To the naked eye, the season so far has been a trainwreck for the 1-3-1 Philadelphia Eagles and a game against the Baltimore Ravens won’t fill many with confidence. But are the home team, who are welcoming fans back into the stadium for the first time this season, more prepared than we think?
Not that this would suddenly justify spending a second-round pick, but having Jalen Hurts around this week will certainly be of use to the Eagles when it comes to preparing for Lamar Jackson.
Last year’s MVP has started 2020 just as hot, throwing 9 TD, 2 INT, over 900 yards, and completing 63% of his passes. He’s also leading the Ravens in rushing…so that’s wonderful.
It’s easy to forget just how dynamic Jalen Hurts was during his time at Oklahoma. In 2019, the Heisman runner-up threw for the highest amount of yards in his college career (3,851) with a 69% completion rate and his best touchdown to interception ratio (32:8). Hurts also ran for 1,298 yards. That last part is very important.
When it comes to preparing for Lamar Jackson, many of the concepts Hurts ran at Oklahoma are being copied and changed by the Ravens, like copying your friend’s homework. Having Jalen Hurts emulating Jackson on scout-team will not only be realistic in terms of what to expect this Sunday, but also highlight just how quick Jackson will be in open space, forcing a heavily-criticized group of linebackers to turn it up a notch.
In the same way Joe Ostman has taken on the role of guys like Khalil Mack in the past, earning heavy praise from his defensive coordinator, it would behoove the Eagles to use Hurts to try and present the Eagles with a budget Lamar Jackson to work against in practice this week, which is exactly what they’re doing.
The Eagles added an important piece to their offensive puzzle this past offseason, bringing back former coodinator Marty Mornhinweg. Why would that impact this game specifically?
Most recently, in 2018, he was tasked with the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive transition from a pass-happy attack under Joe Flacco, to the league’s most potent rushing attack — harnessing then-rookie Lamar Jackson’s unique running abilities.
In the last seven games of the season, Jackson averaged 79.4 rushing yards per game, scoring 4 touchdowns in the process.
Mornhinweg also implemented a lot of dual-QB sets (!!), although nothing adventurous really came from these. The Eagles themselves have toyed with 2-QB sets sparingly this season and if there’s ever a coach to give the Ravens a taste of their own medicine, it’s Marty with Jalen Hurts at his disposal.
Hurts completed his first NFL pass last week and while that may not sound like much, it could be enough to tempt the Eagles into more wildcat looks and attempts to throw a ridiculously intimidating linebacking corps off-guard.
Not only that, but Marty has seen all of this before. It’s the Beast he helped create. When it comes to pre-snap reads, the defense may have a helping hand by simply having Marty’s knowledge on hand, being passed onto the defensive coaching staff in order to pick up on certain wrinkles.
“We took a little bit of that and looked at Lamar and what he did and what Marty had done with he and Joe Flacco.” Doug Pederson said. “There’s some carry over there. We obviously looked at Jalen’s college tape and what he did in college at Oklahoma and Alabama. We find ways to incorporate him into the offense. But the stuff that Lamar did early in his career are all things that – maybe not everything, but there are some things that we can put a package together for Jalen that way, sure.”
Eagles offense isn’t as bad as you think
The Eagles defense may have fallen flat on its face against the Steelers, but the offense went down swinging, scoring a season-high 29 points against a defense that had previously ranked towards the top of the NFL in just about every metric. It ranks first in both total and rushing yards.
Carson Wentz and Travis Fulgham were able to keep the Eagles in the game despite being sacked on 12% of snaps – which also happens to be the average mark for the Steelers, ranking 1st in the NFL.
The Ravens defense is menacing, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s not like the Eagles are going into this game after finding some momentum through the air against Pittsburgh, and overcoming a hobbled, yet crafty Niners defense that somehow ranks in the top 10 when it comes to third down percentage and 5th in yards per game.
We may be expecting this game to be a blowout and there’s every chance that it is…but that doesn’t mean the offense won’t be able to hang or that the defense, with the help of Marty Mornhinweg and Jalen Hurts, won’t be suitably prepared.