Heading into the 2021 NFL Season, Jalen Hurts took over as the franchise quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Though it was an up-and-down season with question marks heading into this year about whether his career in Philly would be short-lived, the Eagles still want Hurts as their starter.
Philadelphia missed out on the Deshaun Watson lottery, and if that wasn’t enough to convince fans that Hurts was their guy, the team went out and traded for A.J. Brown. He’ll pair well opposite DeVonta Smith and the other weapons Hurts has at his disposal.
After just barely making the NFL playoffs last year at 9-8, it’s time for Hurts to take the next step in his career and lead the Eagles to their first playoff win under head coach Nick Sirianni. I don’t want to say it’s a now-or-never season for Hurts, but if he doesn’t perform well this season, Philadelphia could move in a different direction after this year.
Hurts as an array of weapons on offense, so he should have plenty of opportunities to air the ball out. The addition of Brown brings a new dynamic to the team, as the receiver eclipsed 1,000 yards in his first two years before only having 869 yards last year due to injuries. Brown has a much better opportunity to put up big numbers with the Eagles over the Tennessee Titans and will enter the offense as the No. 1 wide receiver.
Last season, the top receiver on the roster was Smith, who finished the year with 64 catches for 916 yards and five touchdowns. Right behind him was tight end Dallas Goedert, who had 56 catches for 830 yards and four touchdowns.
Teams will have the difficult job of focusing on either Brown or Smith. You double cover Brown, and Smith will burn you with his speed. Flip the script, and Brown will make you pay with his size and speed. Add in the versatile Goedert, and Hurts has plenty of options. This doesn’t even include Quez Watkins, who has excellent vertical speed.
Philadelphia also has a plethora of running backs to deploy in Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell. Hurts can rely on them in the run game, as the three combined for 1,418 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The three combined for 72 receptions for 494 yards and one touchdown in the passing game.
It was an up-and-down season for Hurts. He had more games under 200 yards passing (nine) than he did over 200 yards (six).
But he showed flashes of greatness, having two games throwing for over 300 yards. Hurts also led all NFL quarterbacks in rushing attempts (139), yards (784), and touchdowns (10).
Let’s compare Hurts to a quarterback with a similar style of play: Lamar Jackson.
In Jackson’s first 19 starts, he threw for 3,646 yards, 30 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, completing 63.75% of his passes. On the ground, Jackson had 259 carries for 1,533 yards and 11 touchdowns with 16 fumbles.
In Hurts’ first 19 starts, he threw for 4,063 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, completing 59.12% of his passes. On the ground, Hurts had 185 carries for 1,056 yards and 13 touchdowns with 15 fumbles.
While Jackson won the MVP in his second season in the league and Hurts didn’t, Hurts is heading in the right direction. Hurts had more passing yards than Jackson due to having more attempts (85), while Jackson had more rushing yards than Hurts due to having more carries (74).
Hurts has the weapons and the skills to be a top quarterback in the NFL. However, heading into Year 3, he is aware of the parts of his game that need to be corrected. So, it’s up to him if he wants to take that next step and be the quarterback of the future for Philadelphia.