Philadelphia is turning to its backup for a rematch with its rival.
The Eagles will start Gardner Minshew at quarterback against the Cowboys on Saturday, coach Nick Sirianni told reporters Thursday. Minshew will take over for MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, who suffered a shoulder injury in Philadelphia’s Week 15 win over Chicago.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be Gardner,” Sirianni said. “Jalen did everything he possibly could to get his body ready to go, and just at the end of the day, he’s not going to be able to do it. He tried like crazy and I know he still wants to go. Jalen Hurts is the toughest player I’ve ever been around.”
Replacing Hurts won’t be easy. The third-year quarterback is playing at an elite level in 2022, ranking fourth or better in overall record, passing yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio, passer rating and rushing touchdowns.
Minshew doesn’t bring the same rare blend of athleticism and ability to attack defenses with his arm and legs, but he’s no slouch. In his career, Minshew has completed 63.2 percent of pass attempts for a passer rating of 93.9 — 0.8 points better than Hurts’ career passer rating — and a 41-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Minshew also did most of this while playing for a talent-deficient Jaguars team before moving to Philadelphia to fill the backup role behind Hurts.
“Gardner will be our guy, and Gardner will be ready,” Sirianni said. “Gardner worked his butt off for this opportunity against a really good football team and had a great practice yesterday, I think you guys have all heard that, how good of a practice he had yesterday. A lot of energy out there. He’s ready to go.”
Dallas presents quite a challenge defensively, owning the NFL’s eighth-ranked defense, including the league’s third-best unit against the pass. Philadelphia might be able to find some success on the ground, though, against a defense that has struggled against the run this season, tying for 24th in that department.
The Eagles’ rushing attack will be hamstrung by the loss of Hurts, who is a constant threat to gain yards on the ground via designed runs and scrambles. But Minshew has been good enough historically to do more than just keep offenses afloat.
He’ll have to channel his inner magician against a Dallas team hungry for revenge. The Cowboys enter this game knowing they’ll make quite the statement if they can take down the division-leading Eagles with just three weeks remaining, potentially setting up a postseason rematch.
They’re also out to prove their loss to Jacksonville last week wasn’t a sign of things to come. If they want to advance beyond the Divisional Round of the playoffs for the first time since 1995, Week 16 would be a great time to build some positive momentum toward a deep playoff push. Minshew will attempt to stop them in their tracks this weekend.
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