Hurts' future and evaluation of '21 draft class in Eagles mailbag


As we get ready for a Week 18 game and a playoff run to follow, I realize it’s been a while since the last mailbag.

So I sent out a tweet and by the time I came inside from shoveling my driveway there were a bunch of questions. So, as always, thank you.

Let’s get to them:

There will always be some level of infatuation from the Eagles with Russell Wilson because the franchise still views him as the one that got away. And if things lined up in a way that the front office thought they had a legitimate shot to bring him to town, I’m sure they’d still explore that option.

But I think Jalen Hurts deserves to be the Eagles’ starter in 2022 and I think he will be.

Now, that’s not to say I’m all-in on him being the franchise quarterback for the next decade. But after watching him play and grow this season, there’s a possibility he could be. He’s clearly not there yet. He still needs to continue his growth as a passer but there have been enough good signs from him this season to think there’s a chance he can get there. And for a franchise that might simply not have a better option, it makes sense to find out just how good he can be.

As impressed as I’ve been with his growth on the field, I’ve honestly been more impressed with his ability to handle pressure and lead a locker room with a lot of veterans. Those intangibles matter. Maybe they don’t matter as much as arm talent but they matter. And the Eagles, no matter what happens in the playoffs, will leave the 2021 season with some good vibes in that locker room. Hurts is a big reason for that and I wouldn’t be in a rush to break that up.

So far, this rookie class is looking really good. The Eagles drafted nine players this year and all nine have now played for them as rookies. That alone is pretty impressive. And you can even add UDFA Jack Stoll to this class to make it 10 contributors.

Of course, the top picks are probably going to be what really matters and it looks like the Eagles nailed them. DeVonta Smith has star potential and Landon Dickerson has the potential to be a cornerstone of the offensive line. Even third-round pick Milton Williams has had really strong flashes that make you think he has starter potential. It’s not really fair to judge a draft class too early but the early returns on this one are good.

But does that make us feel any better about Howie Roseman going into this next draft? Good question. We all know that Roseman has his strengths and draft talent evaluation hasn’t always been at the top of that list.

The best pick the Eagles are going to get in this first round is going to come from Miami; it’s No. 14 right now. And it seems likely that the Eagles’ own pick and the one from the Colts are going to come in the 20s. As a reminder, the Eagles have drafted four players in the 20s under Roseman’s watch: Jalen Reagor, Andre Dillard, Marcus Smith and Danny Watkins. So … yeah. That’s a pretty shaky track record in that range where the Eagles will likely have two of their picks and that’s concerning.

To finally answer your question — sorry for the rambling — maybe you can feel a little more comfortable than you did a year ago … but expecting a slam dunk is probably too much.

My biggest takeaway is that Nick Sirianni knows what he’s doing. There were a lot of questions about him earlier this year but he’s answered them. I haven’t always agreed with every in-game decision he’s made but he’s a good coach and I get why the Eagles hired him.

The key here is that he’s good enough to allow him to grow. Remember when some people thought he might be a one-and-done? Well, that’s obviously not happening. Sirianni is going to be here for at least a few seasons and possibly a long time. Just like players, he’s allowed to get better on the job too … and I suspect he will. If nothing else, we know how his players feel about him. You don’t climb out of a 2-5 hole without buy-in from players.

This is a topic I was enamored with earlier in the season and even interviewed DBs coach Dennard Wilson about it.

The Eagles are pretty set with their cornerbacks this season but Steve Nelson is here on a one-year deal and Darius Slay is on the wrong side of 30. So if you bring in four or five developmental guys and one of them turns out to be a starter, you’ve won, especially because this is a position where the Eagles haven’t had much luck drafting. That doesn’t mean they should stop trying, but having a potential backup plan is a good idea.

And even if none of these young guys becomes a star or even a starter, teams need defensive backs for special teams. These guys have filled those roles at times.

There are four possibilities for the Eagles: Buccaneers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys. They’re all good teams but the best matchup would probably be the Cardinals. That’s not a shot at them but they were so good earlier in the season and it feels like they peaked too early.

Here’s how I’d rank the teams in order of most to least ideal:

1. Cardinals

2. Rams

3. Buccaneers

4. Cowboys

The Bucs have had some significant injuries and are coming into the playoffs dealing with the Antonio Brown drama. If they had any other quarterback, I’d probably have them flip-flopped with the Rams. But that Tom Brady fella is pretty good. The Cowboys are the toughest team of the bunch. Maybe they turn back into the teams we’ve seen over the last 10 years with all the hype and none of the substance, but they’re too good for that. I trust Dak Prescott, they have weapons on offense and that defense is now full of playmakers. Sorry, Eagles fans. They might have a deep run in them.

It was a pretty cool interaction. What Marco is talking about is earlier in the week, I asked Nick Sirianni if there are things he has learned about himself this year that he wouldn’t have known if he didn’t become a head coach. He began to answer it and then realized he didn’t have an answer and told me to ask back again later in the week. I caught him off guard, which wasn’t my intention but understandable.

To answer your question, Marco, I did not ask him again on Thursday. I thought about it but in these Zoom press conferences, we really get one crack at a question and I didn’t want to waste it if he hadn’t thought about an answer. While he said he’d think about it, I know NFL head coaches have a lot on their plates and it seemed unlikely to me that Sirianni spent the rest of his week trying to basically write a story for me. But that doesn’t mean the question is dead! Perhaps I’ll ask it when the season is over or later in the offseason.

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