Yes, Jalen Hurts will be the Starter, More Musings on 53-Man Roster

On starters, running it back with J.J., and Marlon T. getting a COVID flyer
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The Eagles' worst-kept secret, other than Jordan Mailata starting at left tackle Week 1 in Atlanta, was Jalen Hurts starting at quarterback against the Falcons.

Head coach Nick Sirianni stopped the pretense on Tuesday after the Eagles cut down to their initial 53-man roster.

Hurts took only 10 live reps in the preseason with that number being curtailed due to an illness forcing a late scratch against New England in the second preseason affair, but he took all the first-team reps, an obvious indicator to anyone paying attention that meant he was their starter.

"Jalen has known, ‘Hey, nobody else has gotten any reps with the ones but me,’ and Jalen is our starter," Sirianni finally said after some initial hemming and hawing. "He's done a great job. We wanted him to take advantage of the opportunity and take the reins with the advantage of the opportunity that he got, and we feel like the preseason that he had, he did that."

MORE: An Analysis of the Eagles' 53-Man Roster - Sports Illustrated

As for Mailata, Sirianni still paid deference to Andre Dillard, the team's 2019 first-round pick, but Mailata clearly outplayed Dillard before a late knee injury to the latter wrapped up the de facto competition.

"Jordan [Mailata] will be our starter," Sirianni said. "Jordan had a great camp, a great camp. Andre had a great camp. Andre missed some time, and during that time the chemistry with the one offensive line was able to build. It's a good problem for us to have. We have two left tackles that can really play and can start in my opinion all across the NFL."

RUNNING IT BACK WITH JJAW?

Maybe the most unpopular move to fans at the initial 53-man cutdown was running it back with third-year receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside despite an unproductive start to the former second-round pick's career.

As far as what the Eagles had at WR this summer, Arcega-Whiteside did actually deserve his 53-man spot over Travis Fulgham, who played his way out of a job, and John Hightower.

Now, you might argue that the Eagles can probably get better at WR4 [Greg Ward] and WR5 on the waiver wire but that's a different story.

Eagles WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside after 31-31 tie against New York Jets in preseason finale

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

"When you talk about J.J. and what he did during camp and his contributions on offense, his willingness and his desire to be an excellent special teams player, which you saw during the preseason, and the whole picture of that and how it fits into the group at receiver," said Roseman. "And then, when you talk about numbers – again, we don't look at it just as who we're keeping on the 53.

"We look at it as who we're keeping on the 70. So, we try to figure out to the best that we can - obviously, a lot is going to happen in the next 24 hours - about how that puzzle comes about."

WHO CAUGHT SIRIANNI'S EYE?

The Eagles' rookie coach had mentioned players in his and his staff's pasts that were able to open some eyes and make a roster, names like Austin Ekeler, Dontrelle Inman, Andrew Sendejo, Victor Bolden, and Zach Pascal.

"Those were the couple guys we showed clips of their last preseason game, and it gave them the inspiration of, ‘Hey, this game right here can really dictate my future,’" Sirianni said. "To say that a guy - again, we don't disregard what they did in the past month of training camp or even in the offseason or the games before that. 

"And so, it is a body of work that you look at, but you're always looking for somebody that has a good game, that in that game that makes his last final statement of, ‘Hey, I'm ready to make this roster.’"

MORE: Recently Cut Players that Could Draw Interest from Eagles

Sirianni didn't want to single out moments that shaped decisions, but he did offer some praise for Tyree Jackson, the ex-University of Buffalo QB turned tight end who was kept on the initial 53 despite a back injury that will keep the developmental prospect on the shelf for two months.

Eventually, Jackson will be shifted toward short-term injured reserve, but the Eagles wanted no part of putting him through waivers.

"Tyree Jackson, I know where he's at right now, but he played quarterback last year for goodness sakes, so that's an easy one for me to answer because he played quarterback, and he came out here and he really was showing how good of a tight end he can be," the coach said. "Super happy with that. But Tyree, again, is this high-character guy that loves football, that's tough, and he's got a lot of talent in his body."

COVID SAVE FOR MARLON T?

From a meritocracy standpoint rookie sixth-round pick Marlon Tuipulotu probably didn't deserve to make the roster, but veteran DT T.Y. McGill, who did, was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he doesn't count against the 53 for now.

Tuipulotu finished the preseason strong, but according to ProFootballFocus.com, he also finished the preseason ranked No. 169 out of 173 interior defenders graded.

Overall, the only member of the Eagles' nine-member draft class who didn't make the initial 53 was sixth-round pick JaCoby Stevens, whose transition from safety at LSU to LB in the NFL was hampered by a hamstring injury in camp. Stevens is earmarked for the practice squad if he passes through waivers.

"I mean, with the draft class, really confident in the abilities of the guys," said Sirianni. "I felt like everybody that we drafted I was super excited about, Howie was super excited about. We were genuinely excited about these guys. Why? Because they had talent.

"But the other things that these guys had in my opinion, all these guys, they were high-character people that love football and that were tough. And when you have talent, talent is the most important thing, but if you're high character and if you love ball and you're tough, you're going to reach your ceiling."

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.