Hurts got more first-team snaps, but Wentz still starting
PHILADELPHIA — Jalen Hurts took more first-team snaps than usual as quarterback ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Monday-night game against Seattle, NFL sources told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Carson Wentz, the fifth-year quarterback from North Dakota State, will still get the start, but Hurts’ increased practice time indicates that he could be given a series or more on his own, and that there is further competition at the position.
On Saturday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson denied that Hurts, a rookie, was under center more or that he could possibly be given an entire series or more Monday night.
“As far as the plays and the snaps, I mean, he hasn’t gotten any more than he would get throughout the course of the week normally since we’ve been playing him,” Pederson said. “I’m not going to reveal any game plan plans with him at the time.”
Pederson gave an ambiguous reply three days earlier when he asked if Wentz, who has struggled all season, would remain his starter.
“Not today on Wednesday, no,” he said.
A follow-up asked specifically about Monday night.
“Um, I’m focused right now on getting better today ... I don’t know - we’re looking at - I would say, no, no, no,” he said.
Later in the interview Pederson was asked again to confirm that Wentz was still his guy.
“The question was is Carson my starter? He’s my starter,” he said. “And you guys can blow it up however you want it, and that’s fine.”
Hurts has played 31 snaps in 11 games on offense this season. But the most he’s played is about two snaps in a row, and Wentz has always remained on the field. Pederson had been asked previously about taking the starter off as to give Hurts more passing options.
On Monday, asked about playing Hurts more, he said, “I think I could get him in the game a little bit more.”
Pederson, whose offense has been listless through 11 weeks, said he and his staff, along with Wentz, turned back the tape to the quarterback’s better days in hopes of reversing Wentz’s regression.
“I’ve gone back and looked at ’17 and ’18 tape, our coaching staff has, I know he has,” Pederson said. “We’ve looked at everything from play-calling – me, am I different? Am I using personnel right? Am I making decisions that are beneficial for the team? I look at a bunch of that stuff.”
Pederson’s offense has been one of the worst in the NFL so far this season, largely because of Wentz’s struggles. The Eagles are 30th in passing offense and they’re tied for 24th in passing touchdowns. Wentz is at the bottom of several advanced metrics, including completion percentage over expectation, and leads the league in turnovers and sacks.
The Eagles have tried several things this season, teetering between a vertical passing attack focused on deep shots to a less risky, more underneath approach. Nothing has cured the 27-year-old quarterback’s issues, and Wentz said Wednesday it’s not up to the coaches to help him out of his rut.
“I don’t think it’s really the game plan when we’ve been struggling,” Wentz said. “I just think it’s little things that hurt us maybe early in games, turnovers or different things that we’re really just shooting ourselves in the foot. I think the game plans have been solid this year, and I think how coach calls it, I always have a lot of trust in him and everything. I don’t want to dive into that as much as it’s really just us, and on me to drive this thing the right way and stop hurting ourselves.”
Still, Pederson offered some ideas for how to turn things around at Wednesday’s media session, suggesting a different approach to the offense could benefit both Wentz and young skill-position players like receivers Jalen Reagor and Travis Fulgham.
“We want to simplify overall,” he said. “Maybe for the quarterback position, but we’re also simplifying for the rest of the offense ... especially this time of year when fatigue and bodies are sore and the minds kind of get tired.”
Pederson also hinted the team could be going with heavier formations, with the possibility of tight end Zach Ertz returning. Ertz, missed the last four games with an ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve. He returned to practice last week and has a chance of playing Monday.
The Eagles have consistently been one of the most frequent users of “12″ personnel sets — formations that utilize one running back and two tight ends — under Pederson during the last few seasons. With Ertz sidelined and fellow tight end Dallas Goedert missing two games earlier this season, the team has used more “11″ sets, with three receivers, one running back, and one tight end.
In Ertz and Goedert’s absence, third-string tight end Richard Rodgers became the team’s second-leading receiver in terms of yardage. Even after Goedert returned two games ago, Rodgers was still productive, catching six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in those two games.