The Philadelphia Eagles emerged as winners from the 2022 NFL Draft, significantly improving their defense and strengthening the offense. Now, pressure is on quarterback Jalen Hurts to take advantage of the favorable circumstances and prove he can be a franchise player.
Hurts, the 53rd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, earned the starting job late in his rookie season and played well enough to push Carson Wentz out the door. With limited cap space, general manager Howie Roseman and first-year coach Nick Sirianni set realistic expectations for their young quarterback in 2021.
He performed well, grading as the 14th-best quarterback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Best of all, Philadelphia reached the NFL playoffs and the franchise saw improvement from its young signal-caller.
- Jalen Hurts stats (2021): 3,144 passing yards, 16-9 TD-INT ratio, 87.2 QB rating, 10 rushing touchdowns in 15 games
Hurts demonstrated enough to buy another year as the Eagles starting quarterback in 2022. With more draft capital and cap space, Philadelphia took an aggressive approach to make the roster stronger with A.J. Brown and Zach Pascal joining DeVonta Smith for an improved receiving corps.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the pressure is now on Hurts. The Eagles reportedly view this as a “one-year audition for their third-year quarterback, giving him a shot to demonstrate why he should be the long-term starter.
“They’re saying that Jalen Hurts is well-positioned to make himself a long-term starter because the Eagles have surrounded him with a good team. Now he’s got A.J. Brown opposite DeVonta Smith. He’s pretty much got everything he needs, and he’s embracing that pressure. This is clearly a one-year audition.”ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (H/T Bleacher Report)
Philadelphia is taking the right approach to this situation. Hurts showed promising flashes in 2021, but consistency and sustained success are necessary to earn a contract extension. It’s especially important to be cautious considering the highest paid NFL players are making far more than ever before.
- Jalen Hurts contract: $1.64 million cap hit (2022), $1.331 million base salary (2023)
Expectations for Jalen Hurts in 2022
While the Sirianni hire raised some questions at the time, he proved to be the right coach for Philadelphia. The 40-year-old became more comfortable as a play-caller, finding what worked for the offense even with limited weaponry on the roster.
- Philadelphia Eagles offense stats (2021): 359.9 total ypg (14th), 26.1 ppg (12th), 45.7% third-down conversion rate (4th in NFL)
The Eagles recognized that Hurts needed a No. 1 receiver for the organization to conduct a proper evaluation. Smith played extremely well in his rookie season, but Sirianni’s offense needs two playmakers who can turn short, quick throws into big gains.
It’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offense. Hurts finished ninth in the percentage of throws behind the line of scrimmage (16.4%), per Pro Football Focus. However, throwing vertically is also a core principle of this passing attack.
Nearly 16% of Hurts’ throws this past season went 20-plus years downfield, one of the highest attempt rates among starting quarterbacks. But he finished 33rd in passer rating (61.5) and threw the third-most interceptions (six) on downfield throws.
It’s another reason why the Brown and Smith pairing was created. If defenses are focused on trying to contain Brown in the intermediate areas, Smith (756 unrealized air yards) can become more of a vertical threat.
The Eagles have a good coaching staff, an above-average offensive line and a strong cast of weapons. Credit to the organization for executing the perfect example of how to build around a young quarterback, making the circumstances perfect for a thorough evaluation.
If Jalen Hurts doesn’t meet expectations in 2022, performing at a Pro Bowl level and leading a playoff team, the Eagles have the ammo to acquire a top quarterback in the 2023 offseason.