PHILADELPHIA - The Deshaun Watson rumors won’t die.
They swirl at the feet of Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts like so many hotdog wrappers on a breezy fall Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Hurts doesn’t even bother to swat them away.
His laser focus on the task at hand showed through loud and clear during his videoconference on Wednesday. His words were even stronger, especially when asked if it bothers him that the Eagles haven’t come out yet and officially named him the starter for the 2021 season.
“I know I’m not above anything with competition or football IQ, and all the values that you have, I’m not above any of that,” he said. “So that’s kind of where that is.”
Hurts is atop whatever depth chart there is in May.
It’s his job right now. He knows it, even though he won’t say it.
His teammates know it, and they will say it.
“You see that he really wants to be great,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “That was something you see from Day 1 from his habits … But now that he’s the guy, it’s going to be a lot different because now the expectations are up there.
“When you know you’re the guy, it definitely puts that pep in your stuff a little more. It builds that confidence that you already have inside you, but it grows even more inside you.”
Right now, Hurts can only prepare like he is going to be the starter, and he should benefit from at least two things.
First, The Eagles delivered to him his one-time teammate at Alabama, DeVonta Smith.
“I always tell people the first thing about him, one, the competitor he is, kind of a storied guy, kind of like myself in a few ways,” said Hurts. “He’s self-driven, and bringing in someone like that, I think it helps just in the presence of him being here.”
Second, and even more importantly, is being able to be around real, live teammates rather than just faces on a computer screen like last spring’s all-virtual program due to COVID-19. And with that comes actual on-field drills and in-person bonding.
I’m very happy that we’re kind of able to get in the building now,” he said. “One, get acclimated to new coaches, new system. You got some new faces in the building. I think all of that is important to our growth as a football team.
“I’m happy we’re able to do that … I think that’s what it comes down to, being committed to what coach is preaching, playing together, and believing in one another.”
Not everything is completely back to normal.
The Eagles aren’t having any seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 team drills during these three weeks of practices.
Like is still-uncertain starting job status, Hurts waves that nuisance off like a pesky swarm of gnats.
“I won’t get into the things that we can’t do, the things that may hold us back,” he said. “I see these things as turning a negative into a positive. We want to maximize what we do have and go to work … I wouldn’t say it’s a direct negative. You’d love to do it, but these are the cards we’re dealt right now, so this is what we have to play with.”
Hurts is still an unknown commodity despite making four starts in a season that was already in tatters by the time he replaced Carson Wentz.
As former Eagles defensive end Chris Long so eloquently put it when talking on the podcast, Philly Sports with Giovanni on Wednesday, “It’s really hard for young players to get traction in a crappy situation, and last year was really crappy.”
The best Hurts can do is learn from those games, so he won’t be, as he said, a repeat offender of the same mistakes he made as a rookie.
“I think we’re all hungry,” he said. “I know (Jalen) Reagor is. I know Smitty is. I know the whole entire receiving corps is, G-Ward (Greg Ward), the O-line. I think everybody is hungry.
“…Everybody is hungry because we didn’t finish, we didn’t do what we wanted to do last year. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Ultimately, in the end, we didn’t have the outcome that we wanted. So we’re very hungry. We don’t plan on missing meals.”
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.