PHILADELPHIA – Jalen Hurts emerged from the curtain covering the Eagles outside the weight room facility, took a few steps, dropped to his right knee, and bowed his head in prayer on the fringe of the practice field at the team’s NovaCare Complex.
After a few minutes, he rose up and jogged onto the field as the Eagles starting quarterback.
OK, he hasn’t been officially named the starter, but he took all the first-team reps Wednesday, the first practice of the first training camp under rookie head coach Nick Sirianni.
“It felt cool, felt good being back out there,” said Hurts. “Everybody getting the mojo back. We’ve done a lot of talking about what we’re going to do, a lot of talking about installing stuff, the action plan, it’s all been put into place, watched a lot of tape, and now we have the opportunity to put it all out there on the field, build that chemistry.
“Obviously we worked out throughout the summer, got a lot of good work in in the offseason, but now we get the opportunity to get work in together as a team and go and compete against a defense. That’s the big part there.”
Despite bright sunshine painting the sky blue, there is a dark cloud hanging over Hurts, one the organization doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to chase away as each day brings more reports of the team’s interest in embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Asked about the Watson chatter that won’t go away, Hurts said, “what chatter are you talking about?”
He probably meant it as a joke because he then followed up when asked specifically about Watson, “There’s a lot of chatter that goes on. I’m above it all. Control what I can. I’m here. That’s what I’m doing, going out there to be the quarterback of this team.”
So, what did Hurts’ day look like?
Well, it wasn’t the greatest, but then again, growing pains are to be expected.
He hasn’t had the same play-caller for the last six years.
“You have some similarities, and you have some differences,” said Hurts, who said he has been vaccinated. “From coach to coach, I’ve experienced different coaching styles in the last six years, having a new play-caller every year since my freshman year in college. You have different intentions of the play-caller, how the offense is installed, maybe you’re running the same thing but being told to look at it or read it a little differently.
“Most importantly for me, it’s about spending time with (QB) coach (Brian) Johnson, (OC) coach (Shane) Steichen, coach (Nick) Sirianni and understand clearly how they want me to execute it and going out there and doing it that way. Happy to have that opportunity now against a live defense and putting stuff on tape for us to watch.”
Perhaps the second-year quarterback’s best play was a touchdown throw he made when he rolled right and hit rookie DeVonta Smith running across the back of the end zone during 11-on-11 drills.
Hurts did a lot of rolling out to both sides of the line of scrimmage, most of the time off of a read-option play.
Sometimes he pulled up and threw a pass, other times he took off running.
Hurts also threw an interception during the same drill, though it was difficult to tell if the ball was complete to rookie Kenny Gainwell then stripped away from him by Josiah Scott, or if Scott made the pick cleanly. Either way, the ball was thrown into a crowd at the 1-yard line.
Asked what kind of day he had, Hurts gave a cryptic response: “The lamp is never full.”
Earlier, Nick Sirianni didn’t mince words.
The coach said he wants to see Hurts take hold of the starting job.
“Right now, Jalen is in with the ones and he’s working with the ones and he’s earned that because he's worked his butt off, and we’re hoping that he takes the reins and rolls with it and continues to get good reps with the ones,” said Sirianni.
“The growth we want to see is the acceleration in the offense, just getting better in more reps with the offense. This is the first time we’ve had 11-on-11 team periods. These are some of the first times he’s run some of these plays. Maybe he’s run a version of these plays but there are some plays he’s never run before. We can’t get enough of that, whether that’s in the film room, whether that’s on the field, he’s just got to continue to take these reps.
“I am so confident in Jalen. He’s a gym rat. He’s just thinking about football all the time. That’s what I love about him. He’s going to use those mental reps for sure, we just have to get him more reps on the field.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.