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January 02, 2022

OK, I'm convinced — Jalen Hurts is good enough to lead the Eagles

I've admittedly been lukewarm but open-minded — and cautiously optimistic — about Jalen Hurts since the Eagles shockingly drafted him in the second round two drafts ago. 

The pick kind of set the franchise on fire, indirectly leading to Carson Wentz's god-awful 2020 season, trade demand and eventual exodus. 

It also defined the 2021 season before it even kicked off. If he played well, the franchise was set, boasting three first-round picks that can be used to shore up the defense and help to build a contender. If he played like crap, they'd have to draft or trade for a franchise quarterback and would likely treat fans to yet another offseason of chaos.

Hurts has had an up and down season, flashing brilliance and ugly warts in a seeming roller coaster of a season that refused to allow onlookers to label him as being either good or bad. He just kind

At least, until Week 17's game in Washington.

Hurts didn't quite slam the door shut on debate — he overthrew some open receivers, failed to identify others and made plenty of mistakes. And his numbers certainly weren't gaudy. In all, he threw for 214 yards on 17-for-26 passing and ran for another 45 yards. He certainly didn't help anyone win a fantasy title this week scoring no touchdowns, but he did show us he might actually be the longterm answer for the Eagles. 

Following their 20-16 win to inch closer to an unexpected playoff berth, I felt for the first time that Hurts could run an offense that contends for a title. He's never going to average 300 yards and three touchdown passes per game. But he is kind of tailor made for the beautifully successful offense that Nick Sirianni fell backwards into. If the Eagles are throwing the ball only 26 times and they're winning games, Hurts is the kind of dynamic even-keeled playmaker you want under center. To some, that may sound like nothing more than a game manager, but when you add in what Hurts is able to do with his legs, you can see he's much more valuable than that.

The Birds' offensive line is really, really good. It should probably have three Pro Bowlers (and didn't even have All-Pro Brandon Brooks for most of the season). The line opens holes for running backs ranging in playing style from Miles Sanders to Boston Scott to Jordan Howard, and it's protected Hurts pretty darn well this season — but until Sunday he never really took advantage, still appearing like he was under pressure at times even when he was. Against Washington, Hurts looked more comfortable than ever in the pocket, stepping up between the tackles instead of scampering around wasting the efforts of the big boys up front.

He also was more decisive, throwing with pop, earlier than normal to particularly fruitful results. 

The eye test earned Hurts rave reviews, and he did it on the biggest stage of the season with the Eagles trailing by double-digits early and needing a win to slide into the playoffs (with a little extra help later tonight). 

He did it with his arm:

And with his legs:

Philadelphia is not a roster that needs a gunslinger to win games. It's an opportunistic team that needs a quarterback who can succeed when the defense holds the opponent under 20 points, or when the running game pounds their opposition and needs a field general to keep the defense honest. And that's what Hurts is. The defense was the unit that stood tall and won the game after a rocky start. Hurts just made sure they didn't give it away Sunday. And that's not a knock on him. It's the opposite, especially for a QB in his second season and playing under a rookie head coach.

There is a recipe for actual success there — not just a wild card berth and likely first-round loss — if Roseman, Sirianni and the rest of the Eagles brass hold up their end and build the correct kind of team that allows Hurts to use his legs, his arm and his creativity to win games. 

The NFC East also really stinks (besides Dallas, of course), which certainly doesn't hurt.

We'll see how Hurts responds to being in a playoff game, when/if the Eagles clinch — he did pretty well in that position in college. I really wouldn't be surprised to see him put together a gutty, impressive losing-effort performance against a team like the Buccaneers or Packers or whoever their first round foe is, one that has Eagles fans feeling optimistic going into 2022. 

Go ahead and buy your No. 1 Hurts jersey. I think it's a safe purchase.

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

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