Eagles unveil new dimension to their offense by utilizing wide receivers
Wide receivers just became part of the Eagles offense.
In Sunday’s 33-26 loss at Arizona, second-time starter Jalen Hurts found five different wide receivers 16 times for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers are far and away the team's best during this lost season.
As encouraging as the wide receivers’ performances were, as entertaining as the Eagles offense finally is again, the author of that offense wasn’t close to happy.
“I want to win,” Hurts said. “That’s something we didn’t do today. I want to win ball games. I want to do what I can to help the team do that. It wasn’t enough today.”
It wasn’t. But it was a start. Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward and Quez Watkins all got into the action. Even Alshon Jeffrey flashed some juice with a couple of catches for 63 total yards. It was a reminder of how good the veteran receiver can be. More than that, he drew a pair of pass interference penalties on Cardinals standout corner Patrick Peterson.
The outwardly quiet quarterback didn’t seem to have any shyness about challenging a likely future Hall of Famer like Peterson.
“He’s a whole different person whenever he steps on the field,” Ward said. “He’s very competitive. I think that’s where it all comes from. He’s aggressive. He likes to take shots. He loves to be aggressive. That’s what you need. That’s what we ask for. That’s what he’s given us.”
For Watkins, it was a chance to show fans why he was drafted in the first place. Watkins scored his first career touchdown on a quick screen where he initially spun to the inside before wheeling around and making his way 32 yards down the sideline.
“He does the same things in practice,” Ward said. “He’s a very explosive guy. (He's a) young, great talent and he showed it tonight. We just keep encouraging him every single day to keep working hard. That’s what he’s been doing.”
Ward had the other two touchdown catches. The former University of Houston quarterback is quickly becoming Hurts’ favorite target. And why not? Eagles wide receivers who catch two TD passes in a game aren’t exactly common around these parts lately.
There’s an unspoken connection there.
“The trust, the repetition in practice, the conversations,” Ward said. “He did a great job tonight of finding me. He threw a great ball. He made my job very easy.”
Hurst has unlocked an essential element of a successful NFL offense. You can’t win in this league without wide receivers. Over the next two weeks, we’ll learn more if Hurts can keep it going.
“He had great leadership ability, obviously,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson. “He plays tough mentally and physically. You saw today how well he can throw in the pocket and obviously outside the pocket obviously. He’s doing a good job. I would say there’s still room to grow. Just learning the details of our game, he can get better there. He gave us an opportunity to win today.”
Contact Tom Rimback at email@example.com. Follow on twitter @RimbackBCT