The preseason is a time to easy back into the hectic world of the NFL and see some young, up-and-coming players try to establish themselves in this league. It’s not the occasion for cheap shots, but that’s exactly what unfolded on the Eagles’ opening drive of the preseason Friday night.
Scrambling on a third and five, quarterback Jalen Hurts ran towards the right sideline before getting crushed by Jets linebacker Quincy Williams:
Hurts was very clearly out of bounds and Williams did not spent one iota of effort to pull up on the late, cheap hit. For those skilled in the art of lipping reading, it appears that Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni screamed, “That’s f*****g b******t!” across the field to Jets head coach Robert Saleh. He followed that up by throwing his headset and belting out, “Saleh, what the f**k?”
Sirianni clearly loves his players. Few, if any, coaches would wear a shirt featuring the face of their starting slot receiver to practice, but Sirianni has done that this summer with Quez Watkins. Him wearing The Wooderboys‘ Hurts t-shirt has become well known. He’s always going to stick up for these dudes.
Speaking with the media after Friday’s preseason opener, Sirianni sounded a bit calmer after stepping away from the bang-bang nature of the play.
“I wasn’t mad at Coach Saleh. I was mad at the situation,” Sirianni said. “I was more mad at the player, than Coach Saleh. Coach Saleh is a great guy. I have so much respect for him. It was just emotions of the game. I was just sticking up for Jalen. I’ll never apologize for sticking up for my players. I should have handled it a little bit better than I did.”
The Eagles are lucky that Hurts sustained no injuries on this play. The Birds’ QB1 promptly responded by throwing a touchdown later on that drive, ultimately going 6/6 with a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 in his first preseason action of the year.
Sirianni later said that the hit gave him no pause about continuing to play Hurts in the preseason even though the organization is obviously weary of any harm coming to their starting quarterback before Week 1.
“You’re going to get hit. He got hit late out of bounds,” Sirianni remarked. “Well, what’s stopping somebody hitting him in the pocket?”
Fair enough logic.
Hurts spoke to reporters after the preseason loss to the Jets and addressed the hit.
“It happens,” Hurts said, unsurprisingly minimizing the buzz around the cheap shot. “He hit me late. They called a flag. We moved on.”
Hurts’ teammates, much Sirianni, were fired up in the aftermath of the hit. Left tackle Jordan Mailata got all in Williams’ face following the hit in a move that reminded me of Jason Peters defending a dirty hit on Nick Foles at home against Washington back in 2014.
“That’s what we’re about,” Hurts said about his teammates rallying around him in the immediate aftermath of the play. “That’s us having each other’s backs. That’s Philly. That’s Coach Sirianni. That’s Jordan Mailata. That’s [Jason] Kelce.”
Again, that’s typical of Hurts to down play the severity of all of this, but the outrage was warranted. I had never seen such an uncalled for hit in a preseason game in my 20-plus years watching the sport.
For what it’s worth, and it might not be anything for Eagles fans, Saleh spoke about the hit following the game.
“Egregiously awful by Quincy,” the Jets head coach said. “He knows that. He knows better. Those are the plays Quincy has to get out of his game if he wants to become the linebacker that we all think he can be.” (transcription via the New York Post).
“Egregious” is spot on.
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports
Add Shamus’ RSS feed to your feed reader