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Jalen Hurts Highlights ‘Stock Risers’ in Eagles-Steelers Opener


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Jalen Hurts Highlights ‘Stock Risers’ in Eagles-Steelers Opener

  • Updated Aug 13, 2021 at 12:13am
Jalen Hurts

Getty:  Eagles QB Jalen Hurts finished 3-of-7 for 54 yards in his NFL preseason start.

The Philadelphia Eagles lost their preseason opener 24-16 on Thursday night. Throw the box score out the window. The first exhibition game is devoted to finding difference-makers and forcing tough decisions.

Nick Sirianni – Philly’s youngest head coach since since Dick Vermeil in 1976 – only played his offensive starters for two possessions, but he was pleased with the way new starting quarterback Jalen Hurts looked in limited snaps in a "very crisp” first half. He went 3-of-7 for 52 yards for a pedestrian 69.9 passer rating. Whatever. Look beyond the box score. Hurts connected with Dallas Goedert on a perfectly placed pass for 34 yards, then watched Zach Ertz and Jalen Reagor dropped easy drops in the bucket.


Miles Sanders didn’t suit up because the team wants to keep him "fresh,” per Sirianni. He’s not injured. Jordan Howard started in his place and rushed one time for three yards. What about the offensive line? Sua Opeta started at left guard over the injured Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig served as the backup center behind Jason Kelce. Brandon Brooks played two series with the first-team offense at right guard. Jordan Mailata was the starting left tackle with Andre Dillard out.


Top 7 ‘Stock Risers’ in Preseason Opener

The Pittsburgh Steelers won the game. Who cares? Let’s take a look at the players who stood out in Sirianni’s first game running the sidelines in Philadelphia.

Jalen Hurts: Let’s start with the quarterback. The biggest knock on Hurts coming into the preseason opener was his accuracy, or his inability to stay in good passing rhythm. So much for that. The second-year quarterback hit Dallas Goedert on a beautiful 34-yard completion and connected with Zach Ertz on two nice reps (7 yards, 13 yards). He had an opportunity to pick up a first down with his legs on a 3rd-and-6 but went down to avoid injury. He looked sharp.

Quez Watkins: His highlight-reel play – 79-yard screen pass from Joe Flacco – earned him Player of the Game honors. Watkins was already having a standout camp, but to see him do it in a real-game setting and under the lights, wow. The burner from Southern Miss has been the Eagles’ best receiver all summer and deserves a bigger role. He nearly hauled in a 98-yard touchdown from Hurts in the first quarter, too. Watkins served as the primary kick returner against the Steelers.

Milton Williams: Remember that awkward video of Howie Roseman and Tom Donahoe from the NFL draft? Erase it from your mind. It’s way too early to call Roseman a genius for taking Williams in the third round, but the kid from Louisiana Tech looks legit. He fought through double teams, attacked the quarterback – got robbed of an official half-sack – and caused havoc all night. Williams is in line for a spot in Jonathan Gannon’s pass-rushing rotation.

Jake Elliott: People were talking about cutting ties with the Super Bowl hero after last year’s regression. The Eagles even brought in a few place-kickers for tryouts. Not anymore. Elliott was perfect on Thursday after connecting on three field goals of 40 yards or more: 50-yarder, 47-yarder, 47-yarder.


Shaun Bradley: The second-year linebacker out of Temple has a real opportunity to earn extra snaps this year, especially with Davion Taylor (calf) and JaCoby Stevens (hamstring) banged up. He didn’t start – those honors went to Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Eric Wilson – but he was in on every important stop with the twos and rushed to the ball. HITS Principle. Bradley finished with seven total tackles (one for loss).

Tyree Jackson: The converted college quarterback has emerged as the third-best tight end on the roster. Sorry, Richard Rodgers. Jackson had two catches for 32 yards on five targets on Thursday night, all during a two-minute drill to close out the first half. He’s a huge target (6-foot-7, 249 pounds). He’s got great hands and leaping ability. And his route running is much improved. If he can learn how to hold a block, even slightly, he can be Darren Waller.

Elijah Riley: The climb to make the 53 might not be as steep as previously thought at the safety position. K’Von Wallace is nursing a groin injury. Rodney McLeod is still recovering from ACL surgery. Grayland Arnold has done little to separate himself at camp. And Marcus Epps looked lost in the preseason opener. Anthony Harris and Andrew Adams are locked in. Meanwhile, Elijah Riley delivered a timely interception and finished with four tackles. If the Eagles keep five safeties, Riley has a legitimate shot.


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