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Struggling Jalen Hurts Could Get Help From Lions' Secondary

The Lions banged-up cornerbacks are young and inexperienced

PHILADELPHIA - Lou Holtz was famous for talking up inferior opponents when he was the coach at the University of Notre Dame.

At least a little of that kind of gamesmanship was going on in both Philadelphia and Detroit this week.

For the Eagles, quarterback Jalen Hurts isn’t exactly lighting things up in recent games.

In consecutive losses to Tampa Bay and Las Vegas, the second-year signal-caller has completed only 30-of-60 passes, a dismal 50 percent completion percentage, for 351 yards, a dismal 175.5 yards-per game.

Overall, Hurts’ early success in Atlanta during the season-opener seems like an outlier at this point after five setbacks in six games where any positive numbers have come with the Eagles’ down big and trying to climb back into games where opposing defenses have no sense of urgency and taken the foot off the gas.

If there was ever a time to get things right, it’s probably Sunday against 0-7 Detroit in which the banged-up Lions are relying on rookie, undrafted options at two of three cornerback positions and both of those - Jerry Jacobs (illness) and AJ Parker (neck) - are listed as questionable.

Jalen Hurts under pressure from the Raiders defense and the Eagles fan base

Jalen Hurts under pressure from the Raiders defense and the Eagles fan base

For even an average NFL passing offense that screams throw the football.

Nick Sirianni tried that in Week 2 when San Francisco was down two starting CBs and the results were less than stellar. Meanwhile, the outside noise in Philadelphia still hasn’t graduated 1975 when running the football - without your RB1 no less - was not archaic.

Sirianni is in a tough spot because his QB may not be ready to take advantage of the Detroit deficiency on the back end and he doesn’t have a Derrick Henry-like RB1 who can carry a team on his back.

The coach’s top playmakers are DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, however, so the vehicle, in this case, Hurts, has to get them the football.

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Maybe the best CB in Detroit these days is its defensive coordinator, former three-time Pro Bowl selection Aaron Glenn, who is wary of Hurts’ unique skill set.

“I think the first thing that I’ll look at with this player is just over his career he’s won a lot of games, so there is a winner in that player and I think that’s the number one thing you try to judge a quarterback on is wins and losses,” Glenn said.

Glenn isn’t exactly channeling Holtz talking about the Little Sisters of the Poor but he is obviously taking the time machine back to Hurts’ college days when wins were far more prevalent than losses at Alabama and Oklahoma.

As a pro, Hurts is now just 3-8 as a starter, however, even if he poses challenges you don’t typically see.

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“You’ve always got to make sure you’re on your toes with this player,” said Glenn. “Even if it’s a close game, he’s one of those guys that has the potential to pull it off.”

In the Eagles’ second win at Carolina, Hurts showed the ability to keep grinding and made a handful of big plays to supplement a big day from the defense and a blocked punt on special teams. That and the off-schedule offense Hurts can produce is what keeps defensive coordinators up at night.

“The second thing is his ability to run with the ball,” said Glenn. “So we have to be able to contain that and make sure that he doesn’t get out of the pocket.”

Alignment and assignment is the sentiment Glenn is pressing.

“Our rush lanes have to be really, really good in that situation," he said. "We’ve already talked about that with our D-line. They understand that and we watched tape on that and we’ve seen how he’s been able to exploit different teams by being able to do that.”

Glenn, though, is well aware that Hurts is still a work in progress especially after seeing former Lions QB Matthew Stafford last week in Los Angeles.

“Totally different than a younger quarterback because those guys — it takes time for those guys to understand exactly how this league operates and the different defenses, different nuances that defenses try to do to you,” said the DC. “So, each week we try to see exactly who we’re going to play and try to attack those guys depending on who they are.”

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While Glenn is thinking about that inexperience, Sirianni is surely mulling over the same with the Lions’ CBs.

“There are times you want to go after a guy, there are times where you don't want to go to a guy a certain way,” he said.

Like Glenn, though, Sirianni downplayed any advantage.

“My experience with that is - and I don't want to point anybody out, but if there is a guy on one side that you just know is a shut-down guy, sometimes you do, you tend to go away from them,” the Eagles coach said. “But that guy has to be super-elite. Okay, I'm going to say it about a guy that's not in the league anymore. 

"That was something people would do with [former NFL CB Darrelle] Revis a lot. ‘Okay, well Revis is over there, so we are going to devise our game plan to throw away from Revis.’

“My experience on the other side of the coin is, ‘Well, this guy has got - he's not very good. He's got a lot of inexperience right there. We got to attack him.’ Those are extremes, right? So, I don't see those guys as the extreme here. I see them playing solid football.”

With these two teams at a combined 2-12, someone is going to try to pounce on a perceived advantage, and perhaps the difference in the game will be the coach who can prop up his weakness the best.

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-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 jmcmullen44@gmail.com 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.