If the Eagles can’t use Jalen Hurts properly, it’s time to stop trying

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) celebrates after a two-point conversion in the second half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Ever since Howie Roseman shocked the world by drafting Jalen Hurts in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft, Eagles fans have fixated their eyes on the Oklahoma product. The Eagles were quick to shut down any hearsay of Hurts being brought in to replace Wentz, and doubled down on the idea of him being selected as an explosive offensive playmaker and developmental option. Nine weeks into the season and we have more questions than we do answers.

Eagles suitably prepared for the arrival of Jalen Hurts

The Eagles decided to go for an ‘offensive coordinator by committee’ approach this year after parting ways with Mike Groh. In his place, Andrew Breiner, Rich Scangarello, and former Eagles coordinator Marty Mornhinweg stepped up. The last name of the three had most recently coached Lamar Jackson during his rookie year in Baltimore, facilitating numerous 2-QB sets with the soon-to-be MVP and Joe Flacco. This, included with Scangarello’s play-action success, and Andrew Breiner’s ability to develop dual-threat QB’s at the collegiate level, all pointed towards a new look Eagles offense in 2020. That hasn’t happened.

The good news is that Jalen Hurts has been used in most games this season, showing an intent to diversify the offense. The bad news is that Jalen Hurts has been used in most games this season and the offense could not get any less exciting.

What’s going wrong?

Of his 27 snaps this season, he’s ran the ball 11 times for 50 yards, with nearly half of them coming on one play, and completed both of his attempted passes (9 and 18 yards). He’s also caught one pass for 3 yards. The rest of his snaps have essentially comprised of read-options that go absolutely nowhere.

Whether it’s 2nd and 10, or a 2-pt conversion attempt, the Eagles continue to run identical looks with Hurts in the game, disrupting the rhythm of their offense and giving defenses an easy stop. Hurts is supposed to spark the offense, not eliminate any momentum it formerly had.

There as one play this year where Hurts and Wentz looked as though they were going to complete a lateral flea-flicker. Outside of that, nothing.

Wentz is often on the field as a blocker and while his full commitment to finishing his assignment is impressive, it does somewhat limit what the Eagles can do, given that they were already down to bare bones at the position. It’s just one less option for defenses to worry about, and one more sign a Hurts ‘keeper’ is on the way.

Pederson bites back

When asked about the reasoning behind this in a press conference on Monday, and why he doesn’t take Wentz off the field as the Saints do with Drew Brees when Taysom Hill features, Pederson gave a very short, blunt, and frustrated answer.

“Sure. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good idea.” He said.

When reporter Jeff McLane pressed and asked why he is yet to try it, Pederson was quick to shut it down with some sass.

“It’s a great idea. Something we’ll look into.”

Later on, he finally gave a detailed response about the featuring of Hurts in the offense, but it wasn’t one fans anticipated.

“I think early on, we’ve been very explosive with him. Gosh, I think we were close to 11 or 12 yards per attempt when he was in the game, something like that. I would say here recently, defenses are playing him a little bit differently. They have had chances to scout him. I think it goes back to Jeff’s question where, sure, we could probably do a little bit more with him.”

The Eagles may have been averaging close to 11 yards per pass when he’s in the game, but if they’re discussing his two pass attempts of 9 and 18 yards, that’s bound to be the case. What doesn’t average out at 11 yards per attempt are endless read-options that suck the living soul out of an offense.

What does the future hold for Jalen Hurts?

If the Eagles are going to insist on using Jalen Hurts, they have to do more than just deploy him as a glorified handoff merchant. This isn’t a UDFA with athletic upside, or a WR with former quarterbacking experience.

This is a Heisman runner up. A QB who threw for the highest amount of yards in his college career last season (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.

Every time the Eagles send Hurts out, who proceeds to fumble the ball or run into a brick wall, it kills the offense. If Doug Pederson can’t answer a genuine question about his usage without nibbling, that’s worrying.

If the Eagles cannot add more wrinkles or find ways to use Hurts productively, then it’s time to stop forcing the issue. They’ve had nine games to figure out ways to deploy 2-QB sets, with two of the best talents to make the plays work, and some coaching minds who have helped facilitate plenty of creative ideas in the past. None of that is on show right now. It’s time to expand the playbook or just keep him out of it entirely. Staying safe and cozy with read-options is hurting the offense, it’s hurting Wentz, and it’s hurting Jalen Hurts.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire