Eagles

Why isn’t Jalen Hurts throwing into the middle of the field?

Eagles

If you look at Jalen Hurts’ passing charts over the first two weeks of the season, it’s impossible to ignore.

Nothing in the middle of the field.

In a Week 1 win and in a Week 2 loss, almost all of Hurts’ passes have been outside the hash marks.

What gives?

“In our first two games, that's where we wanted to attack on the defensive side,” Sirianni said. “Outside the numbers there and underneath a little bit. And so, that's just a product of who we're playing and what routes we have in for that week.”

There’s probably some truth to that, especially in the 49ers game. After all, the 49ers have one of the best middle linebackers in the league (Fred Warner) patrolling the middle of the field. And the Niners came into that Week 2 game pretty banged up at the corner position. So attacking the outside makes sense.

And Deion Jones isn’t an All-Pro player, but the Falcons’ linebacker is still pretty athletic and patrols the middle of the field pretty well in Atlanta.

“It's really what the defense is giving us, right?” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “If we think we have our route combinations, right, then we go into a game plan.

“And if they're giving stuff outside the numbers, that's where we are going to take it. And if they gave give us stuff over the middle, that's where the ball is going to go. So, really, coverage based on those, as we're looking through a game plan, what they're playing defensively and where we think the ball is going to go.”

 

OK, that makes some sense. But the fear that has been tossed around is that maybe the Eagles aren’t avoiding the middle of the field because they want to attack the outside but instead because they think it will make things easier on their second-year quarterback. Throws in the middle of the field often need pinpoint accuracy and sometimes there’s an element of threading the needle.

Of course, if we look back at Hurts’ season in 2020 (albeit in limited playing time), he actually thrived when throwing into the middle of the field on intermediate routes of 10-20 yards.

One of the byproducts through two games of this lack of middle-of-the-field passing game has been underwhelming production from the Eagles’ tight ends, who get paid to produce in the middle. The Birds have Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz again this season but neither have really produced much.

Goedert has 6 catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. And Ertz has 3 catches for 40 yards.

Through two weeks, the Eagles have used 12 personnel (two tight ends), on 25% of their offensive snaps and 11 personnel on 64% of their snaps.

“The tight ends are definitely a big part of the offense,” Steichen said. “We're in Week 2 right now. We got a lot of football to play. We want to get everyone involved, like I said.

“And sometimes, right, we have schemed up routes to the tight ends and sometimes the coverage dictates where the ball goes. But obviously, we want to get those guys involved just like we want to get everyone involved, absolutely.”

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