This offseason could have been about replacing Jalen Hurts. Instead, it’s been about doing everything possible to help him succeed.
Need a big-time receiver? Snag the Heisman Trophy winner in the first round.
Need running back depth? Draft one who had over 2,000 scrimmage yards in his one full college season and claim another one on waivers who had a terrific rookie year for the Lions.
Need offensive line help? Select an interior offensive lineman in the second round who may be an injury risk but has an enormous ceiling.
Nobody knows how this will go with Hurts. Maybe he’s 1-and-done, the season is a disaster and the Eagles draft another QB in the first round next year. Or maybe he takes ownership of the Eagles’ quarterback position, gets a new contract and leads the franchise for the next decade.
But one thing is certain. Considering their salary cap limitations, the Eagles have surrounded Hurts with as much talent as possible. They’re giving him a chance.
The Eagles could have stayed at No. 10 and taken Justin Fields or Mac Jones, but by selecting Devonta Smith instead the Eagles made it clear that 2021 is all about Hurts and finding out exactly what he can do. Finding out exactly who he is.
Which is absolutely the right way to go.
If Trey Lance or Zach Wilson landed in their lap, that’s another story. But Hurts deserves a season to prove himself with an actual NFL-caliber supporting cast. And if he turns out to be the answer at quarterback, then the Eagles just saved themselves a 1st-round pick in 2022 that they can use on a corner, edge rusher or lineman.
You can’t evaluate anybody based on last year.
Hurts was throwing to a rag-tag collection of practice-squad call-ups and overmatched rookies. He was protected by an ever-changing offensive line manned by backups of backups of backups. He was running plays called by a head coach who lost his play-calling magic. He never had the benefit of an authoritative running game – in the four games he started, the running backs averaged 18 carries per game (and the Eagles averaged 51 pass plays per game).
There was literally nothing in place to help Hurts look good and yet he did a lot of good things, all without the benefit of a preseason.
His 847 passing yards in three full games are the 6th-most in NFL history by a rookie in his first three starts. His 1,119 passing plus rushing yards in those three games are 2nd-most in history by a rookie in his first three starts.
The low completion percentage and the fumbles are the big concerns, but the completion percentage has to be considered in the context that Hurts was getting the ball down the field more than just about every other NFL quarterback. In his three full games, he completed 12 passes of at least 20 yards or more and seven passes of at least 30 yards. Both were among the most in the league during that span.
Carson Wentz completed a 30-yard pass every 31 attempts. Hurts completed one every 16 attempts.
His 13.8 yards per completion was highest in the entire league – more than a yard higher than Deshaun Watson and more than three yards per pass higher than Wentz’s – and highest by any rookie since Michael Vick’s 15.7 mark for the Falcons in 2001.
This year? An offense with DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor, Boston Scott and whoever else emerges — potentially Travis Fulgham, Quez Watkins, Kenny Gainwell, Kerryon Johnson — behind a healthier offensive line?
That gives Hurts a chance to shine.
With his ability to throw and run and escape, Hurts puts a tremendous amount of pressure on opposing defenses. And this year he’ll have an upgraded set of weapons around him, presumably a healthy and stocked offensive line in front of him and a coach with some fresh, innovative ideas setting him loose in a more balanced offense.
The Eagles have done what they can. The rest is up to Hurts.
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