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New Orleans Saints defense preparing for each Eagles quarterback on Sunday

Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew could start for Philadelphia

Check out the New Orleans Saints game action in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns during the 2022 NFL season.
Check out the New Orleans Saints game action in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns during the 2022 NFL season.

Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, the New Orleans Saints (6-9) rightfully expect for him to helm a formidable offense.

One possibility is Jalen Hurts, an MVP candidate who missed the last game with a shoulder injury, but has completed 286 of 425 passes for 3,472 yards and 22 touchdowns, with five interceptions, and has run for 747 yards and 13 touchdowns on 156 carries while leading the Eagles (13-2) to a 13-1 record in his starts.

New Orleans twice has faced Hurts, and neither confrontation was successful: He completed a combined 30 of 54 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries in two Eagles victories.

The other option is Gardner Minshew, who started Sunday's 40-34 loss to Dallas due to Hurts' injury. In that game, Minshew completed 24 of 40 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, and ran for five yards and a touchdown on four carries.

The Eagles score a league-leading 29.7 points per game.

"I thought Minshew did some really nice things in the game (Sunday) against Dallas," Saints Coach Dennis Allen said. "We have to prepare for the offensive scheme, No. 1, and really it starts with their ability to run the football. And then we've got to understand who the weapons are they have on the outside and how they can attack us in the passing game with those weapons on the outside. But kind of two different style quarterbacks, but yet both have had success in that offense."

The Eagles rushing offense is fourth-best in the league, averaging 153.8 yards per game. But without Hurts against Dallas, Philadelphia ran for just 87 yards in a game where it committed four turnovers.

Hurts' presence in the run game forces an accountability that most defenses have been unable to effectively counter.

"That's a good way to put it, being patient and in attack mode," linebacker Chase Hansen said. "I think what it comes down to is the defensive staff is going to put together a really good game plan, and we've got to do our job. There's always these very unique quarterbacks, especially at this level, they can do it all.

"I think Hurts is kind of the epitome of that this year, someone who can throw the ball with the best of them and he's an awesome athlete. He's one of those guys that has so many weapons, so many ways to hurt you that it's kind of a combination of you've got to be able to do your job, and you've got to be able to do it fast. Because if you're focused too much on doing your job, then you're usually a step slow but if you're not doing your job, a guy like Hurts will expose you. You can't just be a one-dimensional defense in those types of games."

Allen said that for Hurts, it has been critical that the Eagles have aided his comfort by employing some of the things he ran on offense in college.

"It's a similar scheme to what he ran in college, and similar plays," Allen said. "I think his ability to run with the football makes it really challenging with this offense, because there's some things that you can do from an offensive standpoint to gain numbers knowing that your quarterback can pull the ball and run it at any point in time.

"So they run the ball really effectively, and that opens up some things in the passing game with some of the play-action passes. And I think he has really improved as a dropback passer, with where he's at now to where he came into this league. He's playing at an exceptionally high level, an MVP candidate, and rightfully so."

New Orleans will have a plan for each quarterback.

"We've got to prepare for the scheme, No. 1, and then try to have a good feel for what they'll do differently with Hurts as opposed to Minshew being in the game" Allen said. "We've got the Dallas game to look at and it kind of gives us a good idea of how they'll try to operate if Hurts isn't in the game. And then if he is in the game, we've got a whole season basically to look at to see how they'll utilize him. We'll have to have a plan either way."

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