The preseason debut of Jalen Hurts isn’t being praised enough

Eagles quez watkins
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) celebrates his touchdown with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Thursday night’s preseason opener might not have gone entirely too plan for the Philadelphia Eagles, but that doesn’t matter. What really counts is that first-time Head Coach Nick Sirianni was given his first in-game setting to evaluate the team he’s been given the assignment of developing. Perhaps more important than most, he got to see how Jalen Hurts looked after a slightly wobbly Training Camp.

Hurts was coming off of a strange rookie season. Having been given the starting role against the Green Bay Packers in relief of a struggling Carson Wentz, the former second-round pick demonstrated plenty of athletic ability, but some rawness as a passer. He struggled to come off of his opening read (which could be partly attributed to a leaky OL) and his accuracy was sporadic. As far as expectations for his first Summer under Sirianni, footwork was the name of the game and after some bumpy practices, fans were keen to see how he’d look in his first ever preseason game.

Thursday night saw Jalen Hurts walk out onto the field with a sense of confidence in his stride. He may have only completed 3/7 passes while breaking off a four yard run, but there was actually a lot to like – something his Head Coach was keen to acknowledge.

Gosh, you know, I thought he played better than I even thought when I got into the room on Thursday night. I just thought he was in complete command of the offense. Again, we’re talking about ten plays, but you’re still evaluating those like it’s 60. So great command of the offense, great checks. Perfect ball to [TE] Dallas [Goedert] on that check that he made that allowed — when you put the ball where he put that ball, that’s where you get yards after catch, and Dallas was strong with the run. But, yeah, was really pleased with the way he played. You know, there’s one or two that I’m like, ‘Ah, I wanted you to step up and rip it back to the back side.’ But, we’re learning from that.

Hurts may have missed on a deep ball to Quez Watkins, but for me, the biggest takeaway was a throw out of bounds. Leaving the pocket, Hurts looked for options downfield before realizing he was going to take a hit. Instead of playing ‘hero ball’ like Wentz used to, Hurts lofted it over a defender out of bounds. No YOLO attempt while being sacked, no ball flailing in his throwing arm as he’s going to the ground that could cause a fumble, just a smart play.

Ball security has been a theme for the Birds this offseason and it’s clear to see. Playing smart football will win games. The aforementioned four-yard rush saw Hurts dive forward to cut the play short as opposed to overextending and opening himself up to an unnecessary hit and/or potential turnover. This is huge considering Hurts fumbled the rock nine times last year. It’s also something Sirianni noted on Saturday.

Know when to protect yourself and know when to extend plays. One of the greatest abilities that he has though is to extend plays. But there’s also a time when you have to know, ‘Hey, this play is done, play the next play. Save yourself a hit.’ So, it really is play-by-play, and it’s like, ‘Did I think you should extend this one? No. Did I think you did a good job of extending this one? Yeah.’ And just trying to teach it just like you teach any other thing.

Hurts may not have lit up the field like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, but he also didn’t lay an egg or raise reason for concern, which in itself is just as impressive. Hurts has a very dynamic skillset, but wasn’t open to leaning on it every single play, like we saw as a rookie. He was calm, composed, and and smart…and that might be the biggest compliment you could give a quarterback who looked shaky at the best of times, and was overly reliant on his legs at others as a rookie.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire