The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing to face the 3-1 Carolina Panthers this weekend. Not many people are high on the Birds coming into this matchup and that’s understandable. But there’s one wildcard that is being drastically overlooked ahead of the matchup that could tilt the scales just enough to cause an upset. That man is Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles are getting a big boost in the trenches this week with the return of Jordan Mailata, but they’ll still be without their franchise right tackle. Lane Johnson is set to miss a second consecutive week due to a personal issue, leaving the Birds with one of either Jack Driscoll or Andre Dillard to fill his shoes.
Facing the makeshift offensive line will be a ferocious tandem off the edge. Brian Burns has more than lived up to his first-round price tag. He already has 3 sacks on the season and is coming off of a 9-sack sophomore year. If the Eagles Andre Dillard up over Burns, they have to be careful. The FSU product has added some bulk to his game and is way more than just a quick and slippery rusher. He has some power to his punches now and that appears to an area of concern for Dillard.
As for the other side of the line, Hasson Reddick awaits. He should be a very familiar name by now. He had a 12.5 sack campaign last year and while 5 of those came in an explosive outing against the Giants, he still put up 4 tackles and a sack against the Eagles, forcing a pair of fumbles in the process while lining up over Matt Pryor. The man is an absolute machine.
There’s no doubting that the Eagles are going to have their work cut out for them on Sunday when it comes to keeping Jalen Hurts upright. The Panthers rank second in team sacks, fourth in QB knockdown percentage, and fourth in QB pressure. It’s going to be down to a very young line to buy their mobile QB as much time as possible, although this may be one of those rare instances where his desire to get out of the pocket acts as a positive.
Hurts has 226 rushing yards to his name already this season and 14 of his 34 attempts have moved the chains. It’s that kind of unpredictability that could turn a doomed third-and-long into a play that saves the drive and keeps the offense firing.
While Hurts has endured a rollercoaster season so far, it’s hard to doubt his efficiency. He’s still struggling with seeing the whole field and taking more aggressive shots, and above anything else, is still very skittish. The Oklahoma product has a habit of darting out of the pocket long before he really has to as if it’s just how he’s wired…but in a game like this, it may actually work in his favor.
In the loss to Dallas, Dak Prescott put up 35 rushing yards on 4 attempts and against the Saints, it was Jameis Winston who led the team in rushing…not that it mattered. This will be the first true dual-threat QB that the Panthers have faced this year and with their pass-rush being so aggressive, blitzing on 40% of defensive snaps, we may see Hurts scrambling and creating something out of nothing right from the opening drive.
It would be a tall order to expect the Eagles to completely nullify one of the league’s most dominant pass-rushes, but they have the perfect quarterback to provide one thumping counter-punch and that might just be enough to give them a fighting chance.
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