By Rob Maaddi
Jalen Hurts may turn out to be an outstanding quarterback, an excellent leader and the face of the franchise for the Philadelphia Eagles over the next decade.
Nobody can make that determination after one game.
Hurts played well in an upset win over the New Orleans Saints. He showed poise, made smart decisions and was impressive running the ball.
He’s not Lamar Jackson quite yet and that’s understandable because he has only started one game. Hurts could eventually be better than Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, but right now the only thing they have in common is zero playoff wins.
Doug Pederson devised a game plan that catered to Hurts’ strengths and the rookie QB executed it nicely. Pederson called misdirections, counters, run-pass options, zone reads, bootlegs, rollouts.
And, the entire offense stepped up against the NFL’s No. 1 ranked defense. Even Alshon Jeffery made a play for the first time since last December against Miami. The offensive line didn’t allow a sack for the first time this season. It took a total team effort to beat the Saints.
“I see guys sort of step their game up when a backup comes in,” Pederson said. “They have to do their job even better. It’s one of the things I did last week is kind of challenge everybody on offense, coaches included, and this is something we’ve struggled with all season, but to be able to coach a little bit better, execute a little bit better in practice, and really do the little things. Do the little things to help the backup quarterback. If they do their job, then it makes the backup quarterback just have to do his job and just distribute the ball and get us in and out of the right plays. And so yeah, I agree with the fact that everybody around the backup quarterback has to pick up their game and support, because you can’t do it yourself.”
Hurts certainly deserves praise for his performance. It was encouraging and offers some hope for the rest of this season and potentially for the future. Sure, the Eagles have to figure out what to do with Carson Wentz. But Hurts’ success is a positive for the organization, even if it makes the team’s offseason decisions more difficult.
Hurts still has a long way to go to prove he can be the No. 1 quarterback. He’s not going to run for 106 yards every week and he can’t take 15 hits a game. That is not sustainable. He will also need to complete more than 56.7% of his passes. A better supporting cast will help him. He’s growing, learning and should improve with more first-team reps and game experience.
Teammates lauded Hurts after his successful first start. He earned it. But don’t mistake compliments for Hurts as knocks against Wentz because some will try to push a false narrative fueled by speculation and agendas.