IT IS ALL UP TO HURTS NOW
The 2021 season ended in Tampa in horrible fashion.
No one much remembered the Eagles 9-8 record and the one-year turnaround from an abysmal 4-11-1 record of a year ago.
Among the culprits of a poor showing was the quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who threw for less than 100 yards in the first half as the Birds fell behind 17-0 and was not competitive.
That Buc’s lead would swell to 31-0 before the third quarter ended and Eagle fans had checked out.
Jalen Hurts was undeterred. As a young QB, everything is a learning experience. He vowed to get back to the playoffs but with a better team and a better performance.
It’s one thing for the quarterback to say that, but it’s a totally different thing for the organization to believe that.
The Eagles are "all-in" on Jalen Hurts. At least for 2022. Beyond that, no one is looking so far ahead.
Let’s examine what Jeffrey and Howie did to support their young third-year quarterback, starting with the upgrades on the roster.
They brought back center Jason Kelce on a one-year $12 million dollar contract that
keeps one of the best offensive lines intact.
They drafted his eventual replacement in Cam Jurgens in the second round who is going to remind a lot of fans of another Kelce.
On the night of the draft in late April they traded draft capital to acquire A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans to become a true No.1 wide receiver. \
Brown and Hurts happen to be best friends as Hurts is the godfather to Brown's daughter.
When I asked Hurts this off-season about Brown he said he loves the way Brown catches everything with his hands.
Rarely allows the ball to reach his body which allows defensive backs more time to defend passes, He is also a runaway freight train after the catch.
At the roster cut down, they acquired running back Trey Sermon from the 49ers who was a third round pick a year ago from Ohio State.
He should get on the field soon and help out a powerful rushing attack.
Most importantly the Birds kept their offensive staff intact.
For the second year in a row, there is stability in the offense and play-calling.
In addition, they aren't challenging Hurts’ leadership or his ownership of his position of being one of the elected captains.
He received every first team rep throughout the preseason and off season. The only addition to the quarterback room is young Ian Book who was a mid-round draft of the Saints a year ago and who had one auspicious start in 2021.
Defensively, the Birds made as many changes to upgrading the entire defense as any team in the league.
The changes are so numerous to even mention. The result is the Eagles did everything possible to upgrade the roster around the quarterback.
It is officially Jalen Hurts’ team. He realizes it’s all on him. He had similar chances as the starter when at Channelview High School outside of Houston, then at Alabama Then again at Oklahoma.
Now again here in Philadelphia. His leadership style is through preparation and performance.
He accepts the criticism and deflects the praise. Perhaps he learned this from his father, who was his high school coach.
Here is what I believe Nick Sirianni and all Eagle fans want to see. It starts with lining up for 17 games during the regular season and taking this talented roster into the postseason.
The crown jewel would be to unseat last year's NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys.
In order to do this, he must make quicker decisions with the football which would lead to fewer scrambles.
He led the Eagles in both rushing and rushing TD's a year ago and, while he is a very talented runner, he also sustained two banged up ankles that had him barely able to walk by season's end. Hurts had more passing from his "point guard" position than runs and scrambles.
He must trust his protection better and throw with more anticipation and timing. Those are not hollow words.
While his running can help escape poor plays, it ultimately is difficult to win Super Bowls with this style.
It’s more than this however. Can he get the Birds out of bad plays and into good plays. Is there a good time to defy the play call from Nick to run something he prefers based on what he sees? This happened at the Giants a year ago that lead to some heated discussions between the head coach and quarterback.
It also was a dreadful defeat. This is OK and not uncommon. Jalen says he wants to be coached hard and wants to grow as a QB.
He feels like not many of his coaches have guided him in ways that lead to improvement. Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma for sure. Can Nick and Shane and others on the Birds staff help guide Jalen to new heights and ultimately to more wins and a long term contract?
When I last saw Jalen in Miami two weeks ago, prior to a second day of scrimmaging with the Dolphins, Jalen said he had a good Day One. The ball barely hit the ground meaning he threw for a lot of completions.
When I talked with the offensive coordinator and play caller, Shane Steichen, at training camp this summer, I was struck by the confidence he has in being very versatile in how they attack defenses.
He feels they have a great offensive line and should be able to run the ball consistently. He feels they have tremendous athleticism up front to run a quick game on the perimeter.
And the receiving core is the best it’s been since a Super Bowl run five years ago.
I agree with all of that. But how they execute any or all of that comes down to how Jalen runs the show. Executing the two-minute drill at the end of a half and at the end of the game.
Being able to come from behind in the 4th quarter when the defense struggles. Making third, and sometimes fourth down conversions when you need to maintain possession of the ball. Finishing drives in the red zone with TD's and not settling for FG's.
The ball is in Jalen Hurts' hands this season, exactly the way all quarterback's desire.
The team is loaded with talent and depth at almost every position. The Eagles front office can’t do much more to upgrade around the QB1.
In 2022 we find out if Jalen Hurts is the man for the job for now and for the future. Or will we be talking about another quarterback in a season preview of 2023?
My belief is Jalen hurts is that man and will be for years to come. *