Some have their own theories as to why the Philadelphia Eagles selected Jalen Hurts with the No. 53 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Others may be simply dumbfounded as to why the Eagles drafted a backup quarterback in the second round.
One explanation that’s been commonly suggested is that the Eagles plan to deploy Hurts akin to how the New Orleans Saints use backup quarterback/utility player Taysom Hill. A number of reporters have suggested as much:
Early prediction: Jalen Hurts plays a Taysom Hill role for the #Eagles as they groom him. They always like to groom QBs.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 25, 2020
As @mikegarafolo said, the idea of Jalen Hurts in a Taysom Hill role while he develops makes sense. It’s something scouts and coaches were talking about as they evaluated him. pic.twitter.com/fYJjhVhtUx— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 25, 2020
The Jalen Hurts pick may be out of the box - out of this world for some - but this was again a move to add explosiveness, creativity to the #Eagles offense. Plus they have a potential backup QB, trade piece, or someday a starter. Not defending, but explaining their thinking here.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) April 25, 2020
In addition to the above, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports recently wrote the following:
The Philadelphia Eagles franchise that pulled off arguably the single-gutsiest play in Super Bowl history is now positioned to lay the groundwork on something even more ambitious: The NFL’s first two-quarterback staple in an offense.
“Taysom Hill [package] on steroids,” one source familiar with the Eagles’ draft evaluations told Yahoo Sports.
That was the descriptor used to explain the Eagles’ selection of Oklahoma star quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of Friday night’s NFL draft — with a 53rd pick that flew in the face of some team needs. Chief among them: LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton, who was once believed to be a potential top-15 pick before sliding over the course of the season and draft process.
A source with specific insight on the Hurts selection said there was some offensive evolution in mind — as well as this pick being a stiff lean into the coaching staff’s preference. That’s what ultimately led to the Hurts pick, allowing head coach Doug Pederson to groom a talented backup to starter Carson Wentz while potentially lining up some two-quarterback packages that have been on the Eagles’ mind since last offseason’s passing program.
Robinson elaborated further on The Yahoo Sports NFL Podcast:
“It’s interesting that you said Tyrod Taylor on steroids. Because I actually had a source who was kind of on the inside of this whole recruitment — not recruitment, the whole building of the profile on Jalen Hurts and getting to this point where they made the pick which, by the way, I can tell you they leaned hard into the coaching staff on that pick. Okay? Howie Roseman, the general manger, leaned in to what he felt the coaching staff wanted and also his past history of valuing quarterbacks. But this was definitely a coaching staff pick. I would say more so than even a personnel side pick, more so than the scouts, I think this was a coaches pick.
But anyway, the source described […] the package as, you know, think Taysom Hill on steroids. It’s going to be a package where it’s really going to be amped up for him. Now, what’s really, truly interesting about this is … and this source made this point … he said they can push the envelope with this one, they can get creative, they can do maybe some of these scenarios that have been thought about in the NFL a little bit but never really given much credence. Very much like the wildcat was never really given much credence until one day a team pulled it out and whooped the living hell out of the New England Patriots. And the Miami Dolphins pulled that thing out against the Patriots, the Patriots couldn’t stop it, and everybody in the league was like ‘Whoa, wait a minute!’ So, basically what I was told is, look, you put Carson Wentz and you put Jalen Hurts in the shotgun back there, and we think both of them can throw the football, obviously. […]
What I was told is, if you snap the ball, and you have two guys in the backfield, and either of them can throw the football from where they are in the backfield, how does the defense deal with that? It presents a concept that now the defense has to sit and think about it. […] I’m telling you, I really, truly believe the coaching staff is going to sit and think long and hard about playing both of these guys in a functional role where they can both throw it at times.”
All of this two quarterback talk is interesting in light of something Eagles passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor said around this time last year. Via NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“I do think at some point one of the big things is having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball. I think that’s something [you’ll see] going forward. You’ve seen kind of the Philly Special, all the different versions of double passes, things like that. I think at some point something like that I could see coming into play.
Holy foreshadowing, Batman.
But do the Eagles really plan to use Hurts and Wentz on the field at the same time together? Let’s take a look at what the head coach had to say.
Q. Because we talked a lot about the evolution of offensive football and how the game is changing, Saints QB Taysom Hill in New Orleans, even Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh talked about putting two quarterbacks on the field at one time. Do you see a unique skill set that would let you open up the offense in any way?
DOUG PEDERSON: With Jalen Hurts, he has a unique skill set. You see what Taysom Hill has done in New Orleans and now he and [Saints QB] Drew Brees have a connection there and a bond there, and you even look at — when [Joe] Flacco and [Ravens QB] Lamar [Jackson] in Baltimore for the short period of time, how they gelled together. It’s just something we’re going to explore. I want to make a point here first and foremost that Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback, and he was drafted as a quarterback and he’s a quarterback first, but he has a unique skill set that he’s a great runner. Obviously, he throws well on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we’re going to take a look at as we keep developing this off-season and this advancement, so to speak, as we get ready for training camp.
Q. Doug, you mentioned yesterday in talking about Oklahoma QB and Eagles second-round draft pick Jalen Hurts’ acquisition, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. I’m wondering, Eagles senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg obviously was in Baltimore in 2018. Did you lean on him a little bit for suggestions there, and certainly in the thinking with the Ravens and how they approached that pick and utilized him in that first season? Is that a fair comp?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, Jeff, it is a fair comp. Marty obviously was a part of that team that brought in Lamar Jackson, and obviously he did the evaluation process. And then fast forward to where we are today, and I bring Marty on board and ask him to look, and Howie and Andy and their staff, they asked all our coaches to look at players.
Marty with his expertise in quarterbacks, just take a look at all these guys. He felt very similar in Jalen as he did in Lamar.
Now, I think totally — I’ve only been around two types of quarterbacks. I think with that — with Lamar Jackson and Michael Vick’s skillset — those are the two guys that I’ve seen that have dynamic, athletic ability.
But having Marty look at Jalen and his skillset and what he can do, and then how they put plans together, how they designed an offense around putting Lamar in his rookie season and allowing him to play certain plays, it’s all part of the process.
And for us, moving forward, I want to be clear that Jalen is a quarterback. He’s a quarterback first. That’s how we’re going to develop him, and then obviously utilize his strength as a runner and maybe some other things as we go throughout this spring.
But, yeah, Marty was a big help obviously in this process, along with [Eagles passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Press [Taylor], along with Rich, as we evaluated this entire class of quarterbacks.
Pederson repeatedly stressed that the Eagles view Hurts as a quarterback and not JUST a gimmick player ... but he certainly didn’t rule out two quarterback formations.
It’s intriguing to think about what those could packages look like. I know some (most?) believe it’s a useless gimmick but I think the Saints do run some interesting stuff with Hill. Now, Sean Payton obviously overthinks it sometimes when he’s taking the ball out of his future Hall of Fame quarterback’s hands. But Hill does provide some value that goes beyond his statistics. As Benjamin Solak and Michael Kist have talked about in some Eagles versus Saints preview shows on BGN Radio, Hill is a tendency breaker. The Saints use him in unique ways to keep the defense guessing.
Maybe the Eagles truly will get creative when it comes to using Hurts. He is very athletic:
Hurts was a prolific college rusher with 614 attempts for 3,274 yards (5.3 average) and 43 touchdowns. He also notched five receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown.
There is some reason to doubt Hurts becoming Hill might happen this year, though. With the potential absence of offseson practices, will the team really have ample time to effectively incorporate plays that use both quarterbacks? In addition to the other new ideas being brought to the table by the likes of Rich Scangarello, Andrew Breiner, Mornhinweg, et. al? As the Eagles are also trying to get Hurts up to speed as a standard quarterback? Perhaps the answer is yes.
In any case, it’s interesting to think about what the future has in store for Hurts in Philly.