EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The New York Giants are ready for a different Jalen Hurts this time around.
A fully healthy Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, that is. And that means preparing to face one of the NFL's most dynamic dual threat players.
“Everybody’s saying he’s having an MVP season and I agree,” Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Wednesday. "Because he can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with just being a dropback quarterback, he can beat you with a sore shoulder.
“He can beat you a lot of different ways, and that’s a great challenge because there’s just a few quarterbacks that can do it that way.”
Hurts was a full participant at Eagles practice and not even listed on the injury report Wednesday, a clear indication he has healed from the sprained right shoulder he suffered early last month at Chicago.
“He’s off the injury report, so I’m expecting Jalen Hurts the MVP candidate,” Martindale said. “I think if you expect anything less, you’re kidding yourself because the guy’s definitely a competitor.”
Hurts missed two games before returning for the regular-season finale against the Giants, who sat most of their starters in the Eagles' 22-16 win. The Pro Bowl quarterback was 20 of 35 for 229 yards and an interception, and ran nine times for just 13 yards in a playoff tune-up in which he still appeared to not be 100% healthy.
When the teams meet again in their NFC divisional round playoff game Saturday night in Philadelphia, New York is expecting to see a healthy — and dangerous — Hurts.
“He’s a challenge to play against,” safety Julian Love said. “He’s been playing at a super high level this year because of his arm, his legs. He has really elevated his game, and we have to try to play him as best we can. He has a lot of tools in his bag. ... He’s posed a threat or a problem to everybody he’s played this year.”
The Giants know that first-hand. In the teams' first meeting in Week 14, Hurts was 21 of 31 for 217 yards and two TDs and ran seven times for 77 yards and a score.
Hurts set career highs in his third NFL season with 3,701 yards passing, 22 touchdown throws — against a personal-low six interceptions — and 13 TD runs. Despite sitting out two games, he became the first quarterback in league history to rush for at least 10 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. He's also the first QB with 10 or more TD runs and at least a 100 quarterback rating (101.5) in a single season.
On Tuesday, Hurts acknowledged teams are focused on stopping him — and perhaps even his banged-up shoulder could be targeted by the Giants on Saturday night.
“I’ve got a bounty on me every week I go out there,” Hurts said. “I’m going to go out there and just play my game.”
Rookie linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux wasn't aware of Hurts' “bounty” comment, but said it only makes sense for defenses to focus on stopping teams' best playmakers.
“He’s a great player, so just me being an edge rusher, you see just across the league, people scheme against the great players,” Thibodeaux said. “So, of course teams are going to scheme against him as being one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And I would say for us, we've just got to do what we can to contain him.”
That's easier said than done, of course. And especially with the Giants coming off a playoff victory in which they faced Minnesota's Kirk Cousins, who's more of a traditional pocket passer.
“It’s more just being disciplined, if that’s in your rush lanes or if that’s in your run lanes,” defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. “You’ve just got to be more disciplined with a guy like (Hurts), a dual-threat guy."
Thibodeaux, an aggressive pass rusher, agreed with Lawrence and knows if he gets too far into the pocket without getting to Hurts, the Eagles quarterback could squirt by and scamper for a big run.
“Definitely,” Thibodeaux said. “What can be your strengths can also be your weaknesses."
Hurts' scrambling ability opens things up for the rest of Philadelphia's offense, from the running backs to the receivers. And that's what makes stopping the Eagles an even greater challenge for the Giants.
“That’s how they get going, and they’re doing it at a very high rate right now,” Love said. “So, it’s a problem. That’s no secret to anybody. It’s a problem because of who’s at quarterback for them. He’s a good player.”
NOTES: CB Adoree' Jackson (back) and S Jason Pinnock (abdomen) were full participants in the Giants' first full practice of the week. ... Love (hamstring), S/LB Landon Collins (ankle), WR Isaiah Hodgins (ankle), CB Fabian Moreau (hip) and LB Azeez Ojulari (quadriceps) were limited.
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