No, the Eagles didn’t draft Jalen Hurts in the second round to be their scout team quarterback.
That doesn’t mean he can’t help.
Because this weekend the Eagles are going to face the reigning NFL MVP and one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks ever. No, Hurts isn’t Lamar Jackson. But he’s as close as you can get.
“He’s given us a great look. So far, so good,” Brandon Graham said on Thursday. “Yesterday was really good seeing the speed of what we’re going to see. Of course, he’s not Lamar, but he’s fast, too. To see the speed of what they’re showing us and how fast things happen, it’s definitely going to help us Sunday. I think with him that plays right into that he does.”
Yes, during practice this week, the Eagles’ rookie backup quarterback has been tasked with running the Eagles’ scout team, playing the role Jackson to help his own defense get ready.
In previous years when the Eagles were facing a mobile quarterback, they’d hand that role to Greg Ward Jr. But Ward is now a starting slot receiver for the Eagles and, besides, Hurts is an even better comparison to Jackson.
Every member of the Eagles’ defense who spoke to reporters on Thursday seemed impressed by how seriously the 22-year-old Hurts has taken his role of imitating Jackson this week.
“It’s helped us out a lot,” Rodney McLeod said. “He understands the zone read scheme. And his athleticism, I think, speaks for itself. And so he's putting that on display for us throughout this week, giving us a real good look. scrambling around, whether it's designed runs, or it’s him just doing things similar to Lamar Jackson, and then also having the ability, you know, to throw the ball down the field.
“For us as a defensive back group, man, staying in coverage is going to be big this week for us, understanding how Lamar Jackson likes to make his plays. So we've been getting a very good look at — it’s exciting to see, man, and go against. I’m not sure, you know how the speed, whether it's similar or not, but it’s good enough.”
Maybe Hurts isn’t quite as fast as Jackson, but he’s still an incredible athlete. During training camp, he made plays with his legs and his arm every day. You can argue about whether or not the Eagles should have drafted him, but there’s a reason he was a second-round pick.
Earlier this week, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson admitted the Eagles studied Jackson’s rookie season in Baltimore in 2018 to help design some of the packages they have created for Hurts.
Through five games, Hurts hasn’t played a ton on offense (12 snaps), but the Eagles have gotten him involved and they continue to increase those packages for him. Eagles senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg was the offensive coordinator in Baltimore in 2018, so the Eagles have a great resource in-house to use that Jackson template.
“We took a little bit of that and looked at Lamar and what he did and what Marty had done with he and Joe Flacco,” Pederson said. “There's some carry over there. We obviously looked at Jalen's college tape and what he did in college at Oklahoma and Alabama. We find ways to incorporate him into the offense. But the stuff that Lamar did early in his career are all things that - maybe not everything, but there are some things that we can put a package together for Jalen that way, sure.”
Maybe Hurts turns into the next Jackson, but that’s probably unrealistic. Part of that is because the situation in Philly with Carson Wentz is seemingly much different than what the Ravens had in Baltimore with Flacco.
So for now, Hurts will have to be happy just playing Jackson in practice. So far, it sounds like he’s handling that role well.
“He did a great job today and watching basically all week and giving us a look of kind of what we'll see,” Fletcher Cox said. “Obviously, it'll be, the tempo will be a little different on game day, but I think Jalen's been doing a really good job at it, and he's taking it serious. He ain't messing around with it, especially a guy like him, a rookie, being asked to do such a — give an example for our starting defense, I think he's been doing a really good job for us.”