Eagles News: NFL executive believes Jalen Hurts’ improvement this season is legitimate
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has been turning heads every step of the way this season.
Through four games, the Eagles signal caller has tossed four touchdown passes to two interceptions (one of which ricocheted off Kenny Gainwell’s hands) for 1,120 yards while adding 205 yards on the ground and finding the end zone four times with his legs. He’s completing 66.7 percent of his passes while averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt and currently has a 99.6 passer rating.
There have been missteps here and there, but overall, it would be ridiculous to ignore Hurts’ impact on the Eagles 4-0 start.
Nevertheless, it is fair to be cautious in anointing Hurts as the unquestioned franchise quarterback. This four-game streak to kickoff the 2022 campaign has been impressive to say the least, there’s no denying that. But it has only been four games after all. The NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’re still waiting to see the entire body of work this year before making a judgement call on Hurts, it’s understandable. But as Hurts continues to pile up the accolades, people around the league are beginning to take notice. And there are some who believe this vast improvement we’ve seen from Hurts is for real.
Pro Football Focus recently interviewed an anonymous NFL analytics executive on Hurts’ ascension into the top tier of NFL quarterbacks. According to the anonymous executive, the biggest thing the Eagles QB has going for him right now is his deep-ball ability.
“His rushing ability is a real problem for defenses, as he has one of the highest scramble rates in the league,” he said. “He’s forgoing checkdowns and throwing the ball downfield a lot more than he did in previous years.”
As PFF points out, Hurts has stopped relying on check downs this season, throwing just four on 163 total dropbacks (2.4 percent). Last season, Hurts threw a checkdown on 3.9 percent of his dropbacks. His 9.1 yards per attempt is the highest mark among starting quarterbacks this year and his PFF grade on deep bals sits at 91.8, nearly 20 grade points higher than his mark in that area last season (75.5).
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The one area Hurts still needs to iron out, according to the NFL executive, is his ability against the blitz.
“I don’t know how long he will be able to keep it up, but a team is likely to expose him this year via exotic blitzes and containing him in the pocket,” he said.
Hurts has faced 40 blitzes this season. On such plays, the Eagles QB is completing just 50 percent of his passes and is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. His PFF offensive grade when blitzed is 64.4, as opposed to his 90.1 offensive grade when the defense only rushes four.
Per PFF, this is the only area where Hurts has actually taken a step back. He posted a 67.8 grade when blitzed in 2020 and 2021.
Although Hurts has struggled against the blitz this season, that’s not exactly out of the norm for starting quarterbacks in the NFL. If they’re kept clean, they typically play better than if they’re under constant pressure. That’s not a revelation by any means.
When a defense starts throwing exotic looks at a quarterback as a last resort to try and slow him down, as this anonymous executive predicts will happen, that may be a testament to how good Hurts has been more than anything else.
Back when Carson Wentz was the starting quarterback here in Philadelphia, executives around the league rarely sang his praises. In fact, they often bashed the Eagles quarterback for his flaws.
Just four games into the year, it’s great to see league executives already jumping on the Hurts hype train.
All hail the Eagles QB1
Mandatory Credit: PhillyVoice