August 08, 2023
Another Eagles training camp practice, another day of breaking down Jalen Hurts' play. Tuesday morning at the NovaCare Complex was a mixed bag for Hurts. He came into camp on fire, but his play has cooled off slightly as of late culminating with an uneven performance for a quarterback of his standards.
Hurts has been markedly improved in camp compared to his 2022 self. A practice like this isn't totally important in the grander scheme of things, but things have been trending this way, especially after a sloppy performance from the entire first-team offense at the Linc this past Sunday. If your fellow NFL players are going to rank you as the No. 3 player in the entire league, you're going to be judged accordingly.
Let's take it play by play...
Play 1: Hurts hands it off to Boston Scott, who runs inside for a small gain.
Play 2: With Dallas Goedert going in motion, it's a play-action look that has Hurts finding Quez Watkins on a deep crossing route toward the right sideline. Perfect placement. Watkins has had a great camp and his route-running here was exactly what it needed to be.
Play 3: The Birds give it to Kenny Gainwell off tackle, picking up some decent yardage.
Play 4: As the offense inches closer to the end zone, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith line up stacked to the right. I love this formation immediately. The Eagles go with a bubble screen for Brown, but he's only able to produce a small gain. That has potential for six consistently this fall.
Play 5: Hurts goes with a quick throw to D'Andre Swift in the flat to his left, but it's a bad one, going incomplete.
Play 6: Smith runs a nice post route and Hurts hit with tons of room to run. The safeties were asleep at the wheel.
Play 7: With his early reads not there, Hurts dumps it off to Gainwell to his left. No one in coverage was responsible for Gainwell.
Play 8: Hurts dials up a crossing route for Smith once more. The throw is just a tad behind him where the receiver needed to slow up. If that throw is more in stride, it's a big chunk pickup. In an actual game, you'd take that completion easily, but camp is where things are ironed out. If you play like an MVP, however, nitpicking is fair game.
Play 9: With Swift lined up wide to the left, Hurts finds him on a little sit route for a small gain.
Play 10: Airing it out! With Olamide Zaccheaus lined up wide to the right and Darius Slay sticking him, Zaccheaus burns the Pro Bowl corner. Zaccheaus makes a great diving catch while staying in bounds. He did slow up a tad. If the throw is more in stride, Zaccheaus would be gliding to the end zone.
Play 11: Hurts drops back, feels the pressure and takes off right running. One thing that jumped out to me on this play: it was an RPO and rookie safety Sydney Brown bit hard on it. Brown has had an encouraging camp overall though. He'd be my choice as the second starting safety behind Reed Blankenship. I could, however, see the Birds beginning the season with "Big Nickel" as their default personal setup, playing Terrell Edmunds along with Blankenship and Brown with just one true linebacker out there.
I wrote this at length last summer, but Hurts is always going to be a quarterback who's better in a live-game setting rather than practice drills such as these with his ability as a runner. A strong pass rush that forces Hurts out of the pocket in camp might have the QB firing an errant pass into tight coverage or tucking it and jogging for a few yards. When the pads are on in the regular season, that situation could have him ripping off a 20-yard run.
Play 12: Running back note... Rashaad Penny is lined up wide to the left. Penny had just 27 receptions in 42 career games in his Seahawks career. Anyway, there's tight coverage and good pass rush. Hurts scrambles left, trying to make something out of nothing, and targets Watkins near the sideline. Cornerback Zech McPhearson gets a hand on the ball, but Watkins is on his way out of bounds already. It wouldn't have been a completion even if the ball got to him.
Play 13: I'd call this one a "sack," but Hurts makes a throw anyway, hitting Smith for a decent gain. There was good pressure there from forgotten defensive end Derek Barnett.
Play 14: Hurts finds Brown on a slant route. Routine stuff. Brown catches it in stride. Easy gain.
Play 15: Closing in on the end zone, Hurts hands it off to Penny for an inside run, but he's unable to score. Good run-stuffing and push from the Birds' defensive line.
This one-play session, I believe from Nick Sirianni's instructions, is an end-of-the-game, win-or-lose fourth down scenario. Situational football!
Play 16: With only three down rushers, the defense is maximized on the back end to prevent a touchdown. Nothing's really open and Hurts lofts a hero ball pass into the end zone that safety Justin Evans picks off. I'm not counting that as an interception. It appeared that the instruction was that Hurts had to throw the ball in the end zone. You can't throw the ball away to end the game! There was good pressure from Janarius Robinson on the rush that some other beat writers chalked up as a "sack" while watching at practice. I'm going sack.
Play 17: It's an uncharacteristic worm ball from Hurts. The QB was targeting Watkins on an underneath crosser, but the ball hit the dirt before it even reached Watkins.
Play 18: Quick handoff up the gut. Marginal gain.
Play 19: Great pressure from Josh Sweat here to force Hurts into a tough throw. Hurts underthrows Smith, but the wideout slides and hauls it in.
Play 20: The Birds draw up a running play for Swift, who gets absolutely nowhere. Jordan Davis and Brandon Graham were right there to take care of business.
Play 21: Hurts wishes he could have this one back. The QB rolls right and underthrows Watkins on a deep corner route. Watkins had Blankenship beat in coverage, but the second-year safety makes a diving catch for the interception, narrowly standing in bounds. Not the way you want to end practice.
Final Hurts stats: 10/13 (76.9 percent), 2 "sacks," 1 INT
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