PHILADELPHIA – There is more than just the starting quarterback for the Eagles to decide upon by the time they play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
While it’s not official, the chances are that Gardner Minshew will get a second straight start for Jalen Hurts, who’s nursing a sprained shoulder. Hurts practiced on a limited basis Thursday, the first time he practiced since hurting his shoulder Dec. 18 against the Bears.
He didn’t take part in a ball-security drill open to the media in which coaches use boxing gloves as players run through trying to knock the ball out.
The Eagles practice again Friday, and it’s possible that Hurts will do more. At the very least, the Saints will have to prepare for both him and Minshew.
Rest is the best remedy for Hurts’ ailing shoulder. At the same time, Hurts is having an MVP-caliber season, and the Eagles still need a win to clinch both the NFC East division title and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and the first-round bye that goes with it.
To that end, some players made it seem like the Eagles are leaning toward resting Hurts.
Tight end Dallas Goedert said “absolutely not!” when asked if he knew who the starting quarterback would be, adding: “I tried to get a little bit out of Jalen, but he didn’t really say much. He kind of sat in his statue self kind of look, stuck his lips out, nodded his head.
“I said, ‘I don’t know what that means, J.’ So we’ll see. It’s still up in the air, but whoever it is, I like our odds.”
Added running back Miles Sanders: “I was happy to see Jalen back on the field. He’s still got to go as his body tells him to. We’re going to be ready whenever he’s ready. But the main important thing is to get rest and get as healthy as possible.”
In that case, five weeks of rest from the time of the injury until the Eagles’ first playoff game, assuming they clinch the top seed, are better than two.
Minshew threw for 355 yards last Saturday in the Eagles’ 40-34 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, with 2 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. It was his first start since last year’s regular-season finale.
“I thought Gardner played a great game,” Goedert said. “Shoot, I mean, his completion percentage was good, his yards were good. We gotta limit some of the turnovers. And with another game under his belt, I think it will clean up even more.”
Goedert’s statement made it seem as if Minshew will get “another game under his belt.” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni wasn’t scheduled to speak to the media on Thursday, but he is on Friday.
That uncertainty also holds true at right tackle, where Lane Johnson is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a torn adductor muscle in his abdomen. Johnson reportedly decided to put off surgery for a chance to play in the playoffs.
Until then, the Eagles will have to replace a Pro Bowl right tackle who hasn’t allowed a sack in more than 2 years, setting an NFL record for going nearly 1,000 passing downs since he last allowed a sack.
The Eagles had a number of options, but it appears as if Jack Driscoll will replace Johnson. The Eagles could use Andre Dillard at right tackle, or even put Dillard at left tackle and move Jordan Mailata to right tackle.
Driscoll, the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in 2020, has filled in at both right and left tackle during his career. Earlier this season, he started at left tackle in place of Mailata, who missed a game with a shoulder injury. Dillard was on injured reserve at the time.
But Dillard has always played on the left side. The Eagles moved Mailata to right tackle last season for one game, with Dillard starting at left tackle. That was when Johnson missed three games to deal with a mental health illness.
Sanders said Johnson is a “big loss,” but he’s confident in Driscoll.
“We got a lot of confidence in Jack,” Sanders said. “I got a lot of confidence in Jack, and he’s going to get the job done.”
As for Sanders, he did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury, but he did practice on a limited basis Thursday. He said he expects to play against the Saints. Sanders has 1,175 yards rushing this season.
“It was nothing really major,” Sanders said. “They’re just being cautious, letting me rest a little bit. It’s late in the season, so it’s nothing to really worry about.”
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.