With the Super Bowl now in the rear-view mirror, we’re already seeing plenty of analysis on what the Eagles can take from the Rams’ stunning victory. We’ve all heard the theory that defense wins championships and while that may be true to a certain degree, the NFL has changed drastically in recent years due to the phenomenal talent at Quarterback. But these young studs can’t do it alone.
With his first full season now complete, Jalen Hurts will be entering a crucial year in his career. His vision, accuracy, and decision-making have all been heavily criticized during his first actual season but how can the Eagles help their young QB get ahead of the curve? Here are a couple of ideas that I believe will be crucial to helping Hurts take that next step.
There’s nothing more important to the QB than his pass-catchers. Hurts was limited this season to 2.5 reliable receivers. We all know that DeVonta Smith is a baller and will only get better as time goes by. Dallas Goedert is also another star in the making as he’s catapulted himself into the upper echelon of NFL Tight Ends.
Then there’s Quez Watkins, who was hot and cold due to the lack of vision and poor decision-making of Hurts. In several games, there were moments where you would find Watkins all alone after he beat his defender. The lack of confidence in Hurts truly stunted Watkins’ numbers.
Unfortunately, Quez Watkins isn’t a solid number two wide receiver in the NFL. He doesn’t carry the presence that DeVonta Smith does or the consistency needed to be that guy. We’re all aware that Jalen Reagor is nonexistent. The lack of growth in his game has really hurt the Eagles’ offense and has led to more questions than answers at this point.
The Eagles front office has to make this position a top priority during the offseason. They need a big-time receiver to line up with DeVonta Smith. They could go for a receiver with a big catch radius like Mike Williams or another route technician like Calvin Ridley. One player would be far more attainable than the other but that’s exactly who the Eagles need to fish for. Ridley could be available via trade and also has a rich history with QB Jalen Hurts as the two have been close friends since their time together in Alabama.
We all know that Jalen Hurts is full of great punchlines and has more motivational quotes than your favorite historian, but he still needs to be coached harder. We all saw what happened when Sirianni got in his face in the game against the Washington Football team. Hurts fumbled the ball during the offense’s second possession of the game and Sirianni let him have it afterward, but Hurts wouldn’t have it any other way.
The fact that Hurts took the heat and responded positively shows that the Eagles’ coaches need to keep their foot on the gas when it comes to his play.
Building his confidence
Hurts was heavily criticized for his bad habit of bailing on the pocket before it collapsed. At times, the defense used that fear against him to force him out of the pocket in hopes of disrupting the offense. It worked in their favor for the majority of the time as long as Hurts didn’t break free. Jalen has a very weird sense of awareness in the pocket that’s hindered his growth so far. Yes, everyone loves when Hurts rushes the ball and gets “freaky” in the open field but how long can that last?
We saw what happened to RGIII and how short of a career he had. Michael Vick was the true anomaly as he relied on his football IQ and big arm more often. Donovan McNabb abandoned the run altogether to become a better pocket passer. Hurts hasn’t developed that level of confidence and awareness yet but having him work heavily on that this offseason will be key to his growth as well the growth of his receivers. Hurts has to learn to trust his playmakers and improve on the timing of his release as well.
One last thing that may hold more value than the others is trust. Can the young Eagles QB trust that the organization has his best interests at heart? He witnessed the brutal divorce with Pederson and Wentz firsthand. He also dealt with all of the rumors of Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson this season and that’s not likely to die down during the offseason.
Yes, Howie and Nick both vouched for Hurts but Howie did the same thing last offseason for Carson Wentz. What has changed since? No one knows and may never know until either something happens or Hurts is the QB1 on opening day.
If Jalen is the guy right now then there’s needs to be a bigger vote of confidence for him. It has to be something very convincing and open to the public. The Eagles have had too many leaks about too many situations for the last 6 years. If they want Jalen to compete with the best then he needs to know that they’re in his corner for the long haul.
There are several things that could really help the growth of Jalen Hurts and also lead to his future success with the franchise. The Eagles need to buckle down and give it all they have, even if it means he fails. If he fails then you already have a good foundation built for the next young QB.
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