There was a lot of confusion and concern from Eagles fans across the globe after it was announced that a quarterback had been selected with the team’s second-round pick. Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts was the man in question and naturally, theories ran wild for the next few weeks.
Obviously, the Eagles needed a backup quarterback. Nick Foles had guided the team to a miraculous Super Bowl and an oh-so-nearly NFC Championship appearance one year later, while Josh McCown’s spirited effort was probably a sign that the team can’t rely on vets forever. But as with all Howie Roseman moves, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The Eagles totally revamped their coaching tree this offseason, with offensive coordinator being a primary focus. The spot once inherited by Mike Groh is now inhabited by a group of creative football minds, ranging from Rich Scangarello to Andrew Breiner. But the latest addition to the room is perhaps the most intriguing – the return of Marty Mornhinweg.
Both Doug Pederson and Mornhinweg have worked under Andy Reid and once overlapped each other. Mornhinweg had mixed reviews by the end of his long tenure with the Eagles (2003-20012), but you can’t knock his offensive success that allowed the team to be so prominent in a push to their Super Bowl appearance.
In his time as an NFL coach, he has finished with a top 10 scoring offense nine times, a top 10 passing offense nine times and a top 10 rushing offense nine times. In his 18 years as an OC or HC, he achieved a top 15 offense (in yards) twelve times.
Most recently, Marty spent time in Baltimore as the offensive coordinator – where in 2018 he worked with rookie QB Lamar Jackson and helped formulate his breakout towards the end of the season.
What’s really interesting though is that through weeks 1-9, Lamar Jackson was used on the field at the same time as Flacco, creating a unique threat echoed by Taysom Hill in New Orleans. This is of course interesting when you factor in Press Taylor’s prediction from one year ago:
“I think at some point, one of the big things will be having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball,” Taylor said Monday. “That’s something going forward … You’ve seen the ‘Philly Special,’ you’ve seen all different versions of double passes.
I think at some point I can see something like that coming into play. I’m not necessarily saying that [the Eagles will be] doing anything like that. I just think that can be something that’s pushing the envelope.”
With that in mind, I went back and watched the opening nine games of the Ravens’ season to see how Jackson was used and what it could mean for Hurts.
Passing: 7/11 87 yards
Rushing: 28 attempts, 139 yards
This is really crucial in order to contextualize the tape. I am in no way saying the Eagles will hit copy and paste and use Hurts in a similar way, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see maybe 150 snaps in his rookie season used in these spicy ways.
Something the Ravens ran several times even dating back to preseason with Jackson was a Diamond formation (or inverted wishbone depending how you see it…which is also interesting considering Hurts was called a ‘wishbone guy’ by Mike Gundy). This essentially places two tight ends alongside the QB and a tailback behind him, with two receivers outside. This is often defended by a single safety and demands man coverage.
The tight ends are going to push to the playside and block, with the idea being that if they can take one DE and a linebacker out of the play then there is a wide-open alley for Jackson to read. Should he decide to keep the ball himself, the afterburners charge outside and it’s a big gain. Linebackers can’t just follow the flow of traffic because if they do, Alex Collins exists to burst up the middle.
This play worked much better against the Panthers. Lamar Jackson kept the ball himself and took it eight yards up the field with a clear blocking path for both tight ends leaving him acres of space to work with.
What I want you to do is imagine this look with the following players:
The Ravens also used Lamar Jackson on sweeps and pitches where he’s still able to pass from behind the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, these plays never really ended in an explosive pass, but at least offered some insight as to what could happen down the line in Philadelphia.
They also used Jackson on fake screens/swing passes. Two opportunities stood out as ‘should’ve been’s’. The first was a clear touchdown and the second would leave him one-on-one with a Safety in the open field – a matchup that surely favors Jackson.
Hurts isn’t the same beast as Jackson, but let’s not forget he had over 1,200 rushing yards last year and was even used in two-QB sets with Tua briefly during his time at Alabama. This isn’t new.
Joe Flacco would line up at wide receiver as a decoy on certain plays while Lamar would be the QB lining up in shotgun. My favorite play of all was Flacco and his blocker screaming for the ball in a winnable matchup, but imagine if this was Wentz/Hurts with Brandon Brooks or Jason Kelce. The potential really is spicy.
The Eagles won’t be running round reinventing their offense, but I do think a few plays implementing Hurts per game are likely. Imagine a diamond formation look but it’s a play action. Now you have a single-high and man-coverage on Reagor and Jackson outside? How is that not a truly terrifying idea?
There is every chance that Marty brings some of these concepts with him in his return to Philadelphia and it could allow Jalen Hurts to have a much bigger role than simply holding a clipboard.
Liam is a 24-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
You can contact him here: Phillysportsnetwork@gmail.com