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What Eagles gain by starting Gardner Minshew vs. Cowboys — beyond resting Jalen Hurts

It would be foolhardy for the Eagles to have quarterback Jalen Hurts in uniform Saturday night.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Thursday that Hurts is still dealing with the high ankle sprain that he suffered against the Giants on Nov. 28. That caused him to miss one game, limited his running ability in the next two before Hurts ran for 44 yards last Sunday against Washington.

Included in those eight carries against Washington was one where Hurts planted his foot, cut inside, and resembling an Allen Iverson crossover dribble, left the Washington linebacker grasping at air.

It seemed like Hurts was back to 100%, but then he was limited in practice the first two days before practicing fully on Thursday. He’s officially listed as eligible to play Saturday.

“Still the ankle,” Sirianni said. “Nothing new happened in the (Washington) game. Still recovering from that ankle that he suffered against the Giants, so that’s why he’s on the injury report.”

The Eagles won’t gain much in their playoff situation by winning the game. They’ll have a road playoff game the following weekend against the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys or Arizona Cardinals. All are either 12-4 or 11-5.

And the Eagles play first, so it’s not like they can guarantee a matchup against a lesser opponent by winning.

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So turn the team over to Gardner Minshew and let him show what he can do – and give Hurts’ ankle another week to rest so he’s ready for the playoff game next weekend.

Heck, if the Eagles were so inclined to repeat their Nate Sudfeld situation from the finale last year, let third-string quarterback Reid Sinnett play the fourth quarter. At least this time there won’t be any blowback since the Cowboys clinched the NFC East two weeks ago.

Last year, the Eagles replaced Hurts with Sudfeld in the fourth quarter against Washington. The Eagles were trailing by three points at the time and ended up losing 20-14. That enabled Washington to win the NFC East and prevented the Giants from doing so.

And let’s just say that Giants coach Joe Judge wasn’t happy. One year later, that’s the least of his problems heading into the season finale with a 4-12 record.

We already saw Minshew shine in the Dec. 5 game against the Jets when he completed 20 of 25 passes for 242 yards in the Eagles’ 33-18 win.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) warms up before an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported last week that Minshew approached Sirianni after the Jets game and asked him what it would take to become the starter. Sirianni reportedly told Minshew what he told the media after that game – that Hurts would remain the starter.

When asked about that Thursday, Sirianni said: “I don’t want to report anything or talk about any conversations that I had with any player in my office. That’s a conversation between myself and that player.”

Then he added: “But I will say about Gardner, he is a competitor. He is locked in, whether he’s the backup, whether he’s playing. He’s been in both scenarios this year … The guy is going to prepare like crazy, no matter what the situation, and he’s competitive.

“Of course, every backup that we have on this team, if they didn’t want to be the starter, I would have an issue with them being the backup.”

Minshew is a good backup. If he plays well enough Saturday, perhaps some team will take a chance on him as a starter and trade an early-round draft pick to the Eagles.

After all, the Eagles twice traded backup quarterbacks for second-round picks, first with A.J. Feeley to the Dolphins in 2004, and then in 2011 with Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals.

Minshew is better prepared to start than Feeley and Kolb were. He has 20 career starts with Jacksonville in 2019 and 2020. In fact, he’s better than at least a handful of current starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

Even if he’s not a team’s quarterback of the future, he’s certainly a good enough placeholder. And a game against the Cowboys could certainly convince some team to take the plunge.

Eagles' Greg Ward (84) scores a touchdown against the Giants Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Eagles’ Greg Ward (84) scores a touchdown against the Giants Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Who’s the emergency QB?

It’s always fun to wonder who the Eagles’ emergency quarterback would be. After all, the Eagles have only two quarterbacks on the game-day roster for each game, although it’s possible they could have all three on Saturday in Hurts, Minshew and Sinnett.

But the Eagles also have two successful college quarterbacks on their roster in wide receiver Greg Ward and tight end Tyree Jackson.

At Houston, Ward threw for 8,704 yards, completed 67.5% of his passes and threw 52 TD passes against 26 interceptions. At Buffalo, Jackson threw for 6,999 yards, completed 55.8% of his passes with 49 TDs and 24 INTs.

In three seasons, Ward has attempted 2 passes, completing 1 for 15 yards. That came in 2020. His other attempt came against San Francisco in Week 2.

Jackson is in his first NFL season, and he missed the first eight games with a back injury. He has yet to catch a pass, let alone throw one.

When asked who would be the emergency QB, Ward responded with a laugh: “Of course, it would be me. Sometimes we just have funny questions, and just mess with each other about that, just tease each other about who was the best quarterback and who can do what better.”

Ward was then asked what he thinks about Jackson as a quarterback: “I don’t think he’s better than me, but I think he’s pretty good.”

Both, however, should be busy at their regular positions in the regular-season finale.

At tight end, both Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll are on the COVID-19 list as of Friday morning. At wide receiver, it’s possible that starters DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins will see a reduced role.

Jackson said he’ll be ready.

“Once I put my hand in the ground, I’m blocking, I’m running down on kickoff, I’m on kickoff return, those things,” he said. “I’m totally bought into having the mindset of tight end.”

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) warms up before the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) warms up before the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Prediction

The Eagles still had 11 players on the COVID-19 list, including starters Fletcher Cox, Rodney McLeod and Avonte Maddox. Jason Kelce came off the list Friday and will presumably extend his consecutive games started streak to 122, most among active NFL centers.

While the other COVID players haven’t been ruled out, the Eagles won’t have running back Miles Sanders (broken hand). In addition, starting right tackle Lane Johnson and starting left guard Landon Dickerson are listed as questionable even though neither practiced at all this week.

As for the Cowboys, star linebacker Micah Parsons, left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Anthony Brown were placed on the COVID-19 list Thursday. In addition, star cornerback Trevon Diggs, safety Jayron Kearse and running back Tony Pollard are listed as questionable.

It’s hard to see quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper playing much, or at all.

So consider this like a preseason game, when the starters are resting, and the deep reserves and practice-squad players getting their moment to shine.

In that regard, Minshew is a better backup quarterback than Cooper Rush. Beyond that, who knows?

Score: Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles have much to gain by starting Gardner Minshew vs. Cowboys

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