True or false: Jalen Hurts belongs in the conversation for “NFL’s worst starting quarterback” heading into the 2021 season.
Pro Football Focus is clearly in the “true” camp. They have Hurts ranked 31st out of 32 projected starting quarterbacks:
Jalen Hurts will get his opportunity to showcase not only his skills but his leadership heading into 2021. Hurts provided an immediate spark last season, but the wheels started to fall off after that. Hurts must manage the game with better decision-making. He finished the season with nine turnover-worthy plays in the last four games. If Hurts wants to be the guy in Philadelphia, then he needs to protect the ball better. His leadership and poise will bring the team together, but production — and winning football games — must follow.
Is PFF being too harsh on Hurts, though? Perhaps not after seeing how a variety of numbers certainly don’t paint the Eagles’ second-year quarterback in a favorable light.
- Hurts ranked 40th out of 42 quarterbacks graded by PFF.
- Hurts ranked 31st out of 37 quarterbacks in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
- Among qualified quarterbacks, Drew Lock led the NFL in bad throws (22.9%) and ranked last in on target throws (68.9%) last year. Hurts was significantly worse in those categories (26.7% and 60.7%).
- Hurts completed just 52% of his attempts. For perspective on how low that number is, Drew Lock ranked last out of 35 qualified quarterbacks with a 57.3% completion percentage.
- Hurts completed just 48.8% of his attempts on non-play action plays. (Interestingly, he had the NFL’s biggest completion percentage difference between play action and not with a 66.7% completion on the former.)
- Hurts’ 7.2 yards per attempt was only tied for the 20th best mark.
- Hurts’ 77.6 passer rating ranked only above Lock, Dwayne Haskins, Carson Wentz, and Sam Darnold.
- Only six players fumbled more than Hurts last year despite the fact he played just 334 snaps (29.6%).
- Hurts took the longest average time to throw at 3.39 seconds. Lamar Jackson was the second-longest at 3.17 seconds. With Hurts failing to get the ball out quick, PFF charted him for the second-highest percentage of pressures generated by defense charged to quarterbacks. This is to say he invited too much pressure.
So, Hurts is doomed and can’t get any better. Right?
Wrong. That’s not the argument here. There’s reason to believe he can improve. The presence of a new coaching staff could really help him. So could adding DeVonta Smith to the mix. Hurts’ work ethic and desire to be great aren’t in question. His completion percentage could improve in part by scaling back the overaggressive approach we saw. And while his repetitive accuracy must be better, it’s not like he totally lacked touch on his throws.
The question isn’t if Hurts can improve. He can. The question is: to what extent? Realistically speaking, how much better can he be? What’s the ceiling? Is he really going from being as bad as he was to a regular top 10 starter in the league? Because that’s no small gap to bridge.
Look, I’m by no means out on Hurts. I’m genuinely interested to see what he can do with a starting opportunity this year. I’m rooting for him to succeed. But, to me, he currently belongs in the conversation as one of the league’s worst starters. And that’s also why the Eagles’ outlook as a team should be in question this year.
Even putting aside what I think, which doesn’t really matter, the team appears to have their own reservations about his outlook. We’ve constantly heard the Eagles linked to Deshaun Watson (who is No. 5 on PFF’s list, by the way). We all suspect they could use their potential three first-round picks next year to pivot to a new starter.
It’d be great to see Hurts truly establish himself. The Eagles could then be afforded to use their picks to help build around him. Such a scenario is far from guaranteed, though.
Other quick notes from PFF’s QB rankings:
- Around the NFC East: Dak Prescott is at No. 7, Ryan Fitzpatrick is at No. 19, and Daniel Jones is at No. 20. So, Hurts is by far PFF’s worst quarterback in the division.
- Old friend Carson Wentz is No. 23.
- If you think Hurts is too low, who do you think he definitely deserves to be ahead of?