When Jason Kelce stood up in his mummer’s costume during the Super Bowl LII parade, he went on a long tangent about all the different criticisms that were being lashed out across the team. The biggest underdog season in Eagles history had finished with the team as Super Bowl champions. Fast forward to five years after that fateful celebration, and the Eagles have a brand new player to rally behind as the chief underdog that is proving people wrong – Jalen Hurts
Since his time at Alabama, Jalen Hurts has been touted as a limited passer: someone whose skillset won’t be able to translate to the NFL game, and ultimately limit any team he is on. But as the former transfer has gotten better, the goalposts have moved significantly over what Hurts can be, and how limited of a ceiling he has.
Jalen Hurts making strides
When Hurts came to the Philadelphia Eagles, his intangibles were through the roof, but he struggled with poise in the pocket, arm strength, and timing/accuracy. His first year as a starting quarterback in 2021 led the Eagles to an unlikely playoff berth but left many fans and analysts still in doubt of the quarterback’s viability as a passer.
Through two games of the 2022 season, Hurts is showing the meteoric improvements fans had been hoping for, and has Philadelphia considering the possibility that their long-awaited franchise quarterback is already on the roster.
Philadelphia is 2-0 in the early season, and Jalen Hurts is a big reason why. He’s the highest-rated quarterback per Pro Football Focus and has thrown for 576 yards with four combined touchdowns.
Those are the basic numbers that everyone can see on a website. But looking deep into the film, Hurts’ true improvements are being shown as a stark contrast to those who argued that a large jump couldn’t be done.
Seeing the Whole Field
A major knock on Hurts in 2021 was his inability to throw the football to his left or use the middle of the field to his advantage. Most of the quarterback’s damage in 2021 came from the right side of the field.
In just the first two weeks of the 2022 season, the improvements Hurts’ has shown in the offseason are being presented live for everyone to see.
In Monday Night’s victory over Minnesota, Hurts completed 21 of his 26 completions on the left, or middle of the field. A very clear demarcation point of a quarterback seeing the whole field and throwing in rythymn.
Reading a defense is a part of every single quarterback’s game. In the 2021 playoff loss to Tampa, the Buccaneers joked that Hurts wasn’t reading and he was easy pickings.
Hurts took that blowout loss to heart because his improvements through the first two weeks of the season are as startling a jump as we’ve seen in NFL history.
Jalen Hurts worked with several quarterback coaches this past offseason to improve mechanics and it has clearly worked. The accuracy and timing improvements were on full display Monday night.
Whether it was stepping up in the pocket to make excellent throws on third down, fitting throws into places that only his receiver can get it, or moving the pocket with intent to throw, Hurts’ improved timing and accuracy is a big reason why Philadelphia is 2-0.
Jalen Hurts dazzles with arm strength
The term “noodle arm” has been used by Hurts’ critics quite often over the last few years. NFL scouts believed he didn’t have enough zip on his throws to make throws that Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes can make.
Of course, those same critics don’t understand that arm talent isn’t the same as arm strength. Arm talent is something you’re born with, arm strength is something you can build through hard work and practice.
Guess which one Jalen Hurts has shown through two weeks?
Whether it’s a perfectly placed deep ball to AJ Brown in week one, or a long touchdown to Quez Watkins, Hurts has shown the ability to make defenders pay in the early portion of the season.
Arguably Hurts’ best throw through two games is one that didn’t even count. In the third quarter on Monday night, with the team already up big, Hurts moved the pocket to escape pressure and lofted a perfectly thrown pass to a streaking Quez Watkins for a 40-yard completion.
The play didn’t count, but Hurts showed off his arm strength, mechanics, and accuracy all in one play. To move across your body, and fling a football 40 yards accurately is impressive. It’s a major difference from last season when the quarterback would tuck and run, or simply throw the ball away.
The comp to other greats
It’s easy to argue that players like Mahomes and Allen do this all the time. The top quarterbacks in football are more consistent and have done it longer, sure. But Hurts is proving he can hang.
The mark on Hurts was that his limited skillset coming out of college might limit a jump at the next level. Few expected a meteoric rise like Josh Allen in 2020. That is being proven false through the first two weeks of the 2022 season.
If Hurts can show consistency with these improvements, his name and second season as a starter could be compared to some of the major shifts in NFL history. The improvements he has made already come in contrast to what people said he couldn’t do. I wouldn’t bet against the guy showing even more throughout the season.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum