PHILADELPHIA - Let’s begin this exercise with a stipulation.
The Eagles aren't thinking about benching Jalen Hurts nor should they, but playing it safe with his ankle injury could provide some valuable information when it comes to the organization's most pressing on-field question: the long-term answer at the game's most important position.
That said, the smart money is on Nick Sirianni going the gamesmanship route this week when it comes to the health of Hurts and you can expect the Eagles' quarterback to be on the field for the back end of consecutive trips up the Jersey Turnpike to face the New York Jets.
There is little doubt, however, that Hurts will be feeling the effects of the tweaked ankle suffered when he was sacked during a 13-7 loss to the Jets’ co-tenants at MetLife Stadium, the New York Giants.
“Jalen is hopeful that he'll play [against the Jets],” Sirianni said. “Again, you got to see how these things go, as you guys well know. We'll see how the rehab goes the next two days.”
When it comes to evaluating Hurts and Sirianni’s offense, 60 minutes of Gardner Minshew wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
If Minshew was able to add some substance to the passing game, it would highlight the limitations Sirianni is working under with a work in progress when it comes to the passing game.
If the former Jacksonville starter offered nothing more than less mobility than Hurts, though, it could lead Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman to surmise that Sirianni needs to continue to grow on the job just like his QB.
In other words, it gives the organization additional information when it comes to answering its most pressing query - whether or not Hurts is the guy.
The Eagles have always been trying to serve two masters in 2021: gathering as much intelligence as possible to evaluate Hurts while also trying to win football games.
Sirianni, however, has a more focused goal: winning on game days and doing everything possible to reach that goal and the postseason even if it means an overmatched one-and-done against one of the NFC's higher seeds.
That’s why the rookie mentor refuses to give the fan base its pound of flesh when it comes to Jalen Reagor.
“We're trying to put the guys - we go out there and we're seeing who gives us the best chance to win,” Sirianni said Monday. "We played all five wideouts yesterday. [WR] Greg [Ward] played seven plays, [WR] J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside] played fifteen plays, then obviously the guys that started [including Reagor], started.
“So, I'm comfortable with the roles they're in right now. I have not thought about that and not thought through that because I don't think that's in the best interest of the team because I think Jalen Reagor gives us the best chance to win.”
Hurts does as well when it comes to the alternative of Minshew but the equation changes if a Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, or perhaps Kenny Pickett enters the conversation.
And trading a win for a vision seems like a small price.
After a poor three-turnover performance and a 17.5 passer rating by Hurts against the Giants, Sirianni admitted the obvious, and that is the Eagles’ passing game leaves a lot to be desired.
“My message to the pass group guys today in film was, ‘Hey, it wasn't good enough in this group [Sunday],’” Sirianni said. “That starts with me putting them in positions to succeed, and obviously always – the guy who touches the ball every time is the quarterback; him executing at a high level, and then to the receivers, tight ends, and running backs.”
Minshew isn’t any kind of long-term fix but a short-term spike by "The Moustache" could offer valuable information en route to the real answer.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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 or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.