Eagles Training Camp Notes: Peeking into the QB room and the important LB competition

Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scrambles against the New York Giants during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts turned down the opportunity to let the cameras follow him around as part of the Netflix docu-series called “Quarterback.” He didn’t want the distraction. He didn’t deem it appropriate. However, Marcus Mariota – the new backup quarterback in town, the guy holding Hurts’ clipboard in 2023 – has been featured prominently on the show.

Mariota chose to jump into the spotlight and never looked back, although the 29-year-old hasn’t watched himself on the show. He is a bit shy when he comes to those kinds of things despite all the publicity it has generated for the quarterback position.

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 27: Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) looks on from the sideline as Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith calls plays during a game between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, October 27, 2019, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire)

“Truth be told, I actually haven’t watched it,” Mariota told reporters on August 3. “I’m not big into watching myself, so I’ve stayed away from it. But a lot of family and friends have had a lot of high reviews for it. And I think it’s kind of cool to shine some spotlight on things people don’t see. And Netflix has a pretty vast audience and to share football with people who don’t really pay attention to it, I think is a really cool opportunity.”

Throwing Mariota into the Eagles QB mix, along with third-year man Ian Book and rookie Tanner McKee, has been paying dividends for the Eagles this offseason. Hurts smiled wide and shared his appreciation for how the team assembled depth at the quarterback position after losing Gardner Minshew. The conversations going on in that room have been insightful, especially Mariota’s veteran words.

“Beauty about it is it’s a room where everybody loves football,” Hurts said. “There are great conversations in there, and I know he’s been very supportive and very vocal in what he sees so far.”

The Best of Eagles Thursday’s Press Conferences: No Lock Screens

Jalen Hurts is sick and tired of talking about a leaked picture of the lock screen on his cell phone. Yes, it’s true that he has the screen set to show the wrong-colored confetti raining down on him after Super Bowl LVII but he never posted it. He didn’t want it out there.

“I’d rather not talk about that,” Hurts said. “I don’t think it’s really appropriate considering … if it were up to me you wouldn’t know about it, no one would know about it, so I’ll leave it at that.”

Jalen Hurts on the Eagles Sense of Urgency: “I just think that there’s a sense of urgency as a team, and I think as leaders – myself, and some of the other leaders on the team – that’s something we try to set the pace of and set the temperature of, in that, to have that urgency to get better. Never settle and keep going. Practice number five, just chipping, one day at a time, chipping one day at a time.”

Jalen Hurts on Evolution of the Dual-Threat QB: “I think for a long time the world told guys like me that they couldn’t process, and that they couldn’t have that approach to the game. And they couldn’t be fundamental and mental and execute and play the position at a high level, and so I just try and challenge myself and stretch myself out in all three areas of my game – in the mental, the IQ approach, the physical approach, and throwing the ball and, obviously, running the ball being the third one.”

Jalen Hurts on Seeing Fans at Sunday’s Open Practice: “That’s always fun … to get the stadium back rocking and to see them, it’s something to look forward to. Last year it fell on my birthday this year it’ll fall on the day before so it’ll be a fun one.”

Jalen Hurts on What He’s Been Eating: “A lot of crawfish, that’s probably not a good one.”

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 06: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) watches the game clock run out from the sidelines during the 2nd half of Sunday afternoon NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Chargers on November 6, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)

Marcus Mariota: 8 Systems in 9 Seasons

It’s hard to believe this will mark Marcus Mariota’s ninth year in the NFL after the Eagles flirted with drafting him in 2015. They didn’t, but an offer was reportedly on the table. Moving on. The former No. 2 overall pick is entrenched as the backup quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles as he attempts to learn his eighth different offensive system in nine seasons. It’s insane to think about.

“Unfortunately, this is going to be my eighth system in nine seasons, so I feel like I’ve kind of gotten in a mode of learning and it’s really just learning the language,” Mariota said. “And understanding how things want to be called, how to get up on the line of scrummage, how you want to control those scenarios and those situations.

“I’m very fortunate to have a guy like Jalen whose been in the system for three years now, and just asking questions, like ‘you get this look, what are you doing? Are you getting out of it? Are you doing this? Are you doing that? So, he’s very knowledgeable and he’s a great resource for me … I just try to pay that forward and share all the knowledge that I’ve got and make that room better.”

Marcus Mariota on the Eagles QB Room: “It’s too hard to sit here and butt heads with your quarterback group. I really believe you need a strong quarterback group that really relies on one another and supports one another, so you can create confidence within that group, that really just helps the entire team out. So, for me, I really try to embrace that really just try and be that guy for Jalen, just lean on experiences that I’ve had that, hopefully, he can learn from and he can take something from it.”

Marcus Mariota on Evolution of the Dual-Threat QB: “When I first got in the NFL, it was very, ‘hey you gotta win from the pocket, you gotta be able to hit from your back foot, and make your right reads,’ and I think now with how athletic quarterbacks are getting it’s really cool to see how dynamic players can create plays. And he’s up there, man. He [Jalen Hurts] makes unbelievable plays even in practice, I mean, for me, it’s just a pleasure to watch.”

Marcus Mariota on Eagles QB1 Jalen Hurts: “He’s an old soul. He loves old music … he loves what he loves, and he’s a hard worker, man. He’s one of the guys who is here first and he’s always the last guy out the door.”

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 20: Chicago Bears linebacker Nicholas Morrow (53) bobbles what would have been an interception during the Sunday afternoon NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons on November 20, 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)

Linebacker Competition: Nicholas Morrow vs. Christian Elliss

One linebacker spot is very much up for grabs after five practices at training camp. Nicholas Morrow and Christian Elliss were the starting linebackers on Thursday as Nakobe Dean exited early with an undisclosed injury. It’s not thought to be serious. But, the competition between Morrow and Elliss is a real one, with a growing chorus saying that Elliss has the inside track.

“It’s in God’s hands,” Elliss said. “We have some really good guys in our room. Guys who ball. Guys who have been making plays all camp so as long as I do my stuff and as long as I put my best foot forward, then we’ll see what happens.”

Morrow added: “I expect anything. That’s the NFL. It’s competition. That’s how it works. It’s part of the core values here.”

Elliss had a nice pass breakup at Thursday’s practice, adding to an impressive string of performances which started back at OTAs. Morrow has held his own against the run but his coverage skills have been questioned. With Dean locked in as the middle linebacker, it’s anyone’s guess who exits camp as the weak-side starter.

“That’s a question for the head coach, right? That’s not in my control,” Morrow said. “The only thing I can control is going out every day and competing and getting better by 1-percent each day but the rest of that stuff I can’t control.”

Elliss credited “clarity” on his role from new defensive coordinator Sean Desai as a contributing factor to his success. The third-year linebacker also racked up a ton of special-team snaps (106) in 2022 while seeing significant burn on defense against Tennessee in Week 12. Those experiences, from live action in meaningful games, built up his confidence.

“Comfort. Last year I felt like I was tiptoeing,” Elliss said. “I felt like I was still getting used to being here in the NFL but every day that goes by, every week, every year, I just get more comfortable. The game is slowing down … I still have a long way to go. I want to be one of the best. I want to be one of the greats, but it starts with today, it starts with this next step.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke