December 08, 2021
From a player standpoint, the No. 1 question that had to be answered during the Philadelphia Eagles' 2021 season is whether or not Jalen Hurts is the long-term answer at quarterback. With the Birds on their bye week, now feels like an opportune time to look back at the last three months and determine if Hurts raised or lowered his stock in each game.
📈 = Stock up.
📉 = Stock down.
😐 = Neutral.
🪑 = Did not play.
• Passing stats: 27 for 35 (77.1%), 264 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 126.4 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 7 rushes, 62 yards, 8.9 YPC, 0 TDs
As you can see from his stats above, Hurts came out firing, and it started with the first drive of the season, when he found DeVonta Smith on a rub route from the slot for a pretty TD.
Coming off strong showings in joint practices against the Jets and Patriots in August, Hurts showed command of the offense, and while his accuracy wasn't perfect at times, he made his share of bigtime throws, the best of which, in my opinion, was this strike on the run to Dallas Goedert for a touchdown.
Eagles fans couldn't have realistically hoped for a better Week 1 debut out of Hurts.
• Passing stats: 12 for 23 (52.2%), 190 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 80.0 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 10 rushes, 82 yards, 8.2 YPC, 1 TD
Hurts made some really nice throws in this game, notably deep balls to Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. The throw to Reagor didn't count because Reagor stepped out of bounds during his route before he caught the ball.
Jalen Reagor’s foot goes out of bounds pic.twitter.com/FybnGyGQUm— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) September 19, 2021
The deep ball to Watkins was a beauty.
Jalen Hurts is dropping DIMES. 91 yards to Quez Watkins. pic.twitter.com/I9h9rSudB7— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 19, 2021
However, it resulted in zero points when Nick Sirianni made a series of questionable play calls near the goal line, most notably an ill-fated "Philly Special" call on fourth down.
The deep throws aside, Hurts probably relied a little too much on making plays with his legs in this game, and the ball was slow to come out at times. Ultimately, when the team only scores 11 points, some of the blame is going to fall on the quarterback.
• Passing stats: 25 for 39 (64.1%), 326 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.1 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 9 rushes, 35 yards, 3.9 YPC, 0 TDs
Hurts had a bad game. He underthrew a deep ball to Reagor that got picked off, and he threw behind a stumbling DeVonta Smith that ended up in the hands of Trevon Diggs for a pick six.
Frankly, that pass probably would have looked even worse if Smith hadn't stumbled, in that it would have been thrown even further behind him.
Those were the lowlights. But generally speaking, all the most concerning aspects of Hurts' flaws showed up in this game. He threw inaccurate passes, he held onto the ball too long, and he was often too quick to bail from the pocket.
If you'll recall, the Eagles ran it with their backs three times. Three! Miles Sanders had two carries, and Kenny Gainwell had one. Sirianni revealed during his postgame press conference that his game plan was to essentially win a shootout against a team that they thought was going to score a bunch of points. 🤯
Typically, when you're facing a team that you think has that type of offensive firepower, you try to negate that edge by controlling the football, which the Eagles were poised to do against an undersized defense missing a boatload of defensive linemen. In that sense, Hurts was not put in the best position to succeed. However, if the Eagles ultimately want to run a pass-heavy offense, this game will serve as Exhibit A of why that probably won't be possible with Hurts.
• Passing stats: 32 for 48 (66.7%), 387 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 105.1 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 8 rushes, 47 yards, 5.9 YPC, 0 TDs
As you can see above, Hurts put up gaudy numbers against a Chiefs defense that was playing poorly early in the season, but has since performed far better. He showed good poise against a defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo who blitzed the crap out of him, and an overthrow to Zach Ertz on the opening drive aside, he probably had at the time his most accurate passing day as a professional quarterback. Hurts led an Eagles offense that put 30 points on the board despite having three touchdowns called back due to penalty.
Sirianni called it one of the best quarterback performances he's ever seen.
Nick Sirianni on Jalen Hurts:— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) October 3, 2021
“That’s one of the better quarterback performances I’ve seen, and I’ve been around a lot of good quarterbacks. With Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck. He battled. He made good decisions with the football. […] That’s the best I’ve seen him in a game.”
I wouldn't go that far. Hell, he wasn't even the best quarterback in that game, as Patrick Mahomes did pretty much whatever he wanted to the Eagles' soft shell defense. And if we're going to nitpick, Hurts seemingly threw the ball away on a 4th down, even if he said after the game that his intention was not to throw it out of bounds.
Still, this was a nice bounce back performance for Hurts.
• Passing stats: 22 of 37 (59.5%), 198 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 62.7 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 9 rushes, 30 yards, 3.3 YPC, 2 TDs
After an absolutely brutal first two quarters of football, the Eagles trailed 15-6 at halftime, and were lucky to only be down nine points. At one point, Hurts was 12-for-20 for 35 yards, which almost feels impossible to achieve. Hurts wasn't very good for most of the day. He missed a lot of throws you would expect a professional quarterback to make, including a bad INT to Donte Jackson on a wild overthrow of an open Ertz.
The Eagles seemed destined for a fourth straight loss, until Hurts and the Eagles offense finally woke up and started making some plays late in the game. A 53-yard bomb to Watkins got the offense rolling and led to a score, and Hurts found a way to make some plays down the stretch with his legs. His two-point conversion after the go-ahead touchdown was really an incredible play:
This play by Jalen Hurts is ridiculous and I want everyone to acknowledge it.— Lyle (@WalkWithLyle) October 10, 2021
Hurts one-handed a bad snap, immediately had a completely free star pass rusher in his face, avoided him, rolled right, located a receiver in the back of the end zone while on the run, and fired a strike. Outstanding.
This game was a good example of Hurts being able to make plays that most other quarterbacks can't, but also the frustration of him not making the easy plays consistently.
• Passing stats: 12 for 26 (46.2%), 115 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 55.8 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 10 rushes, 44 yards, 4.4 YPC, 2 TDs
Hurts battled in this game, but he simply missed way too many makeable throws. For example:
The game plan wasn't great and Hurts was chased around all night by Bucs pass rushers, so this game wasn't all on him, but he wasn't good.
• Passing stats: 18 for 34 (52.9%), 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 94.7 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 13 rushes, 61 yards, 4.7 YPC, 0 TDs
Hurts' numbers look decent enough, but for the third straight game he missed too many throws that are layups for other quarterbacks around the league. In the aftermath of this game, the public (rightfully) focused in on the Eagles' atrocious defensive effort, but this game was perhaps as damaging as any to Hurts' chances of becoming the long-term answer, because it was his third straight concerning performance.
It was around this time that the Eagles' offensive approach shifted from a team built around Hurts as a passer to one built around the rushing attack, which feels noteworthy when viewing his season as a timeline.
• Passing stats: 9 for 14 (64.3%), 103 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 86.3 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 7 rushes, 71 yards, 10.1 YPC, 0 TDs
Hurts only attempted 14 passes in a blowout of the Lions. He was able to escape pressure repeatedly (perhaps at times with open receivers), and turned in some highlight reel scrambles. This was probably not a performance that earned Hurts many points toward his quest to become the team's franchise quarterback in 2022 and beyond, but he was at least very fun to watch.
• Passing stats: 11 for 17 (64.7%), 162 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 115.3 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 10 rushes, 62 yards, 6.2 YPC, 0 TDs
Hurts took responsibility for his own play after this loss, stating that he missed two throws that could have changed the outcome of the game.
The first was an off-target throw to Goedert, shown here:
The other was his missed throw to an open Smith in the back of the end zone, shown here:
Those are simply throws that every NFL quarterback should make with relative ease.
Hurts did some nice things, though, too. He had one of his best drives of the season on a game-tying, 10-play, 78-yard march that included a pair of third down conversions, culminating in a 28-yard touchdown strike to Smith. But in a game in which he only attempted 17 passes, those two very costly misses really stood out.
• Passing stats: 16 for 23 (69.6%), 178 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 103.2 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 13 rushes, 55 yards, 4.2 YPC, 0 TDs
In the first half, Hurts was 15 of 20 for 176 yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs. He would have been 16 of 20 for 210 yards and 3 TDs if not for a dropped Watkins TD at the end of the half on what was a perfect throw.
In the second half, the Eagles ran the ball a lot. Hurts only attempted three passes, one of which was picked (Hurts' hand was hit on the play, it appeared), and one was almost picked on a play in which he was late getting the ball out to an open DeVonta Smith on a Cover-2 beater.
It's what happened in the first half that was encouraging for Hurts. He made subtle moves in the pocket instead of bailing quickly, he was accurate with his throws, and Sirianni said during his postgame interview that Hurts made some heady checks at the line of scrimmage.
That first half was easily his best half of football of his professional career as a passer.
• Passing stats: 13 for 24 (54.2%), 147 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 72.7 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 18 rushes, 69 yards, 3.8 YPC, 3 TDs
By this point in the season, the Eagles had established an identity as a run-heavy team, which is probably something they should have been all along given that they have a running quarterback, an excellent run-blocking offensive line, and a lot of inexperience at wide receiver.
Heading into this matchup, the Saints had the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, but the Eagles racked up 242 yards on the ground, and Hurts scored three rushing TDs, the last of which was a highlight reel run that had teammates raving after the game.
Hurts wasn't impressive as a passer in this game, but he was so explosive as a runner that he deserves a "stock up" vote.
• Passing stats: 14 for 31, 129 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 17.5 QB rating
• Rushing stats: 8 rushes, 77 yards, 9.6 YPC, 0 TDs
This game is still fresh in our minds, as it was Hurts' most recent start. It was easily the worst game of his professional career. As a runner, he gobbled up decent yardage, but he was inaccurate, indecisive, and ineffective all day as a passer. If he ultimately isn't the Eagles' guy in 2022 and beyond, we may be looking at this game, the Eagles' Week 3 loss to the Cowboys, and their Week 7 loss to the Raiders as the biggest reasons why.
Asked about Hurts' performance, Sirianni said, “Anytime you turn the ball over three times, it’s not going to be an A, B, C, or D.”
With Hurts sidelined with an ankle injury, Gardner Minshew came out on fire, completing his first 11 passes for 165 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He finished 20-of-25 for 242 yards and those 2 TDs, with no turnovers.
Despite that perfect passer rating early on, Minshew wasn't perfect, if we're being honest, as his passes were often underthrown, but seemed to find their way to the target anyway, probably helped by a bad Jets defense. But ultimately, the results were excellent. Minshew led the Eagles to scores on each of their first seven possessions. The first three were touchdowns, followed by four Jake Elliott field goals.
Sirianni definitively stated that Hurts will remain the Eagles' starting quarterback going forward, putting to bed any controversy. In my opinion, the Eagles were smart to get ahead of the inevitable questions about Hurts' status this season with the team.
There have been a smattering of calls for Minshew to become the starter the rest of the season, but for the most part, the media and fan base have mostly been levelheaded about the situation. Hurts remaining as the starter is the obvious call, for now, as benching him achieves very little from a long-term perspective. But certainly, Hurts could use a good game in his next outing against the Washington Football Team Week 15 so that a real controversy doesn't develop.
📈 = 4 games
📉 = 4 games
😐 = 4 games
🪑 = 1 game
Before the start of the season, when assessing whether or not Hurts would be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Eagles, it felt a lot like we would sort of know it if we saw it, and if there were any doubts, the Eagles would be likely to use their bounty of 2022 draft picks to attempt to find that long-term answer.
There are still four games left for Hurts to stamp his ticket in Philadelphia as "the guy," but through his first 12 games, he has not done that, in my opinion. As it stands now, his best chance of being the starter in 2022 is probably based on the idea that the 2022 draft class isn't loaded with elite quarterback prospects, and the cost for a star veteran quarterback may prove to be too expensive.
To be determined if the picture is clearer after the Eagles' stretch run.
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