Eagles QB Jalen Hurts to make 2nd career start against Cardinals

Dec 14, 2020, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:16 pm
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles talks...
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 13: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with quarterback Jalen Hurts #2 in the second half against the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals will be hosting the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in a Week 15 matchup at State Farm Stadium.

Philadelphia will be led by quarterback Jalen Hurts after head coach Doug Pederson confirmed on Monday that the rookie will be making his second career start against Arizona.

In what was a battle of backup QBs, Hurts managed to lead the Eagles to a 24-21 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The win also brings Pederson’s record to 11-3 when starting a backup quarterback.

The former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback went 17-for-30 (57%) for 167 yards and a passing touchdown. Hurts also added 106 yards on the ground on 18 carries (5.9 yards per carry). Not bad for a guy making his first NFL start, especially against the likes of a Sean Payton-led defense no less.

“You can pick out a lot of different teams that have had backup quarterbacks with success and there’s just not necessarily a lot of film out there on these guys,” Pederson told reporters via Periscope on Monday.

“I think as play-callers, as you put plans together, maybe you keep things a touch smaller, you keep the verbiage down a little bit, maybe you pull plays that you used earlier in the season, time on task — all kinds of things play into that.”

The Eagles head coach attributed that success to the fact that Philadelphia didn’t find themselves in many 2nd-and-long situations. Pederson added that staying ahead of the chains and Hurts’ ability to throw the ball away helped keep the offense in rhythm.

“You can keep a defense off balance and have a little more rhythm,” Pederson said of staying ahead of the chains. “I credit the offensive line (Sunday) for blocking and doing a great job against a defensive front that’s probably one of the best ones we’ve seen this year.

“And then the off-schedule plays that Jalen had in the ball game really kind of kept the defense off balance. That’s what you try to do each week and then try to pick your spots on some shot plays.”

Unlike Carson Wentz — who was the Eagles starting signal-caller until last week — Hurts hasn’t been given the keys to the offense.

“Our mindset going into the game was: ‘Jalen, just run the offense.'” Pederson said. “We didn’t give him a lot of freedom in this game. We just wanted him to go out in his first start in the National Football League — just go play. And much like Carson’s first start in the (NFL) — just go play.

“And then you continue to grow and you build and take the successes we had in the game yesterday and try to build upon that this week.”

Pederson explained that he challenged everyone to step up their efforts in order to make life easier for the backup QB.

“Do the little things to help the backup quarterback,” he said. “And if they do their job then it makes the backup quarterback just have to do his job and just distribute the ball, get us in and out of the right plays. Everybody around the backup quarterback has to pick up their game and support because you can’t do it yourself.”

So should the Cardinals expect another heavy dose of a Hurts-led running attack from the Eagles after leading all Philadelphia rushers in attempts in Week 14?

Pederson said running his quarterback 18 times and letting him take that many hits isn’t ideal and that he’d rather give the ball to the likes of Miles Sanders and Co. But the Eagles head coach didn’t necessarily rule it out either.

“You never know how a game is going to unfold, either,” he said. “I have a plan in my head that I want to approach the game a certain way. When it works out it’s great. But when it doesn’t, you have to find something else to do. You have to find another set of plays and try to make some things work. We’ll see how it goes this week but hopefully we can build on what we did (Sunday).

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