It’s late June and many of the teams figures are in the building as the final days of OTA’s come to a close. There seems to be a lot of buzz around the Philadelphia Eagles this off-season and for good reason. General manager Howie Roseman has orchestrated what many would consider to be his finest off-season dating back to his one and only Super Bowl run.
Beginning with the splash signing of Hasson Reddick, Roseman essentially pulled out all the stops. He stole the show on draft day, and put an emphatic cherry on top with the most recent signing of cornerback James Bradberry.
Optimism is running rampant throughout the streets of Philadelphia, yet it never seems to matter where any conversation begins, they all end the same way: The Eagles will go as far as Jalen Hurts takes them — but just how far remains to be seen.
However, if the way Hurts ended OTA’s is a sign of things to come, Philadelphia may be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.
Hurts finished the final day of OTAs completing 10/14 passes with two beautiful 40-yard strikes for touchdowns on consecutive plays. By all accounts, Hurts looks fundamentally better from top to bottom and has a much better correlation between his upper and his lower body. Much of which can be contributed to the work Hurts put in during the off-season, spending time with the likes of Tom House and those at 3DQB.
“The reason we know Jalen is going to continue to get better is because of the character. He’s just the type of guy that’s going to reach his maximum potential because of the off the field qualities he has. I’ve also noticed just the crispness of the drop, it’s the fundamentals. The fundamentals have improved.” Eagles Head Coach, Nick Sirianni
The final game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left a nasty taste in the mouth of many in regards to the future of the Philadelphia’s quarterback position and Jalen Hurts. Rightfully so, it was ugly to say the least.
The Eagles were down 31-0 at halftime and scoreless for three quarters before finding themselves on the brink of a red zone trip thanks to a Jalen Reagor punt return.
Despite resulting in a score two plays later, Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense had no answers for Todd Bowles and his pressure heavy defense. No where to run, no where to hide, and apparently no where to read; Hurts finished the day an abysmal 24-43 passing with 258 passing yards, a touchdown, and two costly interceptions.
For many, it’s what Hurts did during the game that leaves a resounding memory. For some, on the other hand, it’s what Hurts did after.
“I think for us as a football team this game does not define us,” Hurts said following the playoff matchup. “We know all the different things we’ve overcome. We know the environment we’ve built as a football team and as an organization.’
That’s been typical Jalen Hurts since the days of ‘Big Red’ and the memories of riding to and from practice in the family truck with his coach and father Averion Hurts Sr. The man he said taught him this ‘cool as the other side of the pillow’ demeanor that has become his trademark of sorts.
“I don’t think Jalen’s father gets enough credit, honestly,” Joseph Goodman of AL.com told The Philly Blitz.
“Jalen’s dad is a great football coach in his own right and a better father. He gave Jalen the tools to succeed in life before Jalen ever stepped foot on Alabama’s campus.”
Nick Saban is widely regarded as the one of the best head coaches in the history of football. His Alabama teams have spent the better part of two decades dominating the landscape of an entire country.
Win after win, recruit after recruit, draft pick after draft pick; yet up until recently the play at the quarterback position hasn’t really translated to the next level. Mostly because Saban likes a dominant defense and a heavy dose of the run game as his bread and butter. This, however, is also partly due to preferences.
It takes a lot to be a Nick Saban quarterback, mostly the ability to not make mistakes. It’s essentially a process of learning how to comfortably operate within the parameters offense he has in place for you. Easier said than done. See, he isn’t looking for a superstar or a game changer, what he’s looking for was Jalen Hurts.
“Jalen came in to Alabama and was easily coachable his freshman season and that’s what Alabama needed at QB that season,” Goodman continued. “Jalen Hurts as a pro is already a proven winner and he’s consistent. That goes a long way in NFL locker rooms.”
There’s a reason that Hurts was the first Crimson Tide freshman to win the starting quarterback job since 1984. Hurts has stated that Saban was the reason he attended Alabama citing his relentless competitiveness, abilities to take a straight on approach to what he does and how much similarities there are between the two. Much of which was on full display during his time in Tuscaloosa from beginning to the end.
If anyone knows about adversity it’s Jalen Hurts.
We’re talking about a kid who lost two games as a starter in the SEC. Hurts went 28-2 as a starter at Alabama to be exact. Yet during the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship, he was benched. But, he didn’t run from it, he stayed.
Jalen Hurts is built for redemption. We’ve seen it no matter where he’s went. The SEC Championship game when he was called upon to step in for an injured Tua Tagovailoa against Georgia, his ability to completely recreate himself as a passer at Oklahoma with Lincoln Riley, operating as a gimmick weapon for the first half of his rookie season before being called on to start the final four games, and restarting all over again with a rookie head coach and new offensive system in his first year as a full time starter.
Now we’ve reached what I’d like to call Hurts 3.0 and as he said, “what ever it is I’m born for that storm. I’m built to overcome it.”
“Jalen is unflappable mentally and that has been the thing to set him apart in the end. I don't know if he's ever going to get the respect he deserves, but I know that if it's the fourth quarter of a close game and my team is riding with Jalen Hurts then I'm good with that.” JOSEPH GOODMAN OF AL.COM (VIA THE PHILLY BLITZ)
So what is it about this situation that makes it any different? The thing about Hurts is, he isn’t the poster boy of what the modern quarterback looks like. Sure he’s mobile, but so are many of his positional peers and we know the old tale of time: you can’t win in this league without a quarterback who can consistently beat defenses with his arm.
However, what if Jalen Hurts was different? While sure there aren’t many of these but for every three Tim Tebow’s there is a Joe Burrow or Cam Newton. Of course, the common difference between Jalen and the two latter individuals is that they were National Champions and first overall picks in the NFL Draft. Yet there is a common denominator between those two and Hurts that sets them apart from the rest: intestinal fortitude.
Translation: These guys are built different; see not everyone could watch the world around them crumble and have the inept abilities to reset, reclaim, and conquer.
“I don’t know if there are necessarily any tangible obstacles; I think there’s merely a stigma that a franchise quarterback has to be an elite thrower of the football,” said Parker Thune of 24/7 Sports.
“However, that’s never been an impediment to his game. He sets himself apart with his intelligence, mobility, and willingness to take calculated risks,” Thune continued.
While Hurts may not be your typical quarterback, he has proven time and time again that he is a winner. Surely everyone wishes that this passing display Hurts put on within the second half of the Chargers game and the first half of the Broncos game became a general norm for the pride of Houston, Texas. However, we must come to appreciate things such as Hurts being one of two players in NFL history to have 10+ rushing touchdowns and 750+ rushing yards.
Hurts loves to call himself a rare breed, it’s become his mantra of sorts and to an extent he’s correct. Where everyone is looking for the show-stopping haymaker, boxers like Floyd Mayweather reign supreme because of their boring yet effective way to manipulate the numbers into their favor. Remember this is an Eagles team that ranked fourth in the league last season in terms of third down efficiency (45.1%) and a big part of that was the offense’s ability to set themselves up in third and short situations a lot of the time.
“You’ll never see Hurts fire a flick of the wrist like Kyler Murray, and you’ll never see him deliver a sizzling strike across his body like Aaron Rodgers. But he doesn’t need to be flashy to be effective; That’s the Jalen Hurts Way. To put it in baseball terms, for every Randy Johnson, there is a Greg Maddux. Just a pitcher who can thrive on control rather than power, a quarterback doesn’t need to have that ‘wow’ factor to be successful.” PARKER THUNE OF 24/7 SPORTS (VIA THE PHILLY BLITZ)
With Hurts having a full year as the starter under his belt, while we may not know what the finished product may look like, we have a generally good idea of the player, his skillset, and most importantly how all of that translates into the Philadelphia Eagles offense. The latter being the most important given Hurts hasn’t played in the same offensive system since he was in high school.
On the other hand, while Hurts may officially be entrenched as the Eagles starter heading into the 2022 season, it’s worth noting two specific factors that may play a role over the course of the next calendar year:
- 1) Most notably the Eagles have the ace card up their sleeves having both their own and the New Orleans Saint first round picks next year. Not to mention having a plethora of other capital at their disposal for future drafts, Philadelphia is in prime position to make a play on a quarterback in a class that has the early looks of a strong group.
- 2) Something that is see often forgotten or just never mentioned; the Eagles did not use a first round selection on Jalen Hurts. The same Jalen Hurts that is heading into his third official NFL season despite what the number of starts may say. The Eagles do not have the luxury of utilizing a fifth-year option on Jalen Hurts because once again he was not a first-round draft pick. If everything goes well for Hurts, he could be looking at a significant payday next off-season, and if he isn’t, well this price tag does nothing but grow. You’ve missed out on possibly your best chance to acquire a replacement, and unless you break the bank you’ve set your franchise back three-five years; which could possibly be the case even if you pay him.
Simply put, this season will play a pivotal role in the direction of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise for the foreseeable future. I often say it takes an organizational commitment from top to bottom in order for a quarterback to reach their true potential. This being owner, general manager, coaching staff, and locker room in that specific order.
Hurts is amongst the most beloved players in the locker room, the belief from the coaching staff seems to be unwavering given Sirianni’s comments during the off-season and of course his long standing relationship with quarterback coach Brian Johnson. The only source of doubt could only be traced back to the front office and given the direction of the teams recent roster construction, even that is disputable at this point.
"They have confidence in the player and his development track. Players, coaches, and the front office all feel that way. How much of a commitment he gets from them will depend on how far he shows he can progress in the passing game this season. If he shows he can take advantage of what the defense presents in coverage and make the right decisions with the correct process, they’ll be much less concerned about drafting a quarterback in ‘23 and possibly work on an extension if they feel comfortable enough. He’ll have to show significant development in his process from the pass game, but I have no doubt that he’s applying himself and doing everything possible. Both sides have done the right things to show me that they have a real interest in making it work." THE HONEST NFL (VIA THE PHILLY BLITZ)
We know who Hurts is and what we all believe he can be, but what remains to be seen is if he can he take the next leap in his development to get there. There is a general consensus that he can/will take that next step, the only question being is how much closer does that put him to those in the upper echelon?
Ladies and gentlemen we have arrived. We’ve reached what could be considered the end game, the point where Philadelphia — while securing an insurance policy — has essentially pushed all their chips in on Jalen Hurts.
An offense tailored to his skillset, a roster dramatically improved, and the acquisition of who Hurts considers to be his best friend. To be quite honest, the kid has no excuses; but knowing Hurts I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way.
(Cover Image Credit: Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)