Jalen Hurts has played five games this season and has nine total starts under his professional belt, and I still have no idea what the Eagles have in their second-year quarterback.
Hurts’ performance on Sunday was all over the place, a psychedelic roller coaster of quarterbacking that saw him start the game 12-of-20 for 35 yards (1.75 yards per attempt) and finish by rushing for two touchdowns and connecting with Quez Watkins on a key 53-yard bomb that kick-started a dead-team-walking offense through two-plus quarters.
He missed wide open receivers and layups. He also made daring escapes from the pocket and deft throws on the run. His overall numbers, 22-of-37 for 198 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT and a passer rating of 62.7, were abysmal, but he also made plays late in the game to bring the Eagles back from the brink of a 1-4 start.
There are some incredible statistics that would back up the claim Jalen Hurts is a potential franchise QB. He has done some things in his first nine career starts that few signal callers have ever done. And yet, on a weekly basis, there are missed throws. He appears to lock in on one receiver and take off. Numerous plays are left on the field.
Is this who he is? Is this something he can work through?
He may not have time to prove it. Everyone knew coming into the season that 2021 was a referendum on Jalen Hurts. Thus far, through five weeks, it’s impossible to know just what the Eagles have in him.
Had general manager Howie Roseman drafted Hurts in the second round last year with the intention of making him their franchise quarterback, the sense of urgency for Hurts to prove himself right away would not exist. Donovan McNabb and Carson Wentz were both drafted second overall in their respective drafts with the intention of giving them the keys to the kingdom. They had years to progress through the characteristic inconsistency one often finds in a young quarterback.
But Hurts was never drafted to be the Eagles’ starting quarterback. He was drafted to be a back-up. And now the Eagles have at least two potential first round picks, and maybe three, and some if not all of them could be high picks. The pressure will be there for the Eagles to spend one, two or all three on a QB, either to trade for a veteran star or to move up in the draft and select their favorite college QB.
That combination of past expectations and future opportunity makes 2021 the only season in which Hurts will have an opportunity to prove himself. And it’s honestly not fair to him that he must do so with a rookie head coach who is still clearly struggling to find his way in his first season under the highlighter-clipped visor of leadership.
Nick Sirianni’s playcalling this year has been uninspired, confusing and downright maddening. Few designed running plays for his running QB. Nothing but screen passes and swing passes. A non existent running game. Little pre-snap motion. In-game decision-making that screams of inexperience. No offensive identity. No cohesion.
It’s impossible to know if Jalen Hurts is the team’s long-term answer at QB when his head coach hasn’t yet put him in a position to succeed.
Had Doug Pederson remained as head coach, or had the Eagles brought in someone with a pedigree, one could more honestly assess Jalen Hurts’ true ability. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also made a ton of mistakes. They are the types of mistakes that other young QBs have made, and Hurts doesn’t have the pure size or arm strength that coaches dream on. He is blessed with the ability to tuck and run, to create on the move, and with strong leadership skills that the previous guy didn’t possess.
The best case scenario for everyone is for Hurts to play well enough to convince Roseman and Jeff Lurie that he is the guy moving forward and for the Eagles to use all those first round picks to fill in the many holes on the roster, especially on defense. Imagine being able to spend three first round picks on some combination of edge rusher, cornerback, safety, linebacker or offensive line. Imagine how much better the team would be, and how quickly the rebuild could be over, if they already had the QB solution in place.
But five weeks into the 2021 season, it’s impossible to know if Hurts is that guy. And that’s OK. He has 12 weeks left. Unfortunately, he must try to prove himself with a rookie head coach who is still learning himself. It’s a difficult set of circumstances for Hurts to overcome and, if he does, he will have proved he’s the man under center for the next half-decade or more.