HURTS IS POISED TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP TO STARDOM
In the 2020 NFL draft the Eagles spent their 53rd pick on Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts.
I was a fan and I applauded the selection. Carson Wentz and many others weren't so fond of the selection.
I thought with good coaching, like he received from Lincoln Riley at OU, and with a proper supporting cast that he could become a QB comparable to Russell Wilson. Twenty-five starts later and with the Birds the only undefeated team after five weeks, sitting atop everyone’s standing s at 5-0, he is looking more and more like a younger Russell Wilson. But is he an MVP candidate? He isn’t better than Patrick Mahomes nor Josh Allen, nor Lamar Jackson who are easy choices to choose from for that prestigious award. But there is plenty of time for Jalen to climb into the conversation. As I write this on Thursday morning, three days prior to the Eagles matchup with the Dallas Cowboys in front of a home crowd and a massive national audience, he is going to get a real opportunity to show off all of his improved skills on the biggest stage and against their biggest rival for undisputed first place in the NFC East. Those improved skills are better accuracy, better touch, overall decision making, and leadership. Some of that is the improved roster from when he started at the end of the 2020 season. Some of it is having consistency with the same coach and coordinator for the first time since he left Channelview High School in Houston. Through five games he has committed two turnovers, and as a result, the Birds are No.1 in the all-important turnover ratio at +9 after five games. It’s the biggest reason they are undefeated. He has really worked on ball security, protecting the ball within the pocket and when he pulls it down and runs. His two interceptions while still being aggressive throwing the ball down field is impressive using any metric He will never put up stats the way Allen and Mahomes can, or Lamar can accumulate through his style, but the reason he has to be considered is his leadership acumen. It starts with Jalen the person, Jalen the man. He is totally committed to the team, the city and the team. On occasion when I have worked out with Jalen in the off-season, the workouts begin at 5 AM. He is disciplined like that. He deflects praise and spreads it to teammates and when things haven’t gone well in his 25 starts he owns it and welcomes the criticisms. He is the undisputed leader of a talented team Sunday night against the Cowboys is the biggest game he has played outside of a poor showing by the entire team in their playoff loss to the Bucs in January.
The fans and pundits alike can put their next gen stats aside and just watch the action. Everything on this team runs through Jalen from when he comes out to lead the team through the tunnel. To become a conversation piece for NFL MVP he has to excel in front of this Sunday Night Audience. ALL eyeballs will be on him. He likes that and let’s see if it elevates his performance or if it interferes with it by not allowing himself to play loose, fast and calm. The Cowboys defensive team speed is immediately apparent at all positions. His reads and decisions have to be quicker than they ever have and his impeccable decision making thus far will be tested. If the Eagles get to 6-0 and hold a sturdy handle on the division and out front of the entire NFC, I believe Jalen will have had to play his best overall game as an Eagle. If that happens the drum beat for MVP should get ratcheted up a few national notches. His three main passing targets; Brown, Smith, and Goedert all fall into special categories. It’s Jalen’s job as the point guard to feed this trio of receivers. AJ and Jalen have great timing with each other. Perhaps it’s AJ's size and body type. But he constantly throws to AJ before he comes out of his break. It seems like many of Smitty's catches are when Jalen begins to move from the pocket to buy some time and Smitty finds the opening better than others. With Goedert, they run a lot of screens, delays, and seams to him. It’s Jalen's job to set him up and not rush those throws to quickly giving the Cowboys time to react. At the beginning of this season, many wondered if Jalen could be the long-term answer for the Eagles at QB. I think and have always believed that he is and will be. But because the Birds are undefeated, can Jalen become an MVP of this league? I say as I wrap this up that he can be. He definitely will be if the Eagles take care of their nemesis on Sunday night in front of a national audience. It’s going to take his best performance in 26 starts, but he has everything it takes to be as great as he wants…Stay tuned. *