Philly fans, grab your popcorn.
It’s time to reflect on our quarterback.
Jalen Hurts entered the 2022 NFL season with a common theme from NFL fans. Eagles fans watched in dismay as the Buccaneers exposed their quarterback’s inability to move the ball through the air. Hurts ended his postseason debut with a 41.2 PFF passer grade and left the Philadelphia faithful wondering if he was their franchise quarterback.
So began the talk of the “make or break” year. The Eagles possess two first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. With seemingly no gaping holes on their roster, and a wealth of quarterback prospect talent, the multiple selections could be leveraged into snagging a premium signal caller.
Fortunately, it seems Hurts has quelled those rumours, and then some.
Hurts entered his third season as pro with questions.
The 2021 season was an interesting ride. Philadelphia began the season with a pass first offence, to the point where Eagles faithful cheered in relief when Miles Sanders finally got a carry. The unbalanced scheme resulted in a 2-5 start and some questions to the effectiveness of the roster on both sides of the ball.
The coaching staff finally pivoted to a run-first attack, pounding their way to a 7-3 record to close out the year. Consequently, Hurts’ passing efficiency was called into question. Six of his eight appearances in that stretch came with under 200 passing yards. Taking high volume passing responsibilities from him did not silence any doubters. His competency as a franchise quarterback was being questioned.
Alternatively, Hurts did contribute significantly to the league’s best rushing attack. The dominant ground game was led by Hurts, who had a team high 784 rushing yards and ten touchdowns. He had a total of 90 designed runs. Those intentional ground attacks contributed to 368 yards, whilst his 50 scramble attempts resulted in 416 yards. His legs accounted for an impressive 56 first downs. Hurts finished the year with an impressive 86.6 PFF rushing grade and a solid 73.4 passing grade.
Contrastingly, Hurts’ ball security has been poor. In his first season, in which he notched just four starts, he fumbled the ball nine times. In 2021, he had another nine. The third-year quarterback needed to make this a point of emphasis for his third season as pro, especially due to the weight of this year’s performance on his future.
Jalen Hurts has arrived.
The Eagles have soared to a 3-0 start in the 2022 season, behind their quarterback’s exceptional play thus far. Their signal caller’s development has been evident, as he has lifted his completion percentage to a fantastic 67.3%. He has amassed 916 yards passing, four touchdowns and one interception. Hurts has also shown his development in his ability to make various throws. His deep balls have become a thing of beauty, as well as his fantastic accuracy slicing short and intermediate throws.
Furthermore, his chemistry with AJ Brown has been evident. The elite receiver was acquired in a trade in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft and is a close friend of Hurts. The fourth year receiver has tallied 309 receiving yards through the first three weeks, fifth in the NFL.
Second year pass catcher DeVonta Smith has also contributed significantly. The former Alabama teammates have connected for 249 yards through the air in the last two weeks, after a surprising shutout in Smith’s first outing. He showed the ability to make some incredible contested catches, and is solidifying himself as an elite NFL wide receiver.
Hurts leads the league in yards per attempt and yards per completion this season also. His passer rating is 106.5 through the first three games, and PFF have given him an impressive 88.2 passing grade. The impressive start is not without any potential improvement, however. Hurts has completed just nine of his 24 attempts under pressure this season, for just 98 yards. That being said, that accounted for 36 of his drop backs, and still earned Hurts a grade of 67.2 as a passer in those situations. He seems to have had three almost perfect games, and is definitely a top five MVP candidate.
On the ground, Hurts has not been as effective as a runner in the early stages of this season. He has done significant damage as a scrambler, racking up 121 yards from just 18 attempts. The regression has come primarily from his designed runs, where Hurts has gained just 41 yards from 21 attempts. Still, he has found the end zone three times with his legs, so cause for concern may be overlooked. Also, he has broken four tackles this year after breaking just nine last season.
What’s Next For Hurts?
Hurts is on pace for 5,190 passing yards this season.
Do I think that is a fair expectation of him? No. Do I think that 4,500+ yards is realistic? From what we have seen so far, most definitely.
Hurts is showing that he can be the Philadelphia Eagles franchise quarterback. Not only by his play on the field, but his leadership in the locker room. He continues to emphasise the higher standards the Eagles have. The team have exploded out of the gate each game, but lulled in the second half. Hurts has made a point to challenge his team to be more consistent and see games through.
The Eagles face their toughest challenge of the season thus far, as they host the hot Jacksonville Jaguars. Whilst Philadelphia have not been battle tested yet, after a soft start to the season. They dominated the majority of their three contests, against the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Washington Commanders. The Jags have already dismantled the Chargers and the Colts emphatically, generating buzz around the NFL. The AFC South leaders bring a tough nosed defence that can cause havoc for opposing offences.
Hurts now gets the opportunity to show out against his former coach Doug Pederson. All eyes will be on the battle between two young quarterbacks that battle it out for the talk of the NFL.
Will Hurts continue his blistering hot start? Can he lead the Eagles to Super Bowl contention?
Let us know in the comments below.
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