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Gardner Minshew starts instead of injured Jalen Hurts, lifts Philadelphia Eagles past New York Jets




EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Gardner Minshew sure knows how to make an entrance.

With Jalen Hurts sidelined with an ankle injury, Minshew impressed in his first start for the Philadelphia Eagles, 20-of-25 for 242 yards with two touchdowns to drive the Eagles over the New York Jets 33-18.

The offense scored on each of the first seven runs under Minshew, who racked up a perfect 158.3 quarterback score in the first half, while equaling Donovan McNabb for the highest first-half completion rate (93.3%) by an Eagles strategist since 1991.

“It felt so good, man. It’s the best time I’ve had since week 1 of last year. There’s nothing like that feeling,” said Minshew. “Happy to do it with this group of guys. They made it easy for me.”

Minshew has a thing for debuts. He completed 88% of his throws in his first pro start in 2019 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. On his first start of 2020, he went 19-of-20 for a 95% completion rate.

His performance will no doubt cause a stir in Philadelphia. However, Coach Nick Sirianni made it clear that Hurts is the starter if he is healthy.

“I think he played very good football,” Sirianni said of Hurts. “There have been times when he was one of the best in the league. The way he moved made plays, we look at the quarterback’s rating and what he’s had there. He played really good football when he was in the competition, so if he’s healthy and he’s back, he’ll be our starter.”

Hurts was limited in training this week after spraining his left ankle against the New York Giants. He has an extra week to prove it right, as the Eagles bid farewell this week before hosting the Washington Football Team on December 19.

Minshew made his first start since last December and got off to a blazing hot start, 3-for-3 for 61 yards on the Eagles’ opening run, with all three completions reaching Dallas Goedert at the end of the game. Minshew and Goedert connected for 36 yards to end the series.

He finished the first half 14-of-15 for 188 yards with two touchdowns (both to Goedert) and became the fourth Eagles QB since 1991 to set a perfect quarterback rating in the first half.

“I thought he played a really good game,” Sirianni said. “Our message to Gardner was: go out and be yourself, protect that football. You have a good supporting cast around you… so go out and be yourself, and that will be enough. And he did. He went out and played an excellent game.”

The Jets seemed blindsided by the Eagles’ eleven-hour quarterback change. Cornerback Bryce Hall admitted they weren’t prepared for the Minshew start.

“No, we didn’t,” Hall said. “We prepared for Jalen.”

The Jets players and coaches talked all week about how they enjoyed the challenge of facing Hurts and the Eagles’ prolific rush attack. In the first half, the Eagles seemed ready to run, using two- and three-tight-end packs, but they threw themselves out of that squad. Both of Goedert’s catches came on wide open passes.

Coach Robert Saleh and linebacker CJ Mosley downplayed the quarterback change and insisted that they prepare for the Eagles’ system, not one particular quarterback. Even Hall supported that, saying, “In terms of the preparation, if we’d known ahead of time, I don’t think much would have really changed.”

The Eagles acquired Minshew from the Jags for a sixth-round conditional roster in late August. He now has 39 touchdowns to 11 interceptions across 41 NFL starts.

With Sunday’s win, which improved the Eagles to 6-7 this season, the team’s playoff odds jumped from 25% to 30%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Rich Cimini of ESPN contributed to this report.




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