Despite the Philadelphia Eagles not officially naming Jalen Hurts as the QB1 heading into the 2021 season, it’s obvious he’s going to be the guy for at least this season. Unless he gets injured or just woefully underperforms during training camp and the preseason, Hurts is QB1.
With just four games’ worth of film, it’s impossible to know exactly what Hurts is. He had flashes of brilliance during his short stint in 2020, but he also had some pretty brutal moments as well.
In 334 offensive snaps, Hurts accumulated 1,061 passing yards, six touchdown passes, four interceptions with a completion percentage of 52%. On the ground, Hurts totaled 354 yards with a 5.6 yards per carry average and three touchdowns. His passing numbers extrapolated over an entire 16 game season come out to approximately 24 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and 4,244 yards.
While I completely understand that extrapolating numbers across an entire season can be a bit arbitrary, for what it’s worth, 4,244 passing yards would be the most in a single season for an Eagles quarterback.
But, trust me, I know passing yards aren’t a strong indicator for how good a quarterback actually is. Jameis Winston led the league in passing yards in 2019 with 5,109, while also tossing an NFL-high 30 interceptions. He was replaced by Tom Brady the following season.
Passing yardage totals alone don’t tell the whole story. But, looking at average yards per completion can give you a glimpse into a quarterback’s efficiency. In Reuben Franks’ recent Eagles observations piece for NBC Sports Philadelphia, he included some eye opening Hurts stats.
Hurts had 13.8 yards per completion last season, which was the highest mark of any quarterback in the league with at least 100 attempts. Deshaun Watson was second with a 12.63 yards per completion mark, and Carson Wentz was dead last in the league, averaging 10.4 yards per completion. Hurts also completed nine passes of 30 yards or more in the last five weeks of the season, which was the second-most in the league during that stretch. Tom Brady had 13 completions of at least 30 yards during that same span.
Hurts’ 52% completion percentage is a bit alarming, but considering how often he was throwing it past the first down marker, to lack luster receivers, that number makes a bit more sense.
The Eagles offense under Doug Pederson lacked any kind of efficiency last season. Rarely did the offense get into a rhythm and there was no identity whatsoever. Under Nick Sirianni this season, I do expect the offense to at least have an identity. And that identity will likely be a run-first, play action, west coast attack.
Allowing Hurts to get quick, easy completions on roll outs or RPOs should boost that completion percentage significantly this season.
With a loaded backfield heading into camp, I would assume Sirianni will utilize his backs as much as possible. Whether that’s in the running game, the screen game, or even when one of them is lined up at receiver, causing matchups problems for opposing defenses should help a young quarterback like Hurts diagnose coverages more effectively pre-snap. In a perfect world, you should know exactly where you’re going with the ball before even taking the snap, or at least what the perfect progression should look like.
Here’s a glimpse into how the Colts used their backs in the passing game last season. The route concepts are strong and more often than not it resulted in an easy completion for Philip Rivers.
Hurts doesn’t need to be perfect if Sirianni is able to expose the defense’s coverage by motioning a back out of the backfield or motioning a receiver across the formation.
Sirianni has talked extensively about how much he prioritizes putting his players in positions to succeed and attacking defenses with matchups.
In this clip from a few years ago when Sirianni became the offensive coordinator for the Colts, he breaks down why utilizing favorable matchups is so key to an offense’s success.
I went on a bit of a Sirianni tangent there, but the marriage between a quarterback and head coach (if he’s offensive minded) is huge for the sustainability of the offense. We saw what a bad relationship between head coach and signal caller can do to a team last season with Pederson and Wentz. I don’t think they had personal problems with one another, but it was clear that Pederson didn’t know how to unlock an efficient Carson Wentz, and Wentz obviously never fully grasped what Pederson wanted to do.
During Sirianni’s time in Indianapolis, he’s had three different starting quarterbacks, and each of them played well for him. And each one of them had different skill sets. Sirianni and Frank Reich didn’t just copy and paste their Andrew Luck offense for Jacoby Brissett. They made tweaks and adjusted their already effective offense into something more conducive to Brissett’s abilities.
I believe he can do the same with Jalen Hurts. Hurts has improved his game every step of the way since his stint at Alabama. He’s a willing learner and a student of the game. And for those factors, I do believe Hurts can be a quality quarterback in 2021.
Does that mean he’ll be the answer long-term? Not necessarily. But with his athleticism and willingness to learn from Sirianni, I choose to be more optimistic on Hurts.