Rookie Jalen Hurts Leads the Way For an Eagles Win

Hurts evading a defender, the picture was taken from profootballtalk.nbcsports.com

Hurts evading a defender, the picture was taken from profootballtalk.nbcsports.com

The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled during the 2020 National Football League season and were 3-8-1 going into week 14. In desperation for a win and a shot at the playoffs, the Eagles needed a change in their underperforming offense.  That change came in the form of rookie Jalen Hurts, a quarterback drafted from the University of Oklahoma in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. 

For most of the season, Hurts has been watching from the sidelines as Carson Wentz was playing poorly for the entire season. The Eagles slumped into a four-game losing streak and were scheduled to play the New Orleans Saints, a well-respected team with a 10-2 record, coming into week 14. The Eagles needed to be on their A-game to win against the Saints, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson thought that Hurts was their best shot at beating the Saints, so Hurts was named the starter for the matchup. 

Picture of Jalen Hurts Throwing the Ball Against the Saints. Picture from sportsnet.ca

Pederson made a risky decision by putting the rookie quarterback as the starter over the veteran Wentz, but his choice was the right call. The Eagles won the game 24-21, beating the #1 defense in the league with their new quarterback. It is safe to say that starting Hurts was a good choice, and the stats prove it.

Hurts completed 17 out of 30 pass attempts, with a completion rate of 56.67%, throwing for 1 touchdown and zero interceptions for the night. Hurts passed for only 167 yards, but ran for 106 yards. While Hurts did not play perfectly, he played better than Wentz has this season. 

Hurts evaded getting sacked throughout the game, which could be mostly attributed to the offensive line.  However, Hurts’ confidence in the pocket, and his fast decision-making allowed him to roll out of the pocket to throw the ball or scramble for positive yards. Hurts also threw the ball out of bounds multiple times throughout the game, something Wentz could never seem to do.

Wentz was horrible under pressure, and rarely stepped up into the pocket or rolled out. On the occasions when Wentz did roll out, he could not seem to find someone open or throw the ball away when a defender was on his tail. This is probably why Wentz is the most sacked quarterback in the league, with 50 sacks. Without a doubt, Hurts is the better quarterback under pressure for the Eagles. 

But Hurts’ ability in the pocket is not solely what won the game on Sunday. It was a team effort throughout the game. As mentioned before, the always-changing offensive line was on point with both the run game and pass game, allowing Miles Sanders to rush 14 times and rack up 115 yards against a red hot Saints defense. The Saints had a three-year streak of holding rushers on the opposing team to under 100 yards, but Sanders and Hurts each rushed for over 100 yards that game. Sanders had 2 rushing touchdowns.

Picture of #2 Jalen Hurts, #13 Travis Fulgham, #17 Alshon Jeffery, #84 Greg Ward, and #11 Carson Wentz. The picture was taken from delawareonline.com

The Eagles also had fewer dropped passes this game, and the wide receivers were at the right place at the right time. The team seemed to function better and more smoothly under Hurts than it did with Wentz, as the entire offense seemed to be on the same page. Wentz seems to have a communication problem with his receivers, and it sometimes seems as if he throws the ball everywhere but into the hands of a receiver.  Hurts’ relationship with the receivers was on point, as he had no interruptions due to miscommunication, and did not need as much time as Wentz to find someone open. Hurts simply got the ball out faster than Wentz did and had fewer communication errors. 

After a fantastic team performance, the question arises: does the team function better under Hurts? With fewer errors, interceptions, sacks, and tackles for a loss, as a whole, the team just played better this week. There were more designed quarterback run plays, and rollout plays that were used this week because Hurts was starting quarterback. Hurts is also faster than Wentz, which allows for more RPO’s (run-pass options). 

Jalen Hurts running for a first down. The picture was taken from PFF.com

Doug Pederson changed the team’s offense specifically to Hurts’ capabilities in just one week, for one game. This may suggest that Hurts will be the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Pederson likely favors Hurts over Wentz, as Pederson was able to coach aggressively and have success with an aggressive approach like he used in previous seasons. Against the Saints, Pederson attempted four 4th down conversions and made two of the four. It is apparent that Pederson favors Hurts over Wentz, and Adam Schefter tweeted on December 14th, 2020, “ Jalen Hurts will start again Sunday vs. Cardinals.”

 

With Hurts as a starter once again, he gets the chance to prove to Pederson, the front office, and the fans that he is the man for the job. Many are wondering if Wentz will return as starting quarterback next season, or if he will be traded or cut. However, it is unlikely that Wentz will be cut or traded due to the huge four-year contract extension that he recently signed.  The quarterback situation with The Eagles is tense, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out if Wentz and Hurts return for next year’s season.