Hurts Gets Encore; Birds Secondary Takes Big Hit
Less than 24 hours after Jalen Hurts helped engineer the Eagles' first win in more than a month, Hurts received notice that he'll have another chance. Eagles coach Doug Pederson on Monday named Hurts as his starter for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz., on the heels of Hurts combining for more than 280 total yards in a 24-21 upset of the New Orleans Saints at the Linc.
Hurts, who took over for a benched Carson Wentz, passed for 167 yards on completing 17 of 30 attempts and also ran 18 times for a 106 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. On the flip side, the Eagles (4-8-1) will be without veteran safety Rodney McLeod, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Saints and will be out for the rest of the season. McLeod, who came back in free agency on a 2-year deal, had stabilized the Eagles' transformed secondary and was the only starter back from last year's secondary. The Eagles, who recently cut ties with safety Will Parks, will use a rotation of Marcus Epps and rookie, fourth-round pick K'von Wallace to fill McLeod's void. Also troubling: Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay is in the concussion protocol and the team's other starting corner, Avonte Maddox, will miss "some time," Pederson said, which leaves the Eagles without at least two – and possibly three – starters in the secondary against an Arizona (7-6) offense that ranks fourth among NFL teams in yards per game behind dynamic second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.
Controlling possession to keep the ball out of Murray's hands will vital for the Eagles, which topped 20 offensive points for the first time since Week 7 with Hurts making his starting debut. Pederson, who again was hesitant to overload praise on Hurts, acknowledged that his offense's flow and rhythm were significantly better against the Saints, who brought the league's top-ranked defense into the game. Pederson credited Hurts but also the offensive line "I see guys sort of step their games up when a backup comes in," said Pederson, who improved to 12-2 as Eagles coach when starting his backup quarterback. "They have to do their job even better one. One of things I did last week was challenge everybody on offense – coaches, too. I agree wth the fact that everybody around the backup quarterback has to pick up their game."