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Jalen Hurts led the Eagles to their most complete team win of the season, there’s no doubt about that, but his limitations were on full display in the win over the Saints.
5.6 yards per attempt, 2.6 “air” yards per attempt, just two single attempts downfield beyond 20 yards (both off-target), and just 2/8 passing on throws of 10 yards or more.
I don’t need numbers and charts to show you what you already saw yesterday—Jalen Hurts isn’t comfortable throwing the ball downfield.
Can he run the ball? Hell yeah.
Is he accurate and capable on short throws? Mostly.
But can he complete passes down the field or into tight windows? If he can, we didn’t see it yesterday, and that’s somewhat of a prerequisite for NFL QBs.
The Eagles offense showing new life behind a dynamic running game opened up by Hurts’ legs was as predictable as it gets. If you expected anything less than I’m not sure what to tell you.
In a recent episode of “The Pulse of the City” podcast I described the offense looking better under Hurts as, “the most likely scenario,” but that doesn’t mean he’s better than Wentz in the grand scheme of things.
Think big picture.
This isn’t as simple as, ‘the offense looked better under Hurts, therefore Hurts is the better quarterback, therefore he’s the long-term option.’ We need to be careful that we don’t make false equivalencies here, and that we keep focused on the more important question of, ‘which quarterback is the more viable franchise guy capable of winning Super Bowls?’
If the question is which QB will do better in a bad offensive situation, it’s always the rushing quarterback. Adding that extra running threat both simplifies and opens up an offense by default. It’s not rocket science—this is why the league has been trending toward quarterback mobility for a decade now. But the caveat of being able to throw downfield and in tight windows still exists.
Minus an arm, rushing quarterbacks are a gimmick. Doug knows that, which is why he was so muted in his praise of Hurts in the post game presser—in terms of real quarterbacking there really wasn’t any praise to give. Hurts didn’t have to throw downfield, he was generally decisive and accurate on his many check-downs or single-read throws, he turned the ball over once, and his one poor decision through the air (a would-be pick-six) was dropped along the sideline by a Saints DB.
Even his touchdown throw was the product of an Alshon Jeffrey push-off, coming on a series that would’ve otherwise resulted in another turnover on downs… You see what I mean? This wasn’t really a good game from Hurts—it was merely decent, and good fortune kept it from being worse. Not to mention a “W” on the bottom line is the ultimate pacifier for criticism.
I’m not sure what judging Hurts in any other context than long-term outlook accomplishes here. He looked good for his first career NFL start—fine—but we have bigger things to deal with beyond making general assessments of his play relative to other first year players; we need to commit to a quarterback of the future.
Is that unfair to Hurts? Giving him four games to earn the franchise’s commitment over a guy who has the track record from 2016-19 that Wentz has? Absolutely, but this is the Eagles reality. Four years of Wentz vs four games of Hurts—let’s keep focused on the question at hand, and not get lost in the feel-good atmosphere around Sunday’s win.
Through just four quarters of football I’ve seen exactly what I expected from the second round pick: strong playmaking ability, and limited passing. We’ll see how long the shine lasts on that, because if by the end of the year the best thing he still has going for him is that, “he wasn’t as bad as 2020 Wentz,” then I’m not sure he’ll have done enough to earn our commitment long term.