As Jalen Hurts works this year to prove that he’s the right guy to be the Eagles franchise quarterback, he took a big step in the right direction on Sunday in Denver.
Especially in the first half.
“That first half, he was lights out,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “It was good to see, and we got to keep working on that.”
Hurts wasn’t asked to throw the ball much at all in the second half of the Eagles’ 30-13 win over the Broncos but he was spectacular in the first two quarters.
In the first half on Sunday, Hurts completed 15 of 20 passes for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns and would have had another if Quez Watkins didn’t drop an absolute dime in the end zone.
It’s the highest level of play we’ve seen from Hurts in his 14 NFL starts.
What made it so encouraging was the way he was succeeding. Sure, he ran for 52 yards in the first half, but what was more impressive was the way he delivered his throws.
“I think just within the pocket,” Steichen said when asked where Hurts has shown the most improvement. “He’s still making those plays outside the pocket, but you can see him stepping up in the pocket.
“He had one in the two-minute drive he threw to (Jalen) Reagor down the sidelines, a stop route. He stayed in there and got drilled. I mean, that's great strides right there, seeing that, making those big-time throws.”
Hurts, 23, has unique ability. He can run better than most quarterbacks in the NFL, which is a huge advantage. But sometimes there’s a downside to it. Nick Sirianni had said publicly before that there have been moments where Hurts escapes the pocket too early.
There’s a balance here. Because the Eagles coaches don’t want to take away the ability that gives Hurts the chance to be a special player. But in order for him to reach his potential, he just needs to make the right decisions more often than not.
While there’s obviously a learning curve, he seemed to make all the right decisions of when the stand tall and when to escape on Sunday.
How do the Eagles coach him out of his tendency to escape too early?
“I think it's repetition. You do it in practice over and over,” Steichen said. “Like Coach (Nick Sirianni) always says, it’s the repetition, the preparation part of it, seeing those things and trusting it when guys are coming in and out of their breaks.
The timing, the anticipation he threw with there, it was a big-time play (to Reagor) and we got to keep doing that.”
Really, Hurts has played much better the last few weeks and there are probably a few different reasons for that.
It probably helps that the Eagles made a switch and now have quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson working with Hurts between series. Johnson and Hurts have a longstanding relationship.
It also probably helps that the Eagles have committed to the run over the last three weeks.
And it also probably just helps that the coaching staff is learning what works for their 23-year-old quarterback, who just started his 14th career game.
“Yeah, no doubt, I think that’s huge, getting to know him, what he does really well” Hurts said. “And I think that's starting to show on Sundays, what we're doing with the offense. So, we are going to keep improving on that.”
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