It’s June and everyone raved about how good Jalen Hurts looked during the Eagles’ organized team activities over the last two weeks.
Hurts, who threw 16 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 61.3% of his passes last season, connected on long balls down the sidelines, short passes, short passes in small windows, and showed a good chemistry with his wide receivers.
No one was coming at Hurts. No one was blitzing him. He had the chance to roam and throw in a comfortable setting.
Here’s the thing: If this version of Jalen Hurts shows up during the season, the Eagles could be viable Super Bowl contenders.
That is a big IF.
One thing that is unquestionable is that Hurts has improved. His release is better. His confidence appears greater. And for the first time since Hurts played at Channelview High School in Texas, he will be in the same offensive system for the second year in a row. His familiarity with what Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni likes to do can only spell dividends.
“He just has a relentless effort to be great,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said about Hurts. “Every approach he takes — he doesn’t have an offseason. He’s always on it. He’s always thinking about football. We’re always talking football, day in and day out, and he’s continuing to grow as a player, as a leader, every single day.”
On some plays, Hurts still displayed a penchant for holding the ball too long. But otherwise, his passes were crisp, his timing was far better, which comes with knowing your receivers and the receivers knowing you, and his progressions were quicker.
In these OTAs, Hurts’ footwork looked good.
“You can see right now obviously his feet, we’re working on his feet right now, the drop, the quickness of it, the timing,” Steichen said. “It’s starting to show. He’s a young player, trying to get better every single day. That’s what he’s been doing, and it’s been really good to see.”
The wheel routes worked well, underneath throws up the middle to Dallas Goedert were encouraging, but there were still the blips that will need to be addressed. For instance, one swing pass to Kenny Gainwell was a groundball, and one pass aimed for Brown down the right sideline was overthrown.
It’s June. It’s OTAs. There was no pass rush bearing down on Hurts. Everything was in a relaxed setting. If Hurts can bottle a good chunk of what he showed the last week, the Eagles, with everyone around him, will be good enough to win the NFC East and be able to challenge for more.
If OTA Hurts shows up.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.