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Doug Pederson says Jalen Hurts is a natural leader, doing nice job preparing for Saints

The Philadelphia Eagles are looking to stop the bleeding at any cause as they come into Sunday’s home showdown with the New Orleans Saints, aiming to end a four-game losing streak. In addition, head coach Doug Pederson will have a new quarterback to work with after making a change late in last weekend’s loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Eagles’ 2020 second-round pick, Jalen Hurts, will start under center for the Eagles after the former Alabama and Oklahoma product finished the 30-16 loss at Lambeau Field. Hurts showed some positive moments for the Eagles offense, tossing his first National Football League touchdown and also connecting with both Greg Ward and Jalen Reagor on pass attempts.

Now he will aim to carry that confidence over against the No. 1 defense in the league.

“They [Eagles players] have embraced this change, this opportunity for him, and that’s what good teammates will do, right?” Pederson quipped.  “They’ll support the guy that’s in there and they’re supporting him and doing a great job there.”

“Jalen is a natural leader. We saw that obviously talking to his college coaches, whether it was Alabama or Oklahoma. Just a natural leader, and now that he’s in this position, you can see he’s coming out and really talking to his guys and talking to Kelce and wanting to understand. [He’s] asking really good questions in the meeting, not only to Press [passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor], but also to me and to Stout [offensive line/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland], and really wants to gather all the information he can.”

“But he’s doing a nice job.”

Hurts has waited for his chance to impress in the Eagles offense this season, after being used in limited periods of the previous 11 games. With Carson Wentz struggling to get any consistency going for Pederson’s offense, Hurts provided a spark in Green Bay, albeit in an eventual eight loss of the season.

Hurts’ ability to not only look for receivers, but scramble for yards when needed is something that Wentz also brought to the table, but his turnovers had been an issue for most of 2020. With the Eagles only having four regular season games left and currently two wins behind both the New York Giants and Washington Football Team in the standings, Hurts deserved a chance to show what he can bring heading into 2021.

“Well, I think there are a couple of things [we are looking to see out of Hurts],” Pederson said.  “Obviously, we want to take care of the football, right? Ball security is something we talk about each week. We want to see him execute the offense, how he executes it, right? Again, I’m not going to ask him it be Carson Wentz. I want him to be Jalen Hurts, how he views the offense.”

“And so just execution. We got to get in and out of the huddle. My job is to get him the play in a timely manner. He’s got to be able to communicate, get it out of the huddle, get the snap, all of that, and then we need to score points. That’s the thing. We got to continue to stay positive on first down. We got to score when we get in the red zone, because we know the Saints can score as well on offense.”

“Those are just a few things that I would like to see coming out of this game, besides the win.”

New Orleans is coming off clinching a playoff berth of its own last week, defeating NFC South rivals Atlanta 21-16. After starting the season 1-2, the Saints have won nine games in a row and could also see starting quarterback Drew Brees back on the field at Lincoln Financial Field. Defensively, former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is having a sensational season for the Saints, while overall the team is fifth in the NFL for fewest points allowed per game (20.6) and second in yards (288.8).

Hurts will have his work cut out for him in his first start, but after showing some positive signs against Green Bay, the rookie could deliver something different than what Eagles fans have been seeing in 2020.

“Finding a set of plays that he’s really comfortable with within our playbook is all part of the challenge this week, and then going out and executing during the week,” Pederson said. “That, to me, has been the hardest or the most challenging part, is just getting that together for him and then going and preparing against this great defense.”

“Then as far as just the excitement, I’m looking forward to him playing and seeing what he can do. Again, we all know this is going to be a really good test. It’s going to be a test for our offense, for our whole team, not just him. This is a good football team. Obviously, a playoff team, Super Bowl caliber team. They’re well-coached. It’s a great opportunity for every member of our staff, my staff, and the players.”

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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