A Deep Dive Into Jalen Hurts – Can He Be a Franchise QB?

There’s been a lot of talk about Jalen Hurts. Is he just a backup? Is he a game manager? Can he succeed in the NFL? I think it’s a complicated answer. But, I would like to ask everyone to have an open mind, and look at this from a different perspective.

Is Hurts built in the mold of a traditional NFL QB? No, he’s not. He’s not 6’5, and he doesn’t possess a rocket arm. With that being said, he does have elite mobility. He does have enough arm strength to make most throws. He does possess touch and accuracy. And he does have a nice arm in terms of throwing motion.

He has some things to work on, but I believe he has the tools to be a good QB in this league, if used correctly. Hurts also had some very noteworthy statistical accomplishments in his first 4 starts as well. Since 1970 Jalen Hurts is one of just 3 rookie QBs to throw for over 330 yards and rush for over 60 yards in the same game. He did it twice in 4 starts. He also has the 2nd most rushing yards in a QB’s first 4 starts. Pretty good if you ask me.

Athleticism

First, we are going to talk about his best trait: his athleticism.

Hurts has every tool that you look for in this regard. He has true 4.5 speed, and proved that at the combine by running a 4.59 forty which is 91st percentile. His 125” broad jump ranked in the 97th percentile, and his 35” vertical jump ranked in the 86th percentile.

He’s a fast, explosive, strong, and yet nimble athlete. He has the potential to transform an NFL running attack as well as extending plays and evading pressure at a high level. Hurts proved that by rushing for the 2nd most rushing yards by a QB in his first 4 starts. Lets jump into the clips.

The following clips are going to show you how nimble and agile he is. He can make quick cuts and juke people out like a RB.

These clips are going to demonstrate the power that Hurts possesses. He really is built like a RB at 6’1, 222. Hurts consistently overpowers people and falls forward. This allows for a very versatile rushing attack.

As we mentioned before, he also ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine. And to be honest with you, he runs faster than that on the field. He gets 0-60 in a hurry and he is flat out FAST.

Hurts combination of strength, speed, and agility allows for a very unique offense. Similar to Lamar Jackson, his skill set allowed the Eagles to get very creative in the run game. Power QB runs, pulling offensive linemen, lead blocks, QB draws. It will be a fun offense to watch with Hurts under center.

ARM STRENGTH

This is definitely the most controversial aspect to Jalen’s game.

A lot of people seem to think he has a weak arm, but personally, I think his arm strength is about average. Some of his weakest throws had a lot more to do with poor mechanics and bad decisions than a lack of arm strength.

Hurts doesn’t have a problem getting distance, and we have seen him make sideline throws just fine. But I do have some interesting stats to back that up. According to an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer by EJ Smith, Hurts had the fastest average initial air speed (47.5 MPH) and the longest throw (59.7 yards) at the 2020 Senior Bowl. This beat out Justin Herbert who’s average initial air speed was 43.1MPH, and longest throw was 52.4 Yards.

Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield tied for 47.1 MPH in average initial air speed. Then we move onto the combine velocity test. The following numbers are brought to you by Dan Shonka, (Ourlads.com). Hurts recorded a high of 54 MPH. This ranked around average of all the participants. Comparing to some noticeable names: Justin Herbert (55 MPH), Lamar Jackson (49), Patrick Mahomes (55), Deshaun Watson (45), Dak Prescott (54), Carson Wentz(57), Marcus Mariota (56), Russell Wilson (55), Cam Newton (56), Tyrod Taylor (50), and Joe Flacco (55). This isn’t to suggest that these numbers perfectly translate to reality, however, it’s interesting that Hurts ranks around average in this category despite seeing the phrase “noodle arm” attached to his name on social media. Over the decade, the highest timed speed was 62MPH, and the lowest timed speed was 42MPH.

The most critiqued part of his arm has to do with velocity. Velocity is important for sideline throws, and fitting balls into tight windows. As I stated previously, I do not think he is elite in this category and I doubt he’ll be able to zip throws in between defenders consistently at the level of a Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers. BUT I do think his arm strength is fine. Fine enough to where he can make most throws. The best example would be this throw from the far hash. Just an absolute dime and has some Zip to it. #33 tries to undercut it but Hurts puts it well above his head.

Really nice throw here to Desean Jackson deep. Throw goes about 50 yards, and perfectly leads Jackson upfield. One thing I notice about Hurts is, it seems like he doesn’t use his body as well as he could to generate throwing power. It doesn’t seem like he twists his upper body as much as he could’ve (probably because of the incoming rusher), which leads me to believe that there is some hidden development there to further improve his arm strength.

Really nice throw to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on the jump ball. As you can see in the 2nd shot, he resets his upper body quickly and gets the ball out fast. Puts it in a straight line for JJAW to make the jump ball.

Another good throw over the middle. Has Greg Ward on the post and throws a fast ball to him. Good accuracy to go with it.

Another example of an opposite hash out route. Not as much zip as the first example but it gets the job done and is exactly where it needed to be.

Saving most of his deep passes for the accuracy category, but here’s a throw that probably goes about 55-60 yards in the air? Throw is about 45-50 yards length wise, but he’s throwing to the opposite numbers. Which adds more air yards to the throw. Shows he has enough juice to go deep. Tad overthrown though ironically.

Last positive before we get into the negatives about his arm strength. This play gets intercepted, but I put a lot of that blame on Ertz for taking as long as he did to beat the press and get his head around. That and chemistry issues (which is to be expected). Thing that stands out to me is he gets that ball in there with some juice to it. Splits the LB and the CB and gets it right in front of Ertz. Again, whether you want to blame that on Ertz for taking too long or blame it on Hurts for throwing it too early, the ability to fit it in between defenders is there. Yes it’s an easy pass that most NFL QB’s should make, but the decisiveness in combination with him putting heat on it was really impressive.

Okay, now let’s dive into some of the bad plays. I think a lot of these bad plays have more to do with bad mechanics/processing rather than him just having a weak arm. This INT vs the Packers is a popular example people use to and showcase his “weak” arm. But in reality it was just him not being able to finish the throw properly. This is a play where Hurts should’ve just tucked it back in and taken the sack. Instead he tries to beat the rusher but fails to do so. As a result, he isn’t able to drive through the throw, and it makes for an easy INT for the undercutting defender.

I remember seeing this clip used a lot. Worm ball. Why is that? Again, it’s because of mechanics. It doesn’t look like he really uses his legs to drive the throw, and I think he has a bit of a downward motion sometimes. That downward motion combined with lack of leg drive results in worm balls. Something I believe he can fix.

This is roughly a 40 yard throw to Quez Watkins. This throw is definitely under thrown and is an example to show the difference between him and an Aaron Rodgers. But this is all arm. So while it wasn’t a “special” throw, I still think it was impressive to a certain degree. In the future instead of trying to throw in a straight sprint does he slow down and reset alittle? We’ll see. That’s something that the greats like Russel Wilson and Rodgers are great at.

Another popular example. Hurts just heaves a prayer ball. Bad decision. Even with better arm strength this is getting intercepted. But still a weak throw.

This post route to Jalen Reagor was a floater. Needs to be put on a rope in between the defenders. I look back at mechanics. You notice there’s very little leg drive in this throw. Pretty much just uses all upper body, which isn’t enough for him. This is a tough throw to make regardless, but I wonder if he can make this throw in the future with more emphasis on using his lower body.

This pass just dies on him. Mechanics look solid for the most part on this throw, he just doesn’t get it there. The safety rushing down on the edge certainly could’ve impacted this throw. Maybe he caught Hurts off guard. Regardless, this is still a throw he’s going to have to make in the future. At least get it towards the sideline so the defender can’t get to it.

Bad mechanics, bad processing, and average arm strength leads to a poor throw like this. Good news is that if he felt more comfortable here I think he makes this throw no problem. It just looks like he’s second guessing himself before throwing which led to this awkward angle while drifting backwards leading to an inaccurate pass.

And I know what you might be thinking, “Nick, doesn’t this prove that Hurts doesn’t have an elite arm if he’s inconsistent with making throws off schedule?” And to a certain degree, yes! But not every QB is going to have an elite arm like Rodgers or Mahomes. His arm is good enough. He can make the opposite hash out route throws, he can zip it in between defenders in the short passing game, and he can get the ball deep. Is he going to make 50+ yard passes while parallel to the ground? No! But most QB’s can’t do that. If he gets good coaching and starts incorporating more of his lower body then I think you’ll start to see some untapped potential.

ACCURACY

In my opinion, an underrated part of his game. I know that his completion percentage was not good, and I know that he had a few lousy passes that were off the mark. However, I thought he displayed touch more often than not. On short passes, he does a great job of leading receivers giving them ample opportunity to get YAC. His sideline throws on out routes and curls also seemed on point. But his best throws were his deep balls. I thought he consistently put the ball where only his receivers could catch it. On the back shoulder, leading them. Consistently accurate there.

Let’s start off with his deep ball. I was most impressed with the touch he showed in the vertical game. He consistently put it where only the receiver could catch it. His first pass after replacing Wentz demonstrates this well. A 40 yard dime to Reagor off back foot. Drops it in the bucket.

Cover 2 and splits the defenders with a BEAUTY of a pass. Puts it just over the cornerbacks head and it drops right into Alshon Jeffery’s reach. He has a knack for splitting defenders, as you’ll see in the next few clips.

Beauty of a pass on the move to Greg Ward in the back of the endzone. Another 40 yard dime effortlessly over 2 defenders.

Streak to Alshon. Middle field safety is coming in hot, and with Jeffery getting little separation, a back shoulder throw where it either falls incomplete or gets caught by the receiver is required. He puts it where only Alshon can catch it, and he does! He initially looks off the safety before turning back and making the throw which I really appreciate as well.

This is a much more aggressive throw. The middle of field safety is closing in much faster on this throw, yet Hurts still pulls the trigger. It was a great throw which was put where only the receiver could catch it. I know it fell incomplete, but again it was put in a spot where only Reagor could’ve caught it. And personally I think that should’ve been a completion. I think Reagor slowed down a little.

Once again a perfect pass gone to waste. Splits the defenders and puts in a spot where only the receiver can get it. I think if you’re going to have a complaint with this throw it’s that you’d like to see a little more zip on it. But the touch and placement of the throw is perfect.

Back shoulder throw to Alshon put right in the breadbasket, but dropped. Thankfully there was pass interference to make up for the drop. But, Hurts consistently puts it on the back shoulder on these deep passes. Which is exactly what you want to see.

Another example of a good throw being wasted by PI. This throw is put in the breadbasket in-between defenders. If Patrick Peterson doesn’t interfere this is either a touchdown or a pass that hits Reagor in the hands at the very least.

Deep ball to Boston Scott was just a tad bit overthrown. But the back shoulder deep balls are consistent with Hurts. He doesn’t care if there’s a middle of the field safety closing in or not, he’s going to squeeze that ball in there.

Puts a lot of air under this ball, but placement is really good. Once again, probably a touchdown if not for the interference. But highlighting the first sentence, I think the reason for his floaters has to do with preference and lower body mechanics. You’ll notice that he doesn’t really incorporate his legs much in this throw. And judging by his release point it looks like he intended to throw a floater. Something that will need to get cleaned up in the future, and I think it will.

As for the bad, this was a poor throw to Reagor. Ball hangs is the air for quite a while. But this goes back to mechanics. You’ll notice the lack of leg drive and you notice how his upper body is leaning backwards. This takes power out of the throw. He has a clean pocket so he could’ve went into that throw more. Of course this is what separates Mahomes type QB’s from the rest of the pack, but this is a throw I think Hurts can make in the future.

His deep ball is good, but I also really appreciate his short accuracy. For the most part he put it exactly where it had to be. Out in front of the receivers giving them easy receptions and advantageous YAC situations.

Easy throw to Miles Sanders, but as we’ve seen in the past not everybody consistently puts these in prime YAC spots. Hurts consistently throws short passes out in front of the receivers allowing them to get easy YAC.

Sideline throws he’s pretty good at too. Does a good job of escaping pressure, and then finds Watkins on the sidelines. Unfortunately it is dropped.

Really like his ability to throw on the move. Moving towards his left, resets QUICKLY and snaps that ball out and puts it on target. His throwing motion on the move is really smooth.

Again he throws really well on the move. Gets the ball out quickly and throws accurately. This incompletion is a little bit out in front but I think it is a combination of Ertz slipping in his break, and a lack of chemistry between him and Hurts. Otherwise the throw is where it had to be. Hurts will get better as he gets more chemistry with his teammates in the passing game.

The most inconsistent part to his game is probably his middle of the field accuracy. Combination of timing and mechanics. He’s had some overthrows over the middle on slants, and has thrown some worm balls on stick routes and shorter out routes. Given the example of him rifling a deeper out route against the Cardinals and Cowboys, I do not think this is an issue with pure arm strength as much as it is his lower body mechanics and downward throwing motion. I think he’s capable of making these throws more consistently, just needs to work on mechanics and timing.

Going to use this example vs Dallas once again. Static in the pocket, combined with downward release point leads to a worm ball. This was his biggest problem this past year. Low throws over the middle.

Now onto the good. This is a good throw to Goedert on this out route. Throws out in front, allowing Goedert to box out the DB. Good timing, good throw.

This throw to Ward is just a beauty. Opposite Hash throw, right over the defenders head. Just a beautiful bread basket throw which showcases some of his potential.

Velocity of throw is hindered due to the shortened release caused by pressure. But the ball still gets there in between 2 defenders. Nice throw on the sideline.

Dropped right in the breadbasket. Puts some air under this, but it drops right into Goedert’s lap. Would’ve been a huge touchdown.

Accurate throw delivered to Reagor on the sidelines. His out route throws are consistently accurate.

Another example of an accurate sideline throw. This time to Fulgham on the comeback.

So to wrap this section up, I think he showed some nice things as far as accuracy goes. He made some really nice deep throws, made sideline throws consistently, and led receivers in the short game. However, his mechanics and timing need development in order to become a more consistent middle of the field passer. He will most likely never become an elite passer, but if he can develop into a good passer that will be good enough considering his potential as a runner.

INTANGIBLES

As far as the mental side goes I think this is where Hurts needs the most work. The confidence and aggressiveness is very obvious from Hurts. But, he needs to read the field better and grow more disciplined inside the pocket. There were too many times where he passed up an easy throw to run.

The Dallas game specifically is where these limitations really caught up to him. Dallas was getting creative with their coverages and blitzes. Dallas dared Hurts to run on passing downs which is what he did. Leaving clean pockets and resorting to hard throws under pressure outside of the pocket. Those are growing pains any mobile QB is going to have coming into the NFL.

Let’s start with this Redzone scramble against DAL. Hurts has 2 easy touchdown options on this play. Ertz on the out route, and Sanders on the Texas route. Both are open. Hurts instead decides to run, putting the trust in his legs. Crazy enough he almost gets the touchdown, but he stepped out of bounds. This is an area where he is going to have to grow in. Learn to take the easy throw instead of trying to be Superman.

Only a 3 man route concept, this should be a pretty simple read, yet Hurts is late on the throw. Fulgham gets wide open on the dig route behind the LB’s which would be an easy completion with tons of YAC if thrown with anticipation. Instead, it’s a tough catch made through contact. Anticipation throws over the middle will be an emphasis for him this offseason.

Dallas only sends 3, and the pocket is clean. Hurts can make this throw to Greg Ward on the sideline if he stays in the pocket and delivers a strike. Instead, he bails for whatever reason giving the QB spy an opening to apply pressure. You can see him at the end of the scramble second guessing his decisions. “Should I throw it or run?” You cannot hedge in this situation. You have to make your decision and go with it.

Has Alshon wide open on the slant, but feels the pressure and opts to scramble instead of taking the hit and making the throw.

Greg Ward gets open on the hook route over the middle, but Jalen’s internal clock goes off and he starts to panic despite the clean pocket. He drops his eyes to look for a running lane and then takes off. Of course, he gets positive yardage on this play, but you would surely take 15 yards and a first down over a 4 yard scramble.

Has Sanders and Ertz wide open right in front of him, opts for the scramble which fails to reach the first down.

Once again leaves a clean pocket allowing easy pressure, and then compounds that mistake with a poor decision into double coverage, which gets intercepted.

Bad decision. There was no way he could’ve completed this pass and yet he still decided to do it anyways. Put part of this on the fact that it’s the end of the game and he’s trying play hero ball. But still not a good decision regardless.

There is a silver lining in all of this, however. He looked much sharper in the week 17 finale, and looked pretty sharp in his first 2 starts. It was his rookie year, he had no offseason due to the COVID-19 virus, he was playing under crappy circumstances, and he was not or practicing as a starter for majority of the year. He was put in a tough spot, and still flashed some things during his 4 starts. I fully expect with more development and practice he will be much more refined in this area come next season.

FINAL VERDICT

Overall I think he can be a good QB in the NFL. He doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional pocket passer, but I think he has enough talent as a passer to complement his rushing abilities. When I think of similar style QB’s to have success, I think of Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III. He doesn’t have the freakish size and arm strength of Newton and Colin, but in terms of offensive blueprint I think they’re a fitting comparison.

Carolina/New England, and Baltimore have revolutionized their rushing attacks with the presence of Newton and Lamar. Carolina and Baltimore saw high levels of success utilizing that blueprint. We also saw offensive success with Washington and their use of the pistol formation and the zone reads they were able to run with Griffin III. Now the argument that this blueprint is not consistent as far as year to year success is certainly valid. Guys like Newton, RG3, and Colin all saw incredible, albeit, short peaks in their respective careers. So in this regard I cannot say for a fact that Jalen Hurts is a slam dunk franchise QB. He needs to develop his processing, his reads, and his mechanics in order to be a consistent passer. However, I’m confident that he can do that with good coaching. It remains to be seen what the Eagles do at the QB position. Do they trade Wentz? If so, do they take a QB at 6? Or do they stick with Hurts? I do not know the answer. But I do know that if they stick with Hurts, next season will be fun to watch.

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