From a pick that hurt to see to Hurts so good.
Step-by-step, Eagles passer Jalen Hurts is slowly quieting questions on whether or not he can be a viable long-term starter in Philadelphia. While there’s a long, long way to go in 2021, Hurts has been a surprising positive in a Philadelphia Eagles season that wasn’t expected to have many of those.
By any measure or metric, Hurts is having a superior year in 2021 than he was in 2020 as a spot starter under Doug Pederson. While Hurts wasn’t exactly drafted to replace Eagles starter Carson Wentz — at least, not if you believe Pederson — he eventually did just that, and now, he’s making the most of his opportunity as a second-year starter.
Hurts has already surpassed his 2020 totals in yards and touchdowns and is completing just under 65 percent of his passes for the 2-3 Eagles so far this year, continuing a truly fascinating football career that started at Alabama, shifted to Oklahoma and now landed with the Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love.
But if the Eagles didn’t take Hurts to replace Wentz, then why was he picked in the first place?
Why did the Eagles draft Jalen Hurts?
Among other reasons, Philly had a special plan for putting hurts into action: “Taysom Hill on steroids.”
On the night of the 2020 NFL Draft, reports out of the Eagles side of things indicated that Hurts wasn’t drafted to replace Carson Wentz. Rather, the Eagles had an opportunity to use the former Oklahoma (and Alabama) passer as a Swiss army knife-type player akin to that of Hill.
Former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said as much following the Hurts selection, saying he was planning to use Hurts in that Taysom Hill role, leading to ideas of a potential two-quarterback system with Philadelphia. That plan was very ambitious.
The idea received criticism, as some believed Hurts wasn’t worthy of such a high selection (No. 53 overall) when the Eagles had other glaring needs on the roster. Pederson explained the dynamics of having two QBs in the room at one time after the pick was made.
With Jalen Hurts, he has a unique skill set. You see what Taysom Hill has done in New Orleans and now he and Drew Brees have a connection there and a bond there, and you even look at — when [Joe] Flacco and Lamar [Jackson] in Baltimore for the short period of time, how they gelled together. It’s just something we’re going to explore. I want to make a point here first and foremost that Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback, and he was drafted as a quarterback and he’s a quarterback first, but he has a unique skill set that he’s a great runner. Obviously, he throws well on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we’re going to take a look at as we keep developing this off-season and this advancement, so to speak, as we get ready for training camp.
Well, the football gods laugh at your best-laid plans. Incumbent starter Wentz had a very, very bad year with the Eagles, leading to increased snaps for Hurts as the season neared its end. After leading the league in turnovers, Wentz was eventually benched in the second half of the Eagles’ Week 13 game vs. the Packers, and that would be the last snaps he would take for Philly.
Hurts would be named starter for Week 14, eventually playing out three games with the Eagles until he was pulled in the final game of the season in favor of Nate Sudfeld.
In all, before Week 14, Hurts played 56 snaps on offense in 10 games at quarterback, running back and out wide. Hurts played most of those snaps, though, as a QB. For comparison, Hill had 217 snaps in nine weeks before filling in for Drew Brees last year. Hurts didn’t exactly get the same volume in the Hill-mold.
But he’s getting plenty of volume now, and with Nick Sirianni, he’s making the most of it.