In the past, Chris Simms has been critical, some might say overly critical, in analyzing Jalen Hurts’ game. Before last year, the NBC Sports analyst and former NFL quarterback did not even include the Eagles’ starter on his top 40 QB list, which he later admitted fault in doing.
In May, before this season, Simms rated Hurts at No. 25 in his top 40 list.
“I was wrong last year (by not rating Hurts), I think that’s fair to say,” Simms said. “He was one of those first few guys off my list. I had questions about him, the way the 2020 season ended. I wasn’t sure he could do it. Prove to me he can do it. There are some things the Eagles see about Hurts where you go, ‘I like that this guy is my starting quarterback.’ His leadership, his personality effect on the football team is real. His is a presence on the field. He is a presence behind the microphone. He gives a team confidence. He is steadfast about his craft, he is humble, and I love that about Jalen Hurts. We know he can extend plays, do things with his legs. That’s certainly there.
“His throwing the ball is below average of a starting NFL quarterback quality. That’s the big thing here. In the pocket, he’s pretty good. I need to see more. Early in the year, they tried to play through the quarterback, and they were not very good. Then they said they couldn’t play this way.”
That was in May.
Last week in a conference call with the NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast crew, Simms openly admitted he likes the Eagles’ roster, their improvements and sees them as a factor in the NFC.
“I’m on the record for saying this already, I think the Eagles have one of the finest rosters in the game,” said Simms, the son of former New York Giants’ quarterback Phil Simms. “That’s on paper. O-line, I think it’s arguably one of the best o-lines in the game. Their d-line, they have a lot of big suckers up there that can do a lot of good stuff. They improved their linebacking group with Haason Reddick. The secondary already had Darius Slay, and they brought in James Bradberry and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, two receivers, couple that with the offensive line and the run game, and Jalen Hurts’ ability to run, playing one-on-one with DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, I mean, good night.
“Jalen Hurts has gotten better every year. We’ll just have to continue seeing when they get in those games, like the playoff game against the (Tampa Bay) Bucs, when the run game is taken away, can he make a handful of those throws that we see some of the top-tier quarterbacks make? I love his leadership. I love his ability to make plays off schedule. He’s not someone affected by the outside noise. I really think Nick Sirianni and the coaching staff there deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve done.
“That’s why I kind of get excited about the Eagles being a team to watch out for.”
As for what areas Hurts can improve?
“He’s a great deep-ball thrower and he takes care of the ball,” Simms said. “The big thing to me are the throws into tight windows, tight coverage when the run game is not quite working. On third-and-eight, can he consistently hit the bullseye between the linebackers and the safeties, can he hit the strike zone? It’s the 20-yard out route, when they take the run game away, can he spin it out there and gun it through the wind, like he had in Tampa, and throw the ball on the money, on target? It’s that.
“From what I saw in the preseason, and in some practice stuff, he has gotten better. He’s a worker. That’s for sure, I know. It’s just the last piece of the puzzle. Hopefully, he can accomplish that and may be shut people like me up, who have been questioning that aspect of his game.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written features 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, and his breaking story on Carson Wentz for PhillyVoice on January 21, 2019. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.