One by one, Jalen Hurts has been ticking off some of the major complaints fans have had against him heading into this season.
- Can he be a successful passing quarterback?
- Can he beat good teams?
- Can he learn to throw over the middle?
- Can he learn to roll to his left and make plays?
All Hurts has done is place himself squarely in the middle of the NFL MVP conversation five weeks into a season in which he has led the Birds to the league’s only 5-0 start, and the franchise’s first since 2004.
Each week, it seems Hurts does something that his critics didn’t think he could do. He’s improved in every facet of the game, and the record on the field speaks for itself. Sure, Sunday’s game could just as easily have been a loss, and there’s no doubt the offense could be more consistent. But through five weeks, Hurts has proven himself to be a true franchise quarterback.
This Sunday night, he’ll have the opportunity to fill another square in his Franchise QB Bingo Card — beating the Dallas Cowboys in prime time.
To be fair, the sample size is limited. In his first game against them in November of 2020, he had yet to take over as the starting QB for Carson Wentz and threw one pass for 9 yards. Hurts did not play in last year’s meaningless Week 18 51-26 loss, either.
He’s made two career starts against Dallas and, in those starts, it was a struggle, going 47-for-78 (60.2% completion) for 668 yards, 3 TDs and 4 INTs. He’s also rushed 18 times for 104 yards, but has not scored a touchdown on the ground either. All told, he’s averaged a little over 260 combined yards per game against the Cowboys. By comparison, in his five starts this year, he’s averaged 325. He’s also combined for 10 TDs (4 passing, 6 running) and 2 INTs.
In a 37-17 loss in Week 16 of his 2020 rookie season, Hurts threw for 342 yards but tossed just one TD — a deep bomb to DeSean Jackson — and 2 INTs for a passer rating of 70.7, completing just 53.8% of his passes. It was at the end of a long, awful season in which the Eagles managed just four wins, so it’s hard to fault Hurts for that one.
Last year’s game was his biggest test and, again, he underperformed. In a Week 3 41-21 loss, he went 25-for-39 (64.1%) for 326 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs for a rating of 86.1. The first pick was bad.
It’s hard to envision Hurts making another throw like this right now. On his second interception, Hurts was trying to bring the Birds back from a 20-7 deficit at the start of the 3rd quarter.
Jalen Hurts has thrown two interceptions tonight— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 28, 2021
Devonta Smith fell down there
The rout was on.
Hurts rushed nine times that night but for only 35 yards as Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn did an outstanding job preventing him from running around and making plays. After the game, Hurts took it exactly the way you’d expect him to.
Jalen Hurts will flush last night's ugly Eagles loss to the Cowboys— Jeff Skversky (@JeffSkversky) September 28, 2021
"Take you a deuce, you don't sit there and look at it. You flush it and move on. We're going to flush it and move on."#Eagles #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/RxK91W97Qb
And this year, Dallas’ defense is one of the best in the NFL again.
They are 2nd in sacks (20), 3rd in points per game allowed (14.4), 7th in passing yards allowed (969), tied for 10th in interceptions (5) and are 13th in QB rating (84.6). In terms of total DVOA, they rank 6th, two spots behind Jonathan Gannon’s defense, which ranks 4th. They are allowing 4.7 yards per attempt on the ground, which means you could see a heavier dose of Miles Sanders and Hurts running out of RPOs on Sunday night.
But by all appearances, Jalen Hurts is a different player now than in his two previous starts against the Cowboys, and swapping out Jalen Reagor for A.J. Brown is a game-changer. All bets are off.
If Hurts plays well against Dallas and propels the Eagles to 6-0, you can fill in another square in his Franchise QB Bingo Card on Sunday night.