The Eagles are about to go into a Thursday Night Football game without Zach Ertz, Miles Sanders, Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor and with an offensive line that is down to just one healthy starter.
It’s time to see more Jalen Hurts.
We saw the spark Hurts provided to the Eagles in Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Ravens and the Eagles have to make a concerted effort to get him more involved going forward, especially with all the injuries on offense.
“In the case of Jalen, obviously you saw yesterday some of what we call X plays or plays that are sort of unscouted with him have been productive for us in the last three or four weeks,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think it's something that we've got to continue to explore. It does give us the ability to run the football with him, so he's like another -- I don't want to say he's another running back, but he's a quarterback that can run the zone-read plays from the quarterback position.
“It's something that we're definitely going to continue to explore each week, if it's conducive; it has been successful for us, and I could see things continuing each week that way.”
And to be clear, this is not any sort of comment on Carson Wentz, who played well on Sunday. This is just about getting another talented player on the field, one who can help the offense.
Throughout the last five games, since he’s been active, Hurts’ usage has been limited by the Eagles. He got seven offensive snaps on Sunday against the Ravens and that was a new career high. The Eagles need to get him more involved. Because as we saw on Sunday and in previous weeks, having Hurts on the field simply puts more stress on opposing defenses.
For the record, I was never in favor of the Hurts pick. I thought that 53rd draft pick could have been spent on a player who would help the Eagles this year. But now that they have Hurts, they at least ought to use him.
On six offensive plays with Hurts on the field — he was also out there for a failed two-point conversion — the Eagles offense gained 109 yards and scored two touchdowns on Sunday.
The Eagles averaged 18.2 yards per play with Hurts on the field and 4.4 yards per play with him on the sideline against the Ravens. Obviously, that was skewed by the 74-yard run but there was no question that Hurts gave the offense some juice on Sunday.
Let’s take a look:
This is Hurts’ first snap of the game and it doesn’t come until there was 5:32 left in the first half. At this point, the Eagles don’t have a single first down yet. They have punted five times and fumbled once. So they are in desperate need of a spark and Hurts provides it.
This play poses a tough question for Ravens defenders: Worry more about Miles Sanders or Hurts? The threat of Sanders freezes defenders long enough for a hole to develop for Hurts. Give credit to Nate Herbig and Jordan Mailata for creating a hole and give credit to the franchise quarterback for blocking downfield.
Hurts follows his blocks and picks up 20 yards.
This is a fun play we watched the Eagles rep during practice last week. You see Wentz take a look downfield for a shot but it’s not there. Give credit to the Ravens for adjusting.
But even the swing pass back to Hurts has the potential for a big gain. Maybe Wentz could have put a little more mustard on it or maybe Hurts simply made the wrong decision by not trying to speed away from the Ravens defender in pursuit. But when Hurts cuts back inside the play goes for just three yards.
But if these guys connect in stride, look how much room there is down the sideline with blockers out front. They missed a big play here but the design still worked.
At this point, you know the defense is going to be hyper focused on Hurts, so the Eagles use that to their advantage. They make him a decoy. They also give the Ravens something to think about at the snap, lining both Hurts and Wentz up as QBs. Interesting look the Ravens aren’t prepared for.
The threat of Hurts fools the safety more than L.J. Fort on this play but it still works. Wentz throws a quick pass to Travis Fulgham, who picks up eight yards.
This was the long run from Sanders that eventually resulted in a touchdown after his fumble. And it probably doesn’t happen if Hurts isn’t on the field.
The threat of Hurts’ motion gets the attention of three Ravens defenders: 48, 32, 26. It takes No. 32 DeShon Elliott completely out of the play to the point where Sanders is able to blow pas him; Elliott just couldn’t recover. And it gets No. 36 Chuck Clark off balance so Jason Kelce is able to toss him aside like a rag doll.
If you thought Hurts brought something to the Eagles’ offense, you weren’t alone.
“Oh absolutely,” Travis Fulgham said. “Jalen was making people look silly out there. I love watching him play and it gives a lot of juice to the team.”
The law of diminishing returns probably applies here, though, too. Because the more Hurts plays, the more the Eagles put his best plays on tape and the easier it becomes — at least theoretically — for defenses to defend him. But we’re not there yet.
Based on what we saw Sunday and because of the mounting injuries on offense, the Eagles just need to find a way to get their second-round pick more involved.