The Eagles’ best offensive lineman Sunday may have been Jalen Hurts.
Because the rookie quarterback was one of the big reasons the o-line for the first time in three months didn’t allow a sack.
“One of the things that Jalen did well when he was out of the pocket and there was nowhere to run or nowhere to throw is that he threw the ball away and that helps your offensive line,” Doug Pederson said. “It doesn't put you in a bad situation. Doesn't put you in a second-and-long situation or third-and-long situation.”
The Eagles went into Sunday’s game against the Saints having allowed an NFL-high 53 sacks, 14th-most in NFL history through 12 games.
They had allowed three or more sacks in 10 straight games, Only four quarterbacks in NFL history – Randall Cunningham, Greg Landry, Trent Green and Archie Manning – have ever taken three sacks in 10 straight games.
There was always a sense that a high percentage of the sacks the Eagles were allowing were the result of Wentz being slow in his decision making in the pocket, reluctant to throw the ball away and lacking in his usual ability to sense pressure.
It’s only one game, but Pederson sure seems to think the quarterback change was a huge part of the Eagles not allowing a sack for the first time since the Rams game Week 2.
The Saints came into the game with 36 sacks, 3rd-most in the NFL behind only the Steelers (44) and Eagles (38). They had recorded at least one sack in 27 straight games, and the Eagles – with a rookie QB making his first career start - were the first team to hold them without a sack since the Seahawks in Week 3 of last year.
This isn’t to take anything away from the o-line itself.
With the 12th different lineup in 13 games – left to right Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll – the Eagles had five solid guys out there for the first time in a while, and they all played well.
In particular, both tackles – neither of whom had played before this year – were very good.
There were certainly games during the last couple months where the Eagles’ offensive line was dreadful. That’s not to say the current group isn’t an upgrade over the days of Jamon Brown, Matt Pryor and Jason Peters.
The Eagles ran some genuinely bad offensive lines out there this year.
It’s just that the sacks weren’t all the o-line’s fault.
Hurts’ stats weren’t spectacular Sunday, but five of his 13 incompletions he threw the ball away instead of taking a sack or throwing into coverage.
Of 23 quarterbacks who’ve thrown 30 or more passes in their first NFL start since the start of 2017, Hurts is only the second to not get sacked (Brett Rypien is the other, but he threw three INTs).
The last QB to not throw an INT or get sacked in his first start was Dak Prescott in 2016.
“Jalen, being able to step up in the pocket, obviously elude the rush a couple times and extend plays with his legs … that's all part of pass protection,” Pederson said. “And the guys did a good job.”
Part of being a quarterback is making the people around you better, and by getting rid of the ball quickly and throwing it away when he had to, Hurts helped make a struggling offensive line look pretty darn good.