highest-graded defender in coverage yesterday (per PFF) and also logged 17 special teams snaps, good for second-most on the roster to Joe Ostman (19).
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