By Rob Maaddi
It took turning to Jalen Hurts for the Eagles to start running the ball consistently.
Will they keep doing it?
That’s the big question heading into Sunday’s game at Arizona.
Hurts and Miles Sanders were an effective 1-2 punch on the ground in an upset over the Saints. Sanders had 115 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown. Hurts had 106 yards but carried 15 times, excluding three kneel-downs. That eventually won’t be sustainable. He’s going to have to throw the ball with success for the Eagles to win regularly.
The same formula might work this week against the Cardinals, however. Arizona is 18th against the run and allowed the Giants to average 4.6 yards per run last week.
There’s an assumption that defenses will figure Hurts out quickly. That’s not an automatic and it doesn’t have to happen this week.
If the Eagles continue to prove they are willing to run the ball and do it well again, that’ll open up the play-action game and will give the offense more opportunities in the air.
“Nothing easy about playing the position of quarterback,” Doug Pederson said. “Jalen has to understand now it’s a whole new defense, it’s a different structure, different personal. Scheme is differently defensively and so what we did and had success against New Orleans may not apply this week. We sort of have to reset right.
“So, in Jalen’s case he just has to study the tape. He’s got to study obviously himself. He really has to study his mannerisms too. No indicators to the defense and don’t give things away, whether it be by TV copy or film or coaches copy that defenses can really clue into and try to get an advantage on. Nothing is ever easy at this level, but I think this week will be a great opportunity for him to go back and just study himself, make corrections, clean up what he needs to clean up and try to present the same thing again Sunday.”
If the Eagles win and Washington loses to Seattle and the Giants lose to the Browns, they will suddenly regain an inside track to the NFC East title. That scenario puts the Eagles in position to control their playoff fate.
Here are three matchups to watch:
- Eagles D vs. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
It’s going to take the entire defense to contain Murray. He’s a dual-threat who beats teams with his arm and legs. Murray has 712 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the ground in 13 games. He’s also thrown for 3,231 yards and 23 TDs.
The Eagles have had a tough time stopping QBs who can run. They’ve allowed 364 yards rushing to quarterbacks. Lamar Jackson had 108 and Daniel Jones had 156 in two games
“He’s outrunning people off just one quick little flinch and he’s gone,” Graham said. “We got our hands full. You gotta run to the ball, get him to cut back and hopefully the herd is coming. Everybody has to be running to the ball and you have to get to him in numbers.”
- Eagles CB Kevon Seymour vs. Cardinals WRs
Seymour made his debut against the Saints and now is likely to start because Avonte Maddox is injured and Darius Slay is in concussion protocol. Slay was limited in Thursday’s practice and would match up with DeAndre Hopkins if he’s available. That leaves Seymour on Christian Kirk and/or Larry Fitzgerald. Seymour started five games in 2016-17. He was out of football the past two seasons before the Eagles added him to the practice squad. He fared well in 35 snaps last week but Arizona’s receivers present a tough challenge
- Eagles RT Matt Pryor vs. Cardinals OLB Haason Reddick
Reddick, a former Temple star, is coming off a five-sack performance and now faces a third-string lineman. Pryor has struggled this season and is back in the lineup because Jack Driscoll suffered a knee injury last week. The Eagles are going to have to give Pryor help against Reddick or it could get ugly.