For the first time since his appointment as Eagles Head Coach, Nick Sirianni met with reporters to discuss every twist and turn of the offseason so far. The Elephant in the room was predictably Jalen Hurts and how he’s viewed by the team. Sirianni’s response, when asked about how he might build around the potential franchise quarterback, was particularly interesting.
“As far as what it takes with a franchise quarterback. My experience with franchise quarterbacks is they make everybody around them better, right? They make everyone around them better. But what makes them better, right? In some cases, it’s a really good defense. In some cases, it’s a really good offensive line. In some cases, it’s a good running game with a running back. In some cases, it’s a good wide receiver and tight end. That looks a lot of different ways. That really can be painted a lot of different ways.”
In short it looks as though Sirianni is wanting to build around the strengths of his quarterback – a mindset which if initiated last year may have stopped the demise of Carson Wentz. In premise this does sound very simple, but what might that look like when put into practice?
What can the Eagles learn from the Colts?
Working under Frank Reich, Nick Sirianni was gifted a shiny new quarterback, at least to him. Phillip Rivers was entering his final NFL season and reunited with Reich after spending his best years under his tutelage. The Colts didn’t take long getting to work to surround Rivers with the right pieces.
After stacking up the defense, the team brought in TE Trey Burton. The Super Bowl 52 champion was also reuniting with Frank Reich and was signed to negate the loss of Eric Ebron. If you look back through Rivers’ career with the Chargers, he always had a dominant receiving TE. Antonio Gates will go down as one of the all-time greats and Hunter Henry’s new contract with the Patriots should showcase his worth. Now Burton obviously isn’t in the same caliber as either of those players, Sirianni also alluded to committee efforts:
“You’re just looking to fill roles. That can be done by a committee. You’re looking to fill the roles that maybe you don’t think you have based on the team you have at this particular time.”
If we combine the receiving numbers from Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Trey Burton last year, we get 895 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Colts ranked 14th in total TE targets last year, but for context, Darren Waller led the position in receiving yards with 1,195. Second on the list was T.J Hockenson with 723. The Colts were able to get a ton of production from the position without a stand-out star. Although the future in Philadelphia looks bleak for Zach Ertz, don’t be surprised to see the Eagles bring in some role players to work behind Dallas Goedert. Trey Burton obviously makes a ton of sense here.
Would this theoretically pull the Eagles from the Kyle Pitts sweepstakes? It depends on how they view the wideouts in this year’s class.
The Colts needed to bring in a big body to play alongside T.Y Hilton and Parris Campbell. Michael Pittman Jr. filled that box and then some. This is especially important given that the Eagles run their offense out of a similar mold. Alshon Jeffery, J.J Arcega-Whiteside, and Travis Fulgham, all fit the same archetype of being a red-zone weapon, blocking bulldozer in the run-game, and someone who can get up and snag those 50/50 balls. The Birds still technically have two of those on the roster, but with the NFL Draft providing several alluring prospects, it all comes down to how highly they view them.
Interestingly, Michael Pittman Jr. also has a similar athletic profile to that of former Eagles wideout Mack Hollins.
This draft is filled with rapid candidates who stand around the 6’2 mark. If we’re talking about what makes Jalen Hurts ‘better’, it’s worth noting that he of course had CeeDee Lamb at his disposal during his time as a Sooner, and a plethora of explosive weapons as the Alabama starter. Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs all bring different things to the table but average out frame-wise at about 6’1, 190 lbs.
Ridley was more of a possession receiver in college while Henry Ruggs ripped the field a new layer of turf with his blazing speed. Jerry Jeudy seemed to be the Hannah Montanna of the two, mixing the best of both worlds.
That receiver this year, would likely come down to DeVonta Smith or Ja’Maar Chase. One would assume that Smith has an inside track given his Crimson Tide background and the fact he actually played in 2020. Chase likely has the higher upside and I’m convinced Jaylen Waddle‘s health would’ve meant that the Heisman was awarded elsewhere.
But if it’s playing to the strengths of Jalen Hurts that Sirianni wants, then drafting a receiver who is a fluid route-runner and can create separation with ease. Blocking ability is also a big red circle here and one would assume that DeVonta Smith has a slight edge given that he’s arguably the most well-rounded receiver of the three and brings the most physicality through the route-stem.
Of course, this is all speculation and it’s hard to really look at what the Colts did for a QB with as much mobility as a rock, and what they’ll do for Jalen Hurts. But there are bound to be patterns and similarities given the link between the two teams and those are worth exploring.
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