By Ryan Boyd
Despite only four starts as quarterback for the Eagles, fans around the city of Philadelphia and the NFL are already writing off Jalen Hurts. To say that’s a bit unfair is an understatement.
In four starts with the Philadelphia Eagles last season, all of which came in the final four weeks of the regular season, Hurts completed 69 of 133 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 51.87 %. He threw for 919 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions. He rushed for three touchdowns and racked up 272 yards on the ground.
Are these the kind of numbers that Eagles fans should marvel at?
Not by a long shot.
Are they the kind of numbers that should lead you to believe that Hurts isn’t capable of having success at the quarterback position with the Eagles?
Even one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of football got off to a rocky start.
Peyton Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, threw only three touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions in his first four career starts at quarterback.
Imagine if the Indianapolis Colts had already decided that he wasn’t good enough to be the starting quarterback based off of his first four starts in the NFL. They would still be having nightmares about it.
So it’s simply too early to know whether or not to write off Hurts as the Eagles starting quarterback. You can build a solid case for that just based on everything that went wrong this season.
Hurts was dealt a tough hand right from the get go, and that’s one of the main reasons that it’s extremely unfair to judge him based off of four starts.
For one, the NFL cancelled all of its preseason games. One would think Hurts would’ve seen quite a few reps at the quarterback position if there had been a preseason. Instead, he had to figure things out when it actually mattered in the regular season.
In yet what was another obstacle for the 22-year-old quarterback, Hurts played behind an offensive line that was riddled by injuries. Players like Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, both of whom are three-time pro bowlers, were inactive in all four of Hurts’ starts. Two players that are crucial to the Eagles offensive line sat idle.
Let’s not also forget about the lack of depth at the wide receiver position. Hurts didn’t have a number one wide receiver to throw to, like some quarterbacks have the luxury of doing. Instead, he was throwing to guys like DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, who are no longer in their prime, and to practice squad wide receivers, such as Quez Watkins, John Hightower, and Travis Fulgham, just to name a few.
Finally, Hurts had to deal with all of the background noise regarding what the Eagles were going to do with Carson Wentz after he was benched in favor him.
Talk about a major distraction. People seemed to be more focused more on Wentz, who wasn’t even playing, than the guy who was behind center which, in this case, was Hurts.
That’s just to name a few wrinkles in Hurts’ first four starts at quarterback for the Eagles. The list could quite frankly go on and on.
The 2021 NFL season will be here before you know it and I’m confident that Hurts will fare much better this season based on a few reasons. Don’t kick him out the door just yet.
To begin, the Eagles fired head coach Doug Pederson following the 2020 NFL season and brought in former Colts assistant coach Nick Sirianni. A new coach that likely will have a much different approach than Pederson did on offense could benefit Hurts.
He’ll also have the entire offseason to build a relationship with Sirianni and therefore should be looked at as the Eagles number one quarterback headed into the season, barring them drafting one in the first round of this year’s draft.
Another reason to be optimistic about Hurts this season is because of the fact that he may very well have a number one weapon to throw to this season. The Eagles recently traded down in the draft from number six to number 12 but could still end up drafting a wide receiver or tight end that has a lot of upside. It’s also possible the Eagles trade back up ahead of the draft.
You also have to factor in the fact that the Eagles will almost certainly have a much healthier and steady offensive line this year, barring some really bad luck on the injury front of things for a second consecutive season.
This will allow Hurts to have more time to scan the field while also allowing him to better pinpoint his accuracy, which was a concern among many fans. It will also allow him to find more holes to run through after playing behind last season’s depleted offensive line.
Finally, what might be the biggest reason for optimism for the quarterback who was drafted in the second round at No. 53 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft is the fact that he has a few starts under his belt and full offseason to build a relationship with the offense.
After all, experience can go a long way.
Some might say that it’s already clear that Hurts is not the long-term answer as quarterback for the Eagles. But I would argue that coming to that conclusion based off of four starts in the NFL is very unfair. Give him a full season to prove himself.
Take away the positives from his first four starts and throw away the negatives. There were simply too many wrinkles in this unusual season for the Eagles, including a worldwide pandemic.
Let 2021 determine whether Hurts has what it takes to be the Eagles franchise quarterback and then you can still choose to write him off if you’d like.
Contact Ryan Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org