As the Eagles prepare for their first playoff game under Nick Sirianni, the head coach and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen have spoken at length this week about the development of second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. Not just the QB’s development from his rookie season, but even from the last time they faced off against the Buccaneers in Week 6.
When the Eagles played in Tampa Bay earlier this season, Hurts had his second-worst passing game of the year. He finished that road game with a completion percentage of just 46.15 percent (12-of-26 passes) for 115 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He had a slightly better game using his feet, carrying the ball 10 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns, but they still lost 22-28. In addition to his questionable performance, Hurts’ production was also affected by the number of offensive snaps (52) being the second lowest of the season.
Steichen talked about how the repetition of Hurts’ preparation and experience has led to his growth since then.
“I think he’s just grown. He’s grown as a quarterback. You can see the growth that he’s made from that game to now. He’s throwing the ball well, he’s getting the ball out of his hands and creating big plays with his feet, like he’s been doing.
But I think it’s just the repetition. When someone plays and continues to play and play and play, you see the growth in what he’s doing. So, we’re excited where he is at, and I know he’s fired up for this game on Sunday.”
Sirianni echoed those sentiments as well, saying that Hurts is a significantly different player than he was back in October.
“He has definitely gotten better throughout that time, which doesn’t surprise me at all because Jalen is a student of the game. Jalen wants to get better and craves to get better. He has high football character and, like I have said plenty of times, guys that are tough, guys that have high football character and guys who love football are going to reach their ceiling.
I think you’re just seeing him grow closer and closer to his ceiling. Yeah, he’s definitely better and he’s just going to continue to get better because of who he is as a person and as a player.”
While Hurts’ development in the nine weeks since certainly deserves credit, Sirianni and the coaching staff made some big adjustments to their game planning following that loss, and started focusing on the run game. Steichen acknowledged that the Tampa Bay game was a catalyst for the change in their offense.
Sirianni similarly talked about how they utilized the extra days they had following a Thursday night game to really evaluate what they were doing and make some changes. He admitted that the results didn’t show up the next week, but over time, they started to see new offensive success.
“I think what you saw is it started to turn that game, as far as our kind of who we were and what we were doing. Not only in the run game, but also in the passing game and the way we were doing some things in the passing game as well to make things a little bit easier for Jalen and to be able to see the things a little differently and our receivers, tight ends and running backs.”
It took nearly half the season, but between Hurts’ commitment to putting in the work needed to improve, and Sirianni, along with Steichen, coming up with an offense that utilized his strengths and made things a little easier on him, the Buccaneers will not be facing the same team they did in Week 6.
Steichen expressed confidence in Hurts and his ability to play in such a big game by citing his experience with big games in college combined with the way that the QB prepares. He emphasized that the way he prepares for each game is what you want from your quarterback and his preparation is second to none.
“He loves ball, he grinds every single day, mentally and physically, to get ready to play on Sunday. So, I know he’s going to be ready to go.”