When the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who thought it was a logical move. Carson Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract the summer before to be the guy. Why would Howie Roseman and the Eagles spend a second-round pick on another QB?
We all know how it’s worked out. Wentz was ultimately released, bounced around with the Commanders and Colts and recently signed with the Los Angeles Rams to be the backup to Matthew Stafford. Hurts is once again in the MVP discussion for a second straight season and leading the Eagles to yet another impressive season.
Jalen Hurts is consistently improving
From the time Jalen Hurts started the final four games of that 2020 season to this week’s showdown with the Chiefs, the fourth-year quarterback has shown that he is consistently putting in the work to improve his game. Here’s a breakdown of his previous two seasons as the full-time starter:
2021: 8-7 record, 61.3 Cmp%, 3,144 Yds, 16 TD, 9 INT, 48.5 QBR.
-Rushing Stats: 139 Att, 784 Yds, 10 TD.
2022: 14-1 record, 66.5 Cmp%, 3,701 Yds, 22 TD, 6 INT, 86.3 QBR
-Rushing Stats: 165 Att, 760 Yds, 13 TD.
-Finished 2nd in MVP voting and 3rd in Offensive Player of the Year voting
Hurts took the league by storm last year with his dual-threat ability and minimal mistakes in decision making. It was one of the most impressive seasons put together by an Eagles quarterback.
Changing his game
There are some differences between last year and this year for Jalen Hurts. His injury to his right knee appears to be limiting his running ability, hampering the constant threat of his two-way playmaking skillset. The early turnovers he had in the first six games of the season (7 INT, 1 fumble lost) certainly raised some flags.
However, he is managing the pain of his injury and cleaned up the turnover issue. He’s thrown just one interception over 92 passing attempts in the past three games and the fumble he lost on the goal line, albeit a backbreaker at the time in the Washington win, was more on center Jason Kelce.
The more apparent difference this season, is Jalen Hurts’ ability to show he can also be an exceptional pocket passer, especially over the last three games where the Eagles are 3-0 with wins over Miami, Washington and Dallas. He has played nearly flawless football, driving the offense down the field to find the end zone when it matters most all while using his legs less.
Hurts has run the ball just 25 times over that three-game span for 63 yards. That’s an average of 2.5 yards per carry. In the previous six games, he had 63 attempts for 253 yards while nearly doubling his yards per attempt at 4.02. It’s hard to imagine the knee bruise he has been dealing with hasn’t limited his running ability whether Hurts himself will ever admit it or not.
What the injury hasn’t limited, is his ability to pass from the pocket with precision and efficiency. Take for example, the second half performance in the Dallas game after the whole city fell silent watching Jalen Hurts slowly get up and hobble his way to the sideline to end the second quarter.
The Oklahoma product came out of the locker room went 7-for-10 for 87 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. He finished the night with 207 yards, two passing touchdowns, a rushing score and a 130.2 rating in the huge win over the Cowboys.
Over his last three games where Jalen Hurts has noticeably taken fewer rushing attempts either by design or out of necessity to elude a sack, his ability to command the pocket, move around while keeping his eyes down field and delivering accurate throws has been impressive. The numbers back it up.
He’s completing 75% of his passes, has thrown for 805 yards, eight touchdowns to just the one interception while his QBR is 125.5. If he were to keep this pace up over the course of the next 17 games he would throw for 4,562 yards, 45 touchdowns. Those are automatic MVP winning numbers right there.
Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan knew a thing or two about adapting. The “Ryan Express” pitched until he was 46-years-old.
“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.”-Nolan Ryan
What Jalen Hurts is doing is just that. He’s adapting. He’s changing his style of play.
Is it because he has no choice because of his knee injury? Or is it yet another step in the right direction for an athlete who has consistently shown that he will do whatever it takes to win?
Either way, the Eagles are in a very good position because of it.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum