PHILADELPHIA − All the experiences mean something to Jalen Hurts.
That includes his college career at both Alabama and Oklahoma, constantly competing for national championships. That also includes the lowest points, like his benching in Alabama, last season’s brutal playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And most recently, playing through a sore right shoulder that may or may not affect him in the Eagles’ Divisional Round playoff game against the Giants on Saturday.
Hurts processes all of this, using it as motivation, or his “daily deposit,” as he likes to say.
“Regardless of the scale of the game in public, we know what we’re working for,” Hurts said. “We know we put ourselves in this position after what we did all season. The consistency we had all season. The focus we had all season. The preparation and the work we put in all season, and before the season started, in the offseason.
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“So I don’t think anything changes in the process. The process stays the same throughout, but the standard goes up. We just want to lean on the things that got us here.”
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But that process means different things to different Eagles. And that’s why a loss to the Giants might not be just a temporary setback on the road to a Super Bowl.
On the one hand, the Eagles just finished a franchise-best 14-win season and secured the No. 1 seed with home-field advantage heading into the Super Bowl.
The future is bright, or so it seems. There are young stars throughout the offense in Hurts, wide receivers AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. All but Hurts are signed for the next three years, and no doubt Hurts will get a lucrative extension.
The offensive line is consistently among the NFL’s best, and there are young players like rookies Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens and Nakobe Dean waiting for their chance while learning from the veterans ahead of them.
On the other hand, the Eagles could have nearly 20 free agents after this season. Franchise players like Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are in the final years of their contracts. So are safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, cornerback James Bradberry, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, right guard Isaac Seumalo and running back Miles Sanders.
Obviously, not everyone can come back.
That includes Bradberry. He is in his seventh NFL season, but has only played in one playoff game. That was back in 2017, his second season with the Carolina Panthers. So don’t tell him the Eagles can always make it to the Super Bowl next year if it doesn’t happen this season.
“It depends on each person’s mindset and perception of everything,” Bradberry said. “I’ve only been to the playoffs once, so I understand the importance. And I also have a one-year deal, so I want to play my best in the playoffs.”
Others, like veteran defensive tackles Linval Joseph, who is 34 years old, and Ndamukong Suh, who just turned 36, most likely signed for one last chance at a Super Bowl.
But it goes beyond the roster.
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Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon spent last weekend interviewing for head coaching jobs. It’s easy to see why after the Eagles finished the regular season, they ranked third in total offense and second in total defense.
Asked about the interview process, Gannon replied, “Yeah, the New York Giants,” as that’s what he focuses on.
Still, there’s a good chance Eagles coach Nick Sirianni will have to replace his coordinators, something Sirianni said he’s prepared for. It could be internal candidates like quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson or defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, or someone from another team.
So yes, this could be the Eagles’ best chance. And the Eagles have to look at it that way.
That also applies to Hurts, even though he is only 24 years old.
That’s something Hurts learned after last season’s playoffs, when the Eagles, as a No. 6 seed, were clearly outplayed and outclassed by the Buccaneers in a 31-15 loss that wasn’t nearly as close as that score indicated.
That set the stage for this season, starting with Hurts making himself an MVP candidate.
“Immediately after last year’s playoffs, wild card game, there was a ton I learned from and took away from that in the offseason,” Hurts said. “I think it’s helpful for us to have experienced it together as a team and to have a lot of guys back.
“And to have a lot of guys like a Jason Kelce (who) decides to stay because he sees the potential of what could be … There’s a ton we’ve endured and experienced and gone through to be here to have this the opportunity we have now.”
The Eagles may not have a better one.
Why the Eagles can’t sleep on the Giants
The Eagles will face the Giants for the third time in six weeks. And yet neither team has seen the other at full strength.
In the first meeting, on December 11, Goedert was out with a shoulder injury, as was Gardner-Johnson. For the Giants, Saquon Barkley had an injured shoulder that made him questionable. In addition, defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and defensive backs Adoree Jackson and Xavier McKinney were out with injuries.
So when the Eagles jumped out to an early 21-0 lead in their 48-22 victory, the Giants contained Barkley. Then in the second game, on Jan. 8, the Giants rested many starters because their playoff spot was locked up. And while the Eagles played their starters, Hurts was limited with his shoulder injury.
It’s safe to assume that no one will be holding back Saturday. That includes Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who is playing with a torn adductor muscle that will require surgery.
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And if that’s the case, Hurts will run. We’ve seen all year how efficient the Eagles’ offense is, both running and passing, because opposing teams have to account for Hurts.
Sanders knows this when asked if he looks forward to seeing Hurts without limitations.
“Absolutely. It opens up the gaps more,” Sanders said with a laugh.
With the Giants focusing on stopping the run, Hurts also has Brown (1,496 receiving yards) and Smith (1,196), not to mention Goedert.
That is the big difference. Quarterback Daniel Jones, who can also run, doesn’t have the receivers to torch the Eagles. So Darius Slay and Bradberry won’t need help at Giants receivers, allowing the Eagles to focus on Jones and Barkley.
PREDICTION: Eagles 28, Giants 20
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.