Eagles Training Camp Preview: The Quarterbacks

The Jalen Hurts era in Philadelphia has officially begun — for now, but can the second-year quarterback continue to overcome the odds and be the Eagles' long-term starter?
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For the first time since 2016, the long-term picture at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles is unclear. The rise and fall of Carson Wentz’s tenure as the face of the franchise started and finished in the blink of an eye. 

The Eagles sent the quarterback they once treasured to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. Now, heading into training camp, Philadelphia will rely on the signal-caller many were displeased they invested a second-round pick in.

When Howie Roseman declared his reasoning for drafting Jalen Hurts was in part to missing out on Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL Draft, a misconception seemed to form in Philadelphia.

The Eagles general manager wasn’t comparing the two players to each other in terms of skillset when addressing the media after the selection of Hurts. He stated a time when the organization missed out on a unique talent at quarterback and lived in fear of doing so again. 

Roseman was correct. The Eagles did miss out on a quarterback they knew was special in Russell Wilson before proving to the world that he was. 

If Hurts was a product of Philadelphia's general manager reliving a nightmare of when he missed out on an exceptional talent at quarterback, then maybe the team truly does possess something special in Hurts.

The Eagles have been rumored to be in on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes and have been considered the favorites to land the quarterback, but with Watson’s playing status up in the air, Hurts should have time to prove to Roseman he is as special as the general manager believed he was.

The way Hurts has captured the locker room as a leader should not be overlooked. Veterans on the Eagles roster that played critical roles in hoisting a Lombardi trophy opted to stick with the team through the turmoil and change the organization endured this offseason.

When Wentz jumped ship, no one seemed to follow him. Compare that to the situation transpiring in Green Bay. When it appears Rodgers is jumping ship, Davante Adams cut off contract talks with the team, and Za’Darius Smith wants more money or is getting out. But nothing of the sort occurred in Philadelphia, and perhaps it’s due to a belief in the team to turn things around and the young quarterback on the roster.

“He’s a tremendous worker, and he’s good with his teammates,” Lane Johnson said recently in an interview with NBC10. “A lot of the linemen can vouch for that too, a lot of our team. We’ve got camp coming up, so for him and the rest of the Eagles, we’ve got a lot to prove. We were not where we wanted to be last year, so we’ve got a lot to get done over the next two months.”

The team has embraced Hurts, and all it took was starting four games on a lost season and a real NFL offseason that isn’t prohibited by the initial wave of the coronavirus. That’s a pretty notable accomplishment for a young signal-caller.

Nick Sirianni may not have named Hurts a starter yet, but actions speak louder than words. And the Eagles are acting as if Hurts is the starter moving forward. 

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles Jalen Hurts unfazed by not being named ...

Getting on the same page with Sirianni will be the first task Hurts will have to work on in training camp. 

In an offense that will be predicated on timed routes in the short passing game, and a balanced approach with emphasis on the utilization of the rushing attack, Hurts can be the guy Sirianni needs him to be. 

The mobility of the soon-to-be 23-year-old quarterback will also open up the play-action playbook for the head coach, making calling plays less complicated on the first-year play-caller.

Joe Flacco was also brought in this offseason and will open up camp as the main competition to Hurts’ starting job.

Eagles QBs Joe Flacco (left) and Jalen Hurts warm up prior to practice on June 4, 2021

Joe Flacco and Jalen Hurts

Flacco is not a starting-caliber quarterback at this point in his career, nor do the Eagles expect him to be such. Philadelphia has always treasured the core values of a quarterback. Can he be a starter? Is he a proven winner? And can he put the team on his back? 

Flacco did check those boxes above in his prime, which is why the Eagles felt the need to go after him instead of other options in the free-agent market at the time. Giving Flacco $3.5 million guaranteed was a head-scratcher to some, but they got the guy they wanted in Hurts’ ear to Philadelphia.

Whether Flacco is the correct guy to mentor Hurts is debatable given his unwillingness to in Denver when they drafted Drew Lock. But that was a couple of years ago when Flacco still considered himself a starter. The league has shown him how they’ve viewed him since, and maybe he’s had a change of heart, which prompted him to join the Eagles.

Regardless, it’s tough to imagine Flacco doing anything in the slightest to threaten Hurts’ chances at starting for the Eagles in Week One. 

Even with the money, he was guaranteed, Flacco should be watching his back because Philadelphia did add Nick Mullens to the mix. 

After signing undrafted free agent Jamie Newman and seeing him up close in OTA’s, the Eagles felt they needed to bring in an upgrade, and Mullens was that in their eyes. 

It’s fair to wonder how the new staff evaluated the play of their quarterbacks on the roster during those team activities in June and what pushed them to give up on a young rookie with potential they could’ve developed at the third quarterback spot in favor of the veteran Mullens.

If Hurts goes down, Mullens may give them a better chance of winning than Flacco, given where the two are in their respected careers. And maybe Philadelphia came to that conclusion before Mullens’ arrival, which would make more sense of the addition. 

The Eagles should still be on the lookout for a young signal-caller to develop in the wings, whether it’s practice squad or third spot on the depth chart. Feeding the quarterback pipeline has always been the mantra of this organization, and that shouldn’t change even with the new coaching staff. 

DEPTH CHART

QB1: Hurts

QB2: Flacco

QB3: Nick Mullens

WHAT'S CHANGED

The most significant change at quarterback is Wentz no longer being on the roster, and the Eagles may not be done making changes at the most crucial position.

It’s been nationally recognized as an “open secret” around NFL of the Eagles' interest in Watson, according to former NFL general manager Mike Tannebaum. Multiple sources have also stated to SI.com’s Eagle Maven that Philadelphia will be at the front of the line for the Texans quarterback when he’s made available.

HIGHLIGHT REEL: Hurts became the first quarterback in league history to run for at least 100 yards and throw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start, which he did against the New Orleans Saints, the best-run defense in the NFL at the time.

He s also the first quarterback ever to have 500-plus passing yards and 150-plus rushing yards in his first two career starts.

Suppose Hurts’ bright spots, with the context of playing through the most unorthodox offseason in NFL history for any rookie (especially quarterback), wasn’t enough to at least give anyone optimism for what he can develop into.

CAMP BATTLES

Without a starter being officially named, there’s technically a competition for the job, but rest assured, it’s more protocol than anything. 

If the Eagles are more swayed by Hurts as their guy once training camp kicks off, they should immediately shift their focus to the second quarterback. Automatically crowning Flacco would be a mistake, and the preseason may open Philadelphia’s eyes to that (if they aren’t already), with an experienced, and younger Mullens on board.

ROCKY: THE LONG SHOT

Mullens does what’s being mentioned above and outplays Flacco for the backup quarterback spot, making the former Super Bowl MVP most likely a final roster cutdown candidate.

Quarterback Nick Mullens signed with the Eagles on June 14, 2021

Nick Mullens

But what perhaps is more likely, Mullens performs well enough to garner interest on the trade market from a needy backup team, and the Eagles receive compensation for a training camp body.

Which, in return, ends in Flacco’s favor of keeping the team’s $3.5 million guaranteed veteran mentor.

WHO STAYS ON THE 53?

All the current quarterbacks on the roster stay (for now and the Eagles bring in a developmental prospect).

WHO GOES?

Nobody

Conor Myles covers the Philadelphia Eagles for SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-hosts the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast on Bleav Podcast Network. Reach Conor at ConorMylesSI@gmail.com or Twitter: @ConorMylesSI

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.