By Max Harper
The Jets beat the Eagles 24-21 last night at the Linc.
But it’s an exo and the starters barely played.
So, let’s try not to read too much into it.
After all, the Birds first game is Sept. 11 in Detroit, so there are 29 days to jump to conclusions.
But this much we can conclude right now.
The Eagles Jalen Hurts looked way better than the Jets’ Zach Wilson in the battle of quarterbacks.
And he ended the night healthier.
After going back to pass with 4:29 left in the first period, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right for 7 yards, but went down after the play. He appeared to injure his knee when planting to cut.
After being checked by trainers, Wilson limped to the sideline on his own power before heading to the locker room.
After the game, Jets coach Robert Saleh said the initial tests on Wilson showed the ACL “is supposed to be intact,” but the team is waiting for the MRI on Saturday.
“I’m always concerned until you get the final evaluation,” Saleh said.
Hurts looked sharp, completing all six of his pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown while playing just one series.
It’s the same knee that Wilson suffered a sprained PCL in Week 7 against New England last year. He was sidelined four games before returning and playing the rest of the season.
“It sucks, obviously,” wide receiver Braxton Berrios said. “We’re hoping for the best.”
The Jets also have 37-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco, but he was not in uniform for the game as a handful of veterans did not play in the preseason opener.
“Joe is a phenomenal football player,” Saleh said. “He’s having a great camp.”
Jets fourth-stringer Chris Streveler, a 2019 Grey Cup champion with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, threw two TD passes, including a go-ahead 5-yard toss to Calvin Jackson Jr. with 16 seconds left. Streveler, who previously spent time in the NFL with Arizona, Baltimore and Miami, had not taken a snap in offensive team drills in camp this summer before playing against Philadelphia.
Unlike Wilson, Hurts got out of the game apparently unscathed — though he took a vicious helmet-to-helmet, out-of-bounds hit by linebacker Quincy Williams that left Philadelphia coach Nick Sirianni livid.
“Egregiously awful; he knows better,” Saleh said.
Said Sirianni: “I was more mad at the situation, not Saleh.”
Hurts popped right up after the play.
“You definitely don’t want to take hits, especially late hits, but it happens,” Hurts said. “I’m healthy.”
After making the playoffs in the first season under Sirianni last year, there is great hope in Philadelphia for more progress this season. The hottest topic in town is whether Hurts can elevate his game to a level that would allow the Eagles to make a deep playoff run.
A second-round pick, Hurts is entering his third season and second as a full-time starter. He showed his dual-threat ability last season, passing for 3,144 yards and rushing for team-bests of 784 yards and 10 touchdowns. But he was 26th in completion rate (61.3 percent) and 22nd in passer rating (87.2), and his accuracy and arm strength have been targets for skeptics. An up-and-down training camp only has fueled the ire of Hurts’ doubters.
But Hurts came out firing on all cylinders in his first opportunity to show his progress in a live games after an offseason full of work, hitting wide receiver Quez Watkins for 28 yards down the right sideline on the game’s first play. He connected with his next four passes before finishing a perfect passing drive with a 22-yard touchdown strike to tight end Dallas Goedert.
“We talk about the importance of explosive plays and we came out of the gate with an explosive play,” Hurts said. That can get a drive going.”
Hurts looked impressive without even targeting his new No. 1 receiver, A.J. Brown, whom the Eagles acquired in a draft-day trade with the Tennessee Titans and promptly signed to a four-year deal with $57 million guaranteed.
Hurts’ lone drive wasn’t without concern, though, as he was leveled with a hard hit from Williams despite being clearly out of bounds after scrambling for no gain. Williams was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and Sirianni tore off his headset and screamed toward the Jets bench while standing nearly 20 yards on the field.
Philadelphia’s opening drive wasn’t a good sign for a revamped Jets defense that finished 2021 last in total defense and scoring defense, 30th in pass defense and 29th against the run. New York made several additions to bolster its defense, including selecting cornerback Sauce Gardner No. 4 overall and defensive lineman Jermaine Johnson No. 26 in the first round of this year’s draft. But the Jets defense put up little resistance to Hurts and the Eagles.