HOW CAN JALEN HURTS IMPROVE? STAY OUT OF HARM'S WAY FOR STARTERS
As we approach NFL free agency after the annual combine, it tells the NFL world that we are very much into the off-season.
That is, unless you are Jalen Hurts and any member of the Eagles organization. In that case you haven’t had a month yet to unwind from a devastating defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs after going into the locker room at halftime winning 24-14.
That sting might take longer to recover from than any injuries that you are waiting to heal up from.
How does Jalen Hurts improve upon his performance in 2022-23? I am not sure I have ever seen a player improve more at any position than what Hurts has done in less than two years. That alone says there is more growth to come from Hurts. But where, and how?
On December 17, Jalen and the Birds boarded a charter jet to Chicago Bears in a week 15 matchup. They were 13-1 and the best team in football and Jalen was my choice for league MVP.
It was based off of production and leadership and in a run first offense he was on his way to setting an NFL record for rushing TD'S by a QB.
But in the second quarter, Hurts scrambled off to his right and was pounded on by a big young defensive end named Trevis Gibson. His right shoulder was driven into the hard Soldier Field turf and something was smashed.
He would finish the game, albeit not one of his better games as we threw two interceptions and no touchdowns on the afternoon as the BEARS, Da Bears, would be a formidable foe as they narrowly fell 25-20. But Hurts was hurt.
No one knew for sure, but after clinching the No. 1 seed in the NFC Hurts could afford to sit and rehab for a few weeks as Gardner Minshew would QB the Birds for the next two weeks.
Even as the team finished up the season against the Giants, face the Giants and 49ers on their way to a Super Bowl against the Chiefs there were lots of questions and some cryptic answers to those questions from Hurts and his coaches leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.
The year prior, the 2021 season, Hurts would finish the season and a playoff loss to the Bucs on two very gimpy ankles. Ankles that would require some medical attention once the season ended.
When you begin assessing the rise of Jalen Hurts and how he can improve, I think we need to understand how much punishment he is taking while accumulating many wins over two-plus years as the Eagles starting QB.
He started the season in Motown where he ran 17X for 90 yards. He had more carries than his starting RB, Myles Sanders in that game and ended up running and scrambling 165 times in 15 starts. That’s an average of 11 runs per game in addition to all of the hits he is taking while throwing the ball.
His improvement has to start with running less and throwing more. PERIOD!
The longevity of QB's who like to run is not long. Nobody has done it better than Lamar Jackson at the age of 26 he has already missed 11 starts in the past two years.
I am not in the business of predictions, but if Jalen runs over 150 times in 2023 the chances of him making it through the season for 17 starts and beyond is not very likely. Run less and throw more.
Regardless of a lousy 2nd half outcome for the Birds, 2022 was a magical season. The team, the acquisitions, the chemistry, the health was great on every level. On the eve of NFL Free Agency, the Birds are going to lose many players and quite a few starters.
They will not bring back the same team, nor the great chemistry in the locker room and practice field. It will be a big part of Hurts' off season to unite the new members, the rookies and show them the way that they practice and prepare and how they handle both victory and defeat.
His leadership will be tested and they will need that from him. I have little doubt that he will excel in this area.
The sting of defeat will not go away. It never does when you are that close to a crowning achievement. Many teams, and players, have suffered a long hangover during a much shorter off season. Jalen and his team can’t allow that to happen.
They will enter 2023 as prohibitive favorites in the NFC. Everyone will target them as the benchmark for their success. They are now the hunted and the roles are reversed. The expectations will never be higher.
The Eagles and Jalen can rebound in 2023 if Jalen runs less and throws more, even if it’s just check-downs to his running backs.
It’s imperative that Jalen lines up for all 17 games and is healthy for the postseason. He threw an amazing deep ball in 2022 and we can only hope that with more practice and more experience he is even better with it this year.
They were an excellent red zone team last year and a big reason was their ability to use the "tush push" to score from inside the two-yard line and on most short yardage situations.
No team on any level of football was better. But if they somehow outlaw the play, there is real consideration to do it. The Birds then are going to have to figure out a new way to be so successful when they need a big yard.
Regardless of how this team is rebuilt and reshaped the goal is the same; win the NFC East, and win the No. 1 seed going into the postseason.
The only thing for Jalen to focus on is when they get to the Super Bowl next year... FINISH, FINISH FINISH!
Knowing Jalen, that’s what he will think about most. *