Prior to week 12, the dialogue around the Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts was centered around being “set” with Hurts for at least the next year despite a lot of picks in the 2022 draft.
Fast forward to the present day, the Eagles have reached their bye week and there’s an uproar about a quarterback controversy.
To put it bluntly, there is no quarterback controversy.
Gardner Minshew performed at a high level in a game where he ‘Derek-Carr-vs-the-Eagles’-ed the Jets, completing 20/25 passes with 2 touchdowns.
However, Sirianni put faith in Hurts. A decision I thoroughly agree with both schematically and what I personally see with Jalen Hurts.
Sirianni is right to believe Hurts should be the starting quarterback and the explanation is simple.
Hurts is an enticing athlete, in that he can be effective as both a passer and a runner. Opposing defenses have to account for Hurts’ legs, in addition to him as a passer. Something we’ve seen with the Ravens to a devastating degree with Louisville alumni, Lamar Jackson. Minshew’s performance was impressive, however, we’ve seen Hurts perform at a similar level earlier in the season. Not to diminish Mr Moustache’s performance – it was stellar, but there’s genuine reasons why Sirianni wants to start Hurts.
The rise of Jalen Hurts isn’t as incredible as some of the other stories the league has seen, but it does merit some praise.
The 2020 2nd round pick entered the league with a lot of question marks with his pocket presence, his passing, and his tendency to rely upon the run. However, under Sirianni and Steichen Hurts has shown brilliant pocket presence in games against the Falcons and Broncos, whilst also shredding teams as a runner. The Eagles coaching staff has evolved their offensive philosophy over the course of the season.
Early on, they were a pass happy unit. However, as of late, they’ve leaned on the run and taken the onus off of the arm of Hurts.
But the growth of his mechanics are only the tip of the iceberg as to why Jalen Hurts is such an enticing quarterback; his ability in the run AND passing game is what really interests me about the Oklahoma alumni and how the league has responded to it.
The Eagles entered week 11 and week 12 facing two of the NFL’s top ranked rushing defenses and dropped 380+ total yards on both teams. To say it was just the offensive line (as amazing as the unit was) or the skill of the running backs, is disingenuous.
The Saints and Broncos couldn’t handle Hurts on zone reads and when plays broke down due to good coverage. Hurts ran for a combined 124 yards and became the first quarterback in Eagles history to rush for 3 touchdowns in a single game against the Saints.
You can’t give up on a quarterback who can leave one of the NFL’s best defenses absolutely clueless whenever he plays against them.
There are not many quarterbacks in the NFL that can affect a defense that way, period. Of course, a few have that claim in football history, the likes of Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson have terrorized defenses for years now with their dual threat abilities.
But what allows me to be interested in Jalen Hurts is the evidence we’ve seen of him terrorizing defenses his own way. Against the 49ers (although it was a loss) he showed he can throw deep. Against the Lions and Broncos showed he could rely on the run, run a dominant RPO game and pass with some beauty when needed.
But the main thing Hurts has that many other young quarterbacks don’t have claim to, is the Eagles level of productivity with him as the signal caller. His offensive personnel right now is made up of Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders, and a lot of unproven receiver talent, yet the unit has scored around/over 30 points on six different occasions in 13 games and are 5-1 in those respective games. The offense failed to score 30 in any of their 16 games in 2020. The Eagles offense ranks 10th in scoring.
The strength of the Eagles offense is undoubtedly their rushing attack, but it starts with Hurts, who operates as the point guard of the entire attack. Defenses have to account for Hurts’ legs. On read options, zone reads, designed QB keepers, and plays when the pocket breaks down. And if they don’t, Hurts will make them pay.
There are going to be ups and downs with any young quarterback. As a young quarterback he’s going to have games where you will see your hairlines recede (see week 12). Hurts is developing, but he’s definitely shown flashes (see first half of week 10). With the ability that Hurts’ has shown to keep defenses guessing, it’d behoove the Eagles organization and fans to be patient with Hurts.
Will Hurts be a franchise quarterback? That is a subjective question. There are no statistical criteria, no contractual guarantees, and no certain amount of experience that Jalen Hurts must obtain in order to become a franchise quarterback. However, the NFL has shown that teams have had major success with a quarterback that adds wrinkles to their system and keeps opposing defenses guessing.
With a league that’s still questioning Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones’ franchise merits years after being drafted, I think it’s safe to assume Jalen Hurts will be “the guy” in Philadelphia for now.
Jalen Hurts is one the most intriguing young quarterbacks in football. Sure, I’m biased to an extent, but when you have a young quarterback that has proved he can improve, and in the process be one of the most productive quarterbacks in football, you can’t help but have interest. How high will Jalen Hurts rise? Let’s just say he looks like he could fly.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports