This moment is why Gardner Minshew is on the team.
It’s why the Eagles didn’t trade him in the offseason, it’s why he gets reps during the week throughout the season and it’s why the Eagles invest so heavily in the backup quarterback situation in the first place.
So in the likely even that Jalen Hurts can’t play through a shoulder sprain on Saturday against the Cowboys, the Eagles will be confident going out there with Minshew as their starter.
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“I’m sure Gardner will get reps this week,” center Jason Kelce said. “He’s been here for a while. If he’s the guy that’s up, we’ll be ready to go. I think he’s done a good job when we’ve asked him before. Veteran player, played a lot of football in the NFL.”
Head coach Nick Sirianni said the Eagles will create two game plans this week; one for Hurts and one for Minshew. Maybe all this is in the name of competitive advantage but that’s the story the Eagles are sticking to for now.
But if Minshew is needed on Saturday, the Eagles will be confident in him, just like they were last year when he quarterbacked them to a crucial win against the New York Jets.
In that game last year against the Jets, Minshew completed 20 of 25 passes for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. His favorite target in that game was Dallas Goedert, who went off for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.
After the Eagles’ activated Goedert to their 53-man roster on Tuesday, he’s is excited to return to the lineup no matter who the quarterback is on Saturday. But Goedert said he might remind Minshew this week about all their success together last year.
“He’s just a smart football player,” Goedert said. “He’s going to take what the defense gives him. Maybe the Cowboys will playing a little soft inside, worrying about DeVonta (Smith) and A.J. (Brown) and hopefully they forget about me so he can just dump it to me over the middle. That would be pretty nice.”
When asked about Minshew on Tuesday, plenty of his teammates brought up his football intelligence. That’s a really valuable trait for a backup quarterback to have. Minshew takes what’s there and doesn’t try to do too much. That shows in his career touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 41-12.
While Hurts was a non-participant because of injury to start the week, Minshew missed Tuesday’s walkthrough as he attended the funeral of his former college coach Mike Leach. But Minshew has been getting a lot of reps all season.
The Eagles make sure to get their backups plenty of work, which should help this week. In addition to scout team, the Eagles hold a developmental 7-on-7 at the end of each practice that really allowed Minshew catch up on the Eagles’ offense last season following his arrival after training camp.
But most of his practice reps this season have come on scout team and the guys catching passes from him on that unit have been really impressed by the 26-year-old veteran.
"Gardner is one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around," rookie Britain Covey said. "You can probably credit a lot of that to Mike Leach, I’m sure. But he understands things that is very unique.
“Here’s what I think about Gardner too: What he might lack in the measurables — he’s fast but he’s not the fastest, he’s got a good arm but not a cannon — he makes up for it with intelligence and getting the ball out extremely quickly. He can get the ball out. He won’t get sacked because he’s always got the ball out in the right spot. I love playing with Gardner.”
Former college quarterback and Eagles practice squad receiver Greg Ward said Minshew’s intelligence shows up for him too. He sees it in Minshew’s checks, when he talks to the receivers after plays, the way he reads defenses, how he understands where soft zones are and where he expects his receivers to be.
And then Minshew has the ability to communicate all that to his teammates.
“I think he’s definitely ready,” Ward said. “He’s very smart, man, his anticipation, his touch on the ball. I think he’s a good quarterback and I think he’ll be good to go.”
The Eagles have also enjoyed everything that comes with Minshew, even off the football field. The force behind Minshew Mania has a unique personality that’s always on display.
There’s no question that Minshew is a character and the Eagles appreciate his quirky demeanor.
“Everything you see about him, that’s how he is,” Covey said. “Really good person and just a goofball.”
A pretty good player too. Minshew is one of the top backups in the NFL and might be better than a few starters across the league.
After Minshew’s impressive performance against the Jets last year, he approached Sirianni to find out if he had any chance to win the starting job from Hurts. Sirianni told him no and since then Hurts has turned into an MVP-level quarterback.
While Minshew obviously still has aspirations to be a starter in the NFL — and might get that chance to compete for a job next season somewhere else — he’s accepted his role as the backup. Knowing and attacking individual roles is something very important to Sirianni.
“I’ve noticed that he takes his role really seriously,” tight end Grant Calcaterra said. “He’s done such a good job on scout team. And even when he’s not getting reps in practice, he’s always locked in and knows his stuff. I know he’s going to do great if his number’s called this week.”
Of course, if Minshew is the starter, the offense will look different. Because he’s a different player than Hurts, who has a unique set of skills.
It’s up to Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to come up with a good plan for Minshew if he’s the guy on Saturday. As long as they do that, the Eagles will be confident going into a game that could clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
“We all have got reps with Gardner before,” Brown said. “If that’s the case, I think we’ll be fine.”
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