Jalen Hurts beats Tua Tagovailoa to the field in NFL

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When Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman used a second-round draft choice on former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts in April, the NFL team’s fans were livid.

Hurts was the runner-up for the 2019 Heisman Trophy in his transfer season at Oklahoma, but Eagles supporters thought Roseman could have gotten an impact player with 53rd selection, not a backup for the big-money quarterback that Philadelphia already had.

With injuries to offensive linemen and wide receivers seemingly a contributing factor to the Eagles’ 0-2-1 start to the 2020 season, fans’ ire over Hurts’ selection would appear to have the fuel to burn hotter. And while that might be true, some vocal fans have a new take on Hurts: They want him to play.

But Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson doesn’t – at least not regularly.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has a 63.9 passing-efficiency rating in 2020 – the worst in the NFL for the 33 players with enough passes to qualify. After throwing seven interceptions in 2019, Wentz has thrown six in three games in 2020, the most in the NFL.

During an appearance on Monday on “Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team” on WIP-FM in Philadelphia, Pederson was asked what it would take to try another quarterback.

“You don’t go there,” Pederson said. “That’s a knee-jerk reaction. That’s a reaction to things that sometimes are, you know, the aura that’s out there. Right? That’s not what we believe internally, and we’re going to continue to get better. Carson’s our quarterback. We’re going to get it fixed, he’s going to get it fixed, and, you know, we got a long season.

“Listen, we’re only a half-game out of first place, for goodness sakes. The whole division right now is not playing very good football, so, you know, we’re not that far off.”

After taking some rookie lumps in 2016, Wentz had thrown for 10,409 yards and 81 touchdowns with 21 interceptions from 2017 through 2019. Before last season, Philadelphia signed Wentz to a four-year, $128 million contract extension.

But this season, the Eagles lost to the Washington Football Team 27-17 and the Los Angeles Rams 37-19 before tying the Cincinnati Bengals 23-23 on Sunday. Those teams are 1-5 in their other games in 2020.

“(Sunday) was tough because we lost (tight end) Dallas Goedert on the ninth play of the game, and then (wide receiver) DeSean Jackson goes out, and, obviously, those are two big guys that we game plan for,” Pederson said. “And then you start moving some pieces around, and it becomes difficult. Listen, I’ve always said this before that it’s not about one guy. We’ve got to make sure that everybody’s toeing the line and doing the right things, executing their job on any one particular play whether it’s the offensive line, runners, receivers, tight ends, everybody, quarterbacks – we’re all in this. It’s not about just one guy. There’s some plays (Wentz) probably wishes and would want to have back in the game and maybe it makes a difference, but we’re going to continue to push forward.”

Pederson said there were some things the Eagles could try to get Wentz untracked.

“I think one of the ways that we do that and really to kind of maybe unclutter his mind some is to play fast, is to play up-tempo, where players don’t have to think, they just react,” Pederson said during his Monday press conference. “That has been a recipe for us over the years, and it’s something that we may have to lean on a little bit more. We’ll take a look at the game plans and make sure there’s maybe not a lot of moving parts or things from a quarterback’s perspective that he’s got to get us in and out of, just do more of the run-it play variety where you don’t have to think about a lot of things and just to somehow help him to free up his mind and let him play and make the plays that we know he’s capable of making.”

Hurts was a game-day inactive in Philadelphia’s season-opener, with Nate Sudfeld serving as the backup quarterback. The past two games, Hurts has filled that role.

Against the Rams, Hurts got on the field for three plays, lining up at running back and wide receiver as a decoy. On Sunday, he played three snaps again, lining up for the first time at quarterback and recording his first NFL stats.

Hurts had an 8-yard run for a first down and handed off to a running back before a fumble on a zone read lost 3 yards.

And so Hurts got on the field in the NFL before his former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa backed up Hurts as a freshman in 2017 before stepping in after halftime of the CFP championship game to rally the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 overtime victory against Georgia. In 2018, Hurts backed up Tagovailoa and came off the bench in the fourth quarter to rally Alabama to a 35-28 victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game as a final hurrah before transferring.

Tagovailoa entered the NFL as the fifth player picked in the 2020 draft, but he hasn’t played for the Miami Dolphins. Instead, Tagovailoa has been the backup for 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

During his press conference on Tuesday, Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was asked if he thought it would be a good idea for Miami to install a package of plays for the rookie to get Tagovailoa a little experience.

“I think that that’s a question for (head) coach (Brian) Flores,” Gailey said.

Gailey said Tagovailoa’s coming along fine right where he is.

“There have been a few times where he’s said, ‘Yeah, we did something similar to that,’” Gailey said about Tagovailoa’s adjustment to the Dolphins’ offensive playbook, “but every offense is unique, and really it’s a language and it’s a learning process that he is going through. The great thing is he gets to sit there and listen to one of what I think is the greatest minds in football and that’s Fitz. He gets to listen to him talk about defenses, talk about protections, talk about all that kind of football stuff that you don’t really get in college, so it’s a different game here than it was in college. He’s picked it up very well thus far. But he’s still got some more to learn, which I think he would tell you the same thing.”

Philadelphia visits the San Francisco 49ers in the Sunday night game for Week 4 while Miami hosts the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) and Tua Tagovailoa celebrate after a touchdown during an NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla.AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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