Eagles: Can Hurts continue his hot start facing an injured 49ers secondary?

Jalen Hurts was very impressive in his 2021 debut against the Atlanta Falcons. He finished the game with 326 yards from scrimmage, 3 passing touchdowns, a completion percentage of 77 percent, and a passer rating of 126.4.

According to Pro Football Reference, 84.4 percent of Hurts’ throws were on target and only 6.3 percent were considered bad throws. That’s a vast improvement over his marks last year, where he posted a bad throw percentage of 26.7 percent and an on target percentage of just 60.7 percent.

There’s no doubt that Hurts is an improved quarterback. The team around him is much better and Nick Sirianni clearly has a grasp on what his quarterback is good at. But it’s impossible to glance over just how bad Atlanta’s defense is. They were one of the worst pass defenses in football last season and after one week it seems that it’s carried over into this year.

Facing the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2, Hurts will see a much better defensive group. Like the Eagles defense, it all starts up front for the Niners. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, and Kentavius Street all recorded at least five pressures in their Week 1 victory over Detroit. And the four of them combined for three sacks on the day.

The Eagles offensive line is much better than what Detroit has to offer, but they’ll nevertheless be tested by this group. Hurts did a nice job dealing with pressure against Atlanta, where he managed to get outside the pocket and make plays with both his legs and arm. He went 5-for-8 on passes outside the pocket for 50 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, along with picking up an additional 15 yards on scrambles.

It’ll be up to the Niners front to keep Hurts contained and provide consistent pressure to disrupt his timing because they don’t have the pieces in their secondary to stop good passing attacks.

With their No. 1 corner Jason Verrett down for the year, they’ll have to turn to rookie Deommodore Lenoir to fill that vacancy. He had a nice outing in Week 1, earning the highest coverage grade per PFF in their secondary (59.3), while allowing just one reception in 68 coverage snaps and a passer rating of 39.6 when targeted.

But the rookie can’t do it all by himself.

The team did add veteran corner Dre Kirkpatrick to help mitigate Verrett’s loss, but it’s unclear if he’ll suit up Sunday. They may also get Emmanuel Moseley back in the lineup after sustaining a knee injury on September 3, but Kyle Shanahan hasn’t made any guarantees that he’ll be available.

For the Niners sake, they’ll need at least one of these guys to go. Once Verrett went down last week, the flood gates opened and the team gave up 16 points in the fourth quarter, nearly allowing a Lions comeback.

Hurts proved in Week 1 that he can pick apart a weak secondary, and chances are he’ll be facing another one in his team’s home opener this week. If the offensive line holds the Niners pass rush at bay, Hurts is more than capable of having another big outing.

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