With OTAs over with and training camp just about two months away, it’s time to start looking at each position individually and assess how they stack up with their peers around the NFL.
On the first edition of the Eagles Position Profile, we’re going to focus on the most important position in sports, quarterback.
The quarterback position in Philadelphia has been marred by controversy over the past few years. With the Nick Foles v. Carson Wentz debate, to the drafting of Jalen Hurts in the second round with Wentz just about to begin his contract extension, leading to the eventual departure of the former second overall pick, the headlines have written themselves for Philly columnists and media members.
Now, with a completely new coaching staff and a heavy emphasis on getting younger, the Eagles are handing Jalen Hurts the keys to the offense. Let’s take a look at what he brings to the table and what he’ll need to do to cement his status as a franchise QB.
Only starting and finishing three games last season, it’s impossible to get any kind of accurate read on what Hurts is as an NFL quarterback.
What we do know, is he possesses the athleticism so many offensive coaches desire in today’s NFL. In a run-first attack, Hurts would likely excel. Taking pressure off of him by running the ball and allowing him to make easy reads on play action passes will be a focal point of the Eagles offense this season.
During his short time as the starter last season, he did a nice job on extending plays. He took off more often than he threw it in these situations, but he still showed glimpses of what he can do when a play breaks down.
This play against the Cowboys is a prime example of that:
His playmaking ability was also on full display a ton during his starts. Against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15, what I believe was his best outing from start to finish, he made several big time throws and nearly led the team to a comeback win.
Hurts accounted for 401 yards against Arizona, more than Carson Wentz has ever had in a single game during his career. In total, he posted a 102.3 passer rating, tossed three touchdowns and ran for another.
But, if we’re being honest, there are more concerns with Hurts’ game than there are positives. Accuracy, decision making, and overall awareness all need to be worked on if Hurts is going to be the starting signal caller past 2021.
While Hurts did make a nice throw down field when scrambling on occasion, he frequently looked to get outside of the pocket even when there was no need to.
This play, broken down by Thomas Peterson, is a perfect example of Hurts’ premature scrambling:
Hurts has three wide open options on this play, all of which could have gone for a touchdown. At worst, they would’ve moved the sticks. Whether it was a lack of trust in his offensive line — which is justified — or just a want to get yards with your legs, this isn’t a sustainable mode of playing quarterback in the NFL.
The athleticism is a great trait to have behind center, but it should never be the sole reason your effective. It should be used to benefit the rest of your game, it shouldn’t dictate your game. Hurts relied too heavily on his legs last season, and to a certain extent, that’s to be expected out of a rookie quarterback who wasn’t even supposed to be a starter.
But it certainly needs to be addressed by Sirianni and the rest of the coaching staff this summer.
Another weakness that has often been pointed out among Hurts critics is his subpar accuracy. By nearly every metric, he was flat-out inaccurate with the football last season. He posted a bad throw percentage of 26.7 percent, the worst mark of any quarterback who started at least four games last season. Hurts’ on target percentage was also abysmal, posting a 60.7 percent mark, 10 percentage points less than Wentz.
Pro Football Focus ranked Hurts as the 31st-best starting quarterback ahead of the 2021 season. Based on the numbers I just laid out, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. PFF points out that Hurts also had nine turnover worthy plays in just four starts last season.
Of course, these numbers may have been better if Hurts was given a normal offseason prior to the season and had a better team around him. And in just four starts, you simply cannot draw any kind of conclusions on what the rest of his career will look like.
These are just areas of concern that need to be ironed out, and with Hurts’ well documented work ethic, being more efficient in these areas is definitely achievable.
Depth behind the starter
As of right now, the only other quarterbacks on the roster are Joe Flacco and undrafted rookie Jamie Newman. Flacco is clearly here to be the “mentor” for Hurts, while Newman is a project.
A lot has been made about Flacco’s contract. He was signed to a one-year deal that is worth up to $7.5 million. It’s a bit too much for a backup, but the Eagles have consistently prioritized depth at the quarterback position, and Flacco’s resume speaks for itself. He’s not elite Flacco anymore, but he’s someone who’s been to the mountain top and everywhere in between.
Having a veteran with as much knowledge as Flacco is invaluable for a young quarterback; let’s just hope he fully embraces that mentor role here in Philly.
As for Newman, he’ll be an interesting player to watch during training camp and the preseason. He may make the team just so they can carry three quarterbacks on gameday, but at worst, he’ll be a practice squad body who can provide some depth if either Hurts or Flacco get injured.
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