For all the moves the Philadelphia Eagles made to help the defensive side of the ball during free agency and the NFL Draft, success for the 2022 season will be defined by the performance of starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. “For me, the foundation has been set,” Hurts said during a press conference back in May. “The message has been simply that the only direction is to rise and we have a lot that we want to achieve in this organization from the top down.” Though Hurts is in his third year of NFL experience, he is in his second year as a starting quarterback and is coming off a 2021 season in which he struggled to find consistency in the passing game. Last season, Hurts passed for 3,144 yards and completed 61.3 percent of his passes with 16 touchdown passes (tied for No. 23) and nine interceptions. As a team, the Birds ranked No. 25 in the NFL in passing. “The word for me is consistency. That has been my whole entire approach coming into year three for me,” Hurts said. “I look back on last year knowing that there were games that were played at a high level and there were games where it wasn’t the same. I think consistency in this league is everything …consistency is what I’m chasing.” Throughout both his collegiate and professional career, Hurts has always had a tremendous work ethic that has earned him the respect of his teammates. During the offseason, Hurts has reportedly spent time in California working with quarterback coaches to work on improving his physical skills as a passer. “Jalen is working on every angle he can to get better whether that’s working with a quarterback guy or studying film,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters at the owners’ meeting back in March. “He’s doing everything he can do to get better.”
Like most first-year starting quarterbacks, Hurts did some things well and did some things poorly. In an ugly loss 13-7 to the New York Giants, Hurts threw three interceptions and completed just 45 percent of his passes.
In the playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hurts threw two interceptions, including one at the end of the first half that robbed the Birds of a scoring opportunity that would have kept them in the game.
At various times throughout the season, more than a few fans and media people were calling for head coach Nick Sirianni to bench Hurts in favor of backup Gardner Minchew.
With all the criticism he received for his inconsistency as a passer, Hurts’ running ability which he also used to make a few plays in the passing game, was also responsible for helping the Birds to make it to the playoffs. He led the Eagles in rushing with 784 yards on the ground.
Hurts’ mobility kept opposing defenses on their heels even in third-down passing situations. If receivers weren’t open, Hurts prolonged drives to escape a disintegrating the passing pocket. In a win over the New Orleans Saints, Hurts scored three rushing touchdowns to help the Eagles come away with a 40-29 win.
Outside of adding much-needed defensive pieces in both free agency and the draft, the Eagles got some depth at the wide receiver position by trading the 18th pick in the draft to the Tennessee Titans from wide receiver A.J. Brown.
In two of his first three years in the NFL, Brown had at least 1,000-yard yards receiving. He has averaged 16.4 yards per catch. He has scored 24 touchdowns in three seasons with the Titans. He is a combination of speed and power at the wide receiver position.
“Yeah, excited to have him on this team. He plays with great play strength,” Sirianni said. “This guy, this is a strong man. He's quick for a big guy, and he catches everything. Those are things that really stick out from his tape. There's no projection there. It's like, ‘Well, this is what he's going to be in the NFL.’ No, you've seen it. You've seen it for three years now. And it's just exciting to put on his tape and watch him.”
The good thing about the Eagles' acquisition of Brown is that he and Hurts have been good friends since their college days when Hurts tried to recruit Brown to come to Alabama. The two had been working out with each other before the trade. Brown said he likes what he sees from Hurts.
“I see a guy who is talented and believes in himself, has a strong arm who’s on time and this isn’t just coming from me,” Brown said. “I think the sky’s the limit for him. I’m going to bat for him every Sunday …” *