Welcome to my offseason roster review series. In this activity, we’ll analyze the Philadelphia Eagles’ talent on a position-by-position basis, identify strengths and needs, and explore how those needs can potentially be addressed through the 2023 NFL Draft.
First up we address the most important position in football, quarterback.
A year ago, we were having conversations about whether or not Jalen Hurts could be the guy in Philadelphia. There were clamors to trade for a veteran quarterback or maybe even draft a guy last spring, but conventional wisdom was to give Jalen Hurts another chance with a more talented roster.
Hurts responded with an MVP caliber season, leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl where he scored four total touchdowns, played the game of his life, and had the Eagles within spitting distance of their second world championship.
In short, Jalen Hurts is the guy. Heading into the last year of his rookie deal, the only question about his long term position with the team is how many zeroes will be on his paycheck.
The Not So Obvious
Any questions surrounding the quarterback position should revolve around play calling and personnel. Brian Johnson will likely make the jump from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator and that is great news for Jalen Hurts going into year four.
Brian Johnson has been right there along the ride for Jalen Hurts’ development and will likely be able to tailor the offense even more to the things Hurts does best. Yes, Shane Steichen called plays for an Eagles offense that set all sorts of franchise records. Yet there were moments across the season where the play calling felt stubborn, conservative and against the grain of what typically worked for the group of players he had at his disposal. Johnson, hopefully, won’t suffer from those same obstacles.
Setting up Hurts for the long run
Part of what makes Jalen Hurts so special is that he is extremely dangerous as a runner while continuing to make huge strides as a passer. Team’s could not simply “take away his ability to run” this year. Pittsburgh held Jalen Hurts to 10 rushing yards and he threw for four touchdowns. Washington held Hurts to 2.2 yards a carry in their first meeting with Philadelphia. Jalen Hurts threw for 340 yards and three scores. Hurts had rushing attempts against Tennessee, yet went for 380 yards in the air… Hurts is probably the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL in terms of being equal parts dangerous running and throwing the ball.
That all being said, the Eagles should think about how they get rushing production out of Hurts. His ability to push the pile on short yardage situations is damn near infamous. He is a very good scrambler and is deadly on designed runs. The threat of his mobility is not just a good feature in the offense, it is at the center of how defenses play Philadelphia.
Shane Steichen had a habit of using Jalen Hurts like a power back at times, and this is not just about quarterback sneaks. The Chicago game comes to mind. Hurts had 17 carries in the freezing cold, many of them designed runs. Chicago was giving the Eagles almost nothing on the ground all day, but Steichen kept running Hurts into the teeth of that defense. This carelessness led to Jalen Hurts injuring his throwing shoulder, impacting the trajectory of the whole season.
Hurts might keep his body in great shape, but he is not indestructible. He has missed three games in two years due to injury and Philly needs him on the field for long seasons and playoff runs. The mileage of misusing Hurts as a runner will impact his short term effectiveness as a passer and also, potentially, his longevity.
Shaping the roster around Jalen
This is not about keeping Hurts in the pocket more. Rather, the Eagles need to keep protecting him with great personnel and smart play calling. Consider this rant an intro on how the Eagles can keep filling out the offensive roster this offseason to reload on the offensive line, bolster the running game and keep Hurts surrounded with a plethora of weapons in the passing game.