PHILADELPHIA − All of the experiences mean something to Jalen Hurts.
That includes his college career at both Alabama and Oklahoma, constantly competing for national championships. It includes the lowest points, too, such as his benching at Alabama, the brutal playoff loss last season to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And most recently, playing through a painful 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 that, uses it as motivation, or his “daily deposits,” as he likes to say.
“Regardless of the magnitude of the game publicly, we know what we work for,” Hurts said. “We know we put ourselves in this position by 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.
“So I don’t think anything changes in terms of the process. The process remains the same throughout everything, but the standard rises. We just want to kind of lean on the things that gotten us here.”
But that process means different things to different Eagles. And it’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 concluded a franchise-best 14-win season and secured the No. 1 seed with home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.
The future is bright, or so it seems. There are young stars throughout the offense in Hurts, wide receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. All except 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 currently ahead of them.
On the other hand, the Eagles could have nearly 20 free agents after this season. Franchise stalwarts such as 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.
Clearly, not everyone can come back.
That includes Bradberry. He’s in his seventh NFL season, but he has played in only one playoff game. That was back in 2017, his second season with the Carolina Panthers. So don’t tell him that the Eagles could always get to the Super Bowl next year if it doesn’t happen this season.
“It’s depending 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 also, I’m on a one-year deal, so I want to play my best in the playoffs.”
Others, such as veteran defensive tackles Linval Joseph, who’s 34 years old, and Ndamukong Suh, who just turned 36, most likely signed for one final chance at a Super Bowl.
But it goes beyond the roster.
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 ranked third in total offense and second in total defense.
When asked about the interview process, Gannon replied: “Yeah, the New York Giants,” as in that’s what he’s focusing 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 such as 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 applies to Hurts, too, even though he’s just 24 years old.
It was something Hurts learned after last season’s playoff game, when the Eagles, as a No. 6 seed, were clearly outplayed and outclassed by the Buccaneers in the 31-15 loss that wasn’t nearly as close as that score indicated.
That laid the groundwork for this season, beginning with Hurts, who made himself into an MVP candidate.
“Immediately after last year’s playoff, wildcard game, there was a ton that I learned from and took away from that going into the offseason,” Hurts said. “I think it’s helpful for us to have experienced that 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 that we’ve endured and experienced and have gone through to be here to have this opportunity we have now.”
The Eagles might not have a better one.
Why Eagles can’t sleep on Giants
The Eagles will face the Giants for the third time in a span of six weeks. And yet, neither team has seen the other at full strength.
In the first meeting, on Dec. 11, Goedert was out with a shoulder injury, as was Gardner-Johnson. For the Giants, Saquon Barkley had an injured shoulder that left him questionable. In addition, defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and defensive backs Adoree Jackson and Xavier McKinney sat out with injuries.
So when the Eagles jumped out to an early 21-0 lead in their 48-22 win, the Giants held back 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’s playing with a torn adductor muscle that requires surgery.
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And if that’s the case, Hurts will run. We have seen all year how effective the Eagles’ offense is, both running and passing, because the opposing team has to account for Hurts.
Sanders knows this, when asked if he’s looking forward to seeing Hurts with no limitations.
“Absolutely. It opens up the holes more,” Sanders said with a laugh.
When the Giants focus on stopping the run, Hurts also has Brown (1,496 receiving yards) and Smith (1,196), not to mention Goedert.
That’s the big difference. Quarterback Daniel Jones, who can also run, doesn’t have the receivers who can burn the Eagles. So Darius Slay and Bradberry won’t need help on the Giants’ receivers, thus enabling the Eagles to focus on Jones and Barkley.
Score: Eagles 28, Giants 20
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.