The Philadelphia Eagles have been stingy in their praise of second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts through much of the offseason, but new head coach Nick Sirianni is finally giving the signal-caller some props.
Not long after Sirianni suggested that Hurts would be entrenched in a QB competition with none other than Joe Flacco, the coach struck quite a different tone following the young field general’s showing throughout organized team activities, per NJ.com’s Chris Franklin:
“He is a relentless worker. […] I just saw him come in and take command of the offense and was on it. When you asked him a question, he’s on it. […] He just has a really compact throwing motion where he can get it out with ease. He’s super athletic and [can] throw on the run while moving and reading the defense. I was really pleased with a lot of things that he did.”Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni on QB Jalen Hurts
Hurts got thrust into action as a rookie second-round draft pick in 2020 after Carson Wentz regressed so mightily that the Eagles had no choice but to bench him.
Behind a banged-up offensive line and a disinterested coach in Doug Pederson didn’t help the cause. Nor did the fact that the organization descended into complete dysfunction in the middle of the season.
Sirianni didn’t exactly blow the doors off at his opening press conference. It may have been the worst in NFL history. Hopefully he’s a better coach than orator — for Hurts’ sake and for everyone in Philadelphia, because if Sirianni flops as bad as he did in his presser, Eagles fans will be a bunch of angry birds.
But credit Sirianni: He at least seems to have the common sense and clarity of thought to realize he should probably try to rally behind Hurts. It’s one of the first things he’s done since taking the Iggles’ coaching gig that offers a ray of hope for the 2021 season.
Philadelphia Eagles rightly endorse Jalen Hurts after setting him up to fail in 2020
Jalen Hurts’ 2020 stats weren’t pretty from a throwing standpoint: 77-for-148 (52% completion rate), 1,061 yards passing, six touchdowns, four interceptions and a 77.6 passer rating.
Putting aside Hurts’ impressive total of 354 yards rushing for the time being, let’s look a little deeper for context on those passing numbers, shall we?
What the Eagles were asking of Hurts was essentially impossible. For all the blame Wentz gets for his bad play, he had a dubious array of pass-catchers around him. Even an all-world performance by Hurts would’ve elevated that supporting cast only so much.
Consider these numbers, too: Per Next Gen Stats, Hurts’ average of 9.5 intended air yards ranked second-highest among qualifying passers. His aggressive throw percentage (14.2%) was just behind Baker Mayfield (13.8%), who played in a run-heavy Cleveland Browns that relied heavily on play-action passes for easier throws.
The bottom line: Hurts wasn’t pressing, yet he was still being asked to routinely air it out down the field — again, under greater duress, with multiple starters missing from his offensive line — to a dubious group of wide receivers.
Pro Football Focus just ranked the Eagles’ receiving corps 30th out of 32 NFL teams entering the 2021 campaign. That’s with the addition of Heisman Trophy winner and top-10 draft pick DeVonta Smith, Hurts’ college teammate for a time.
Jalen Hurts has athleticism & intangibles to win with Philadelphia Eagles
So, Sirianni praised Hurts’ mechanics, throwing motion and football IQ in OTAs. There’s little reason to hype somebody at this early stage of the offseason program, so the fact that Sirianni is bodes well for Hurts’ job security in 2021.
Even as Hurts is bandied about as QB1, bear in mind that Philadelphia isn’t necessarily committed to him for the long haul. Thanks to a couple trades prior to this year’s NFL Draft, the Eagles have three first-round picks in 2022. They can control their own destiny if Hurts isn’t up to snuff.
Anyone should know better than to count Hurts out even as the situation in Philly seems rather unpromising. He got benched for Tua Tagovailoa in the national title game at Alabama, and proceeded to make leaps and bounds as a passer the next season.
Once it was clear the Crimson Tide were committed to Tagovailoa as the starter, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma. Having to immediately adjust to the new powerhouse program, sky-high playoff expectations and serving as the encore act to No. 1 overall draft picks in Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Hurts thrived under the pressure.
That all prepared Hurts for the Wentz sideshow from 2020. Now, the Indianapolis Colts are tasked with reviving Wentz’s career, and the Eagles get to see what they have when they actually commit to Hurts.
Again, good on Sirianni for doing a little bit of course correction, at least in terms of public rhetoric. Hurts is a dynamic, dual-threat playmaker, and if Smith can make an immediate impact as a go-to receiver, this Eagles offense could shock a lot of people.