PHILADELPHIA – There were a lot of words coming out of Nick Sirianni’s mouth at his pre-practice presser on Friday, along with the requisite Larry Kehres nostalgia, but few answers as the Eagles’ coach continues to push the competitive-advantage card as far as possible when it comes to Sunday’s game against New Orleans.
Sirianni declined to name a starting quarterback and noted the decision could be pushed to game day if need be as Jalen Hurts attempts to return from the sprained SC joint in his shoulder that kept the MVP candidate out of last Sunday’s 40-34 loss at Dallas.
Backup Gardner Minshew didn’t exactly perform poorly in Hurts’ absence, throwing for 355 yards in the setback but the Eagles were undone by four turnovers and some sloppy situational football on the defensive side.
Hurts returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday for the first time since injuring the shoulder Dec. 18 at Chicago and was again on the practice field Friday morning.
“We’re still sorting through that,” Sirianni said when asked who the starter will be against the Saints. “Jalen had a good practice (Thursday) and did some things really well. Still going to sort through all those things. Haven’t decided anything yet. Still have a couple days.”
When pressed if he needed to make a decision at some point by JAKIB Sports, Sirianni said it good be made on Sunday morning.
“I think you can take it up to gameday,” the coach noted. “He’s still healing. He’s still going through these things. Two days from now he’s going to be healthier than he is today.”
On Thursday Hurts was throwing the football well but did not take place in teh ball-security drill where players are run through a gauntlet of coaches and support staff who are hitting them with pads and boxing gloves attached to sticks. The observation there is that Hurts likely wasn’t cleared for contact on Thursday.
“Always going to go back to what the doctors are saying and what Jalen is saying and where we think he is at that time,” Sirianni explained. “I don’t think it’s, ‘Hey, I’ve got to see him throw it 57 yards on the left hash.’ It’s never going to be anything like that. It’s going to be about the information I get from Jalen and knowing how badly he wants to play that I have to listen to the doctors as well and then we have to make a decision that’s best for Jalen.”
While there are true game-day decisions in the NFL, this doesn’t seem like a candidate and the Eagles’ coaching staff is likely well aware of who their QB will be against the Saints.
The 13-2 Eagles can clinch both the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the conference with a win.
“Everything’s in play,” said Sirianni. “Obviously, the first and foremost thing that’s most important for Jalen is that his health is always taken into consideration first and if it’s safe for him to be out there, and then from there you do what’s best for the team.
“But first you do what’s best for the individual.”
Complicating matters is that Hurts feels fine and would have liked to play against Dallas never mind this week but there is a risk of a more serious injury being rushed back from an SC joint sprain, especially one labeled as a Grade 2, which is believed to be Hurts’ injury.
“That’s why it can’t just be him,” Sirianni said. “He’s going to want to be out there no matter what. In my opinion, he’s going to say what he needs to say to play. That’s why it’s a group effort to figure it out.
“Jalen’s health is the first thing that you think of and so we all have to be responsible for that. Jalen – and we urge him to be as truthful as he possibly can – but then also what the doctors are seeing, all those different things. That’s why it’s not just one guy’s decision. Because if it was just Jalen’s decision, he would go out there and play.”
The coach doesn’t believe the uncertainty will affect Minshew if the backup is needed again.
“Gardner’s been in this position where he has to do everything he can to prepare on limited reps, but Gardner’s a great pro and we’ve got a lot of confidence that he’ll be ready no matter what the scenario is,” Sirianni said. “Gardner will make sure that he’s ready because that’s just the type of guy he is and that’s the role that he has to play.”
Sirianni took a similar route when it comes to right tackle with All-Pro Lane Johnson set to miss teh final two games with a core muscle tear.
The coach again noted the Eagles have options and noted the three in play: Jack Driscoll, Jordan Mailata, and Andre Dillard.