PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles won the meaningful minutes in Friday night’s preseason opener against the New York Jets but Philadelphia’s depth couldn’t hold up in a 24-21 setback.
The starters were superlative in limited work building up a quick 14-0 lead with two touchdowns in the first quarter on the backs of a stellar performance from quarterback Jalen Hurts and a splash play from new linebacker Kyzir White.
Hurts played just one series and was literally perfect by NFL’s standards, amassing a 158.3 passer rating, the highest possible number of the complicated scale, on 6-of-6 throwing for 80 yards and a 22-yard touchdown to star tight end Dallas Goedert.
White, a Lehigh Valley native, snared n interception of Zach Wilson and returned it 27 yards to set the offense on a very short field at the New York 20 before Jason Huntley ultimately dove in from a yard out.
“Oh man, (it meant) everything,” said White of his first game as an Eagle at Lincoln Financial Field. “First game. Getting my feet wet. Family and friends in attendance, (from nearby Macungie), so I always want to go out there and put on a show. It felt good. It’s definitely a good start for me, but I’ve got to keep building and keep getting better each day.”
The lead dissipated to 14-3 lead by halftime before the Jets’ reserves outplayed the Philadelphia backups to the tune of 21-7 in the second half.
The lone Eagles’ TD in the final 30 minutes came when third-staring QB Reid Sinnett piloted a marathon 18-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a two-yard throw to undrafted free agent running back Kennedy Brooks with 1:40 to play to rally the Eagles to a four-point lead.
That didn’t stand as Michal Clay’s kickoff coverage unit first surrendered a 52-yard kickoff return to Zonovan Knight before Jets QB4, the athletic Chris Streveler led a 56-yard drive in just 1:24, capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Jackson in the back of the end zone with only 16 seconds remaining.
The Jets won a meaningless battle but may have lost far more as their starting QB Zach Wilson left the game with a knee injury that is feared to be a season-ending torn ACL.
Hurts overcame his own scare, an unnecessary ate hit from Quincy Williams, who blasted the Eagles’ on-field leader out of bounds.
“It happens,” said Hurts, downplaying the issue. “I’ll let ya’ll say whatever. He hit me late. We caught the flag and moved on.”
Sirianni was irate, yelling an expletive across the field to Jets coach Robert Saleh. The second-year coach walked that back when asked about his reaction by JAKIB Sports after the game.
“I wasn’t mad at coach Saleh, I was mad at the situation,” Sirianni said. “I was more mad at the player than coach Saleh. Coach Saleh is a great guy. I have so much respect for him. It was just the motions of the game. I was just sticking up for Jalen. I’ll never apologize for sticking up for my players.
“I should have handled it a little bit better than I did.”
On his only drive of the night Hurts connected with Quez Watkins for 28 yards and also found Miles Sanders twice for 20 more yards on the drive.
There was no traffic to star receiver A.J. Brown, however, as Hurts moved the football around, even getting backup TE Jack Stoll involved.
“It just didn’t go his way tonight, it’s OK,” Hurts said of Brown. “He’ll get his. … I always talk about the trust I have in everybody on the field, so just going through my progressions doing my job and let my playmakers make plays.”
The Sinnett-led offense struggled mightily for most of the second half, putting up four three-and-outs. The young QB has been performing well in practice but perhaps seemed a little too amped up, throwing fastballs instead of putting some touch on his passing attempts.
Rookie receiver Britain Covey was victimized by one over-zealous throw when the popular Utah product tore ligaments in his right thumb when Sinnett fired a heater inside the Eagles’ 20.
Teh lone bright spot in the final 30 minutes was the 18-play march.
“It’s hard to have 18-play drives,” said Sirianni. “You want to hit explosive plays and be able to move the ball down the field because it’s hard to be perfect for 18 plays. Not that you’re perfect, but it’s hard to put all those plays together. But it was a nice job of them stringing that many plays together after a really rough third quarter.”