By Tom Alvord
Eagles football is here at last! The Birds kickoff the 2021 season this Sunday at 1:00 against the Atlanta Falcons. There are a plethora of questions regarding this 2021 Eagles team. The biggest one, however, is obvious. Can Jalen Hurts be a franchise quarterback?
Hurts will have every opportunity this season to answer that question, given that he was officially named the Eagles QB1 just a week ago. While we all have an opinion on Hurts, the sample size is quite small. Hurts started just 4 games last year and threw only 144 passes. With that being said, there are a few things we can takeaway from last season. Here are 6 numbers from Jalen Hurts’ 2020 season that we should keep in mind throughout the year.
Completion percentage. Jalen Hurts ranked dead last in completion percentage in the NFL for QBs with at least 130 attempts. It was the lowest completion percentage by an Eagles starter in almost 20 years. When it came to quarterbacks who were starters for a majority of the season, Drew Lock had the lowest percentage at 57.3%. Nearly 6 points higher than Hurts. It’s also worth mentioning that Joe Flacco was at 55.2% and Carson Wentz was at 57.4%. Not ideal. Obviously the situation was horrible last year. He had the worst offensive line in football, no weapons to throw to, and a head coach who was checked out. But that was one of the concerns with Hurts coming out of college, how his accuracy would translate at the pro level. He will more than likely improve that number, it’s just a matter of how much and if it’s significant enough.
Rushing attempts. Hurts racked up 63 rushing attempts in his limited action last season. Despite starting only 4 games he ranked 8th among all quarterbacks in rushing attempts. Six of those seven QBs ahead of him started at least 15 games. The other one was Taysom Hill. Hurts finished last year with 354 rush yards, 3 rushing TDs, and an average of 5.6 yards per carry (5th in the NFL among QBs). Hurts’ legs are what make him such an intriguing player. It’s even fair to say that it’s the most crucial aspect of his game. It’s a good bet to expect Hurts to be a top-5 rushing QB this year if everything goes right.
Fumbles. Hurts had 9 fumbles (2 lost) in just 4 starts in 2020. He was tied for the 3rd most fumbles in the entire NFL amongst quarterbacks. Every other quarterback with more than 6 fumbles started at least 10 games. Now it obviously wasn’t all on Hurts. As I mentioned before he had the worst O-Line in football last year, which certainly didn’t help. Also a few of those fumbles were the result of either bad snaps or miscommunication with the running backs. However, we were always quick to point out Carson Wentz’s fumbling issues so it’s only fair to do the same with Hurts. For what it’s worth, Wentz had 10 fumbles in 2020 in 8 more starts. Improved O-Line play and a full training camp under his belt will definitely help his case, but Hurts needs to improve on taking care of the ball in year 2.
Completion percentage on Run/Pass Options. RPOs are something we’ve become quite familiar with here in Philadelphia. Just ask Doug Pederson and Nick Foles in 2017. It seemed to be forced a bit after the Super Bowl, especially with Wentz, but it was a staple of Doug Pederson’s offense. Now with Nick Sirianni here, it’ll be interesting to see how much RPOs will be a part of his offensive scheme. But according to insider John McMullen and Mile Sanders, we’ll be seeing it quite a bit. This is good news for Jalen Hurts and Eagles fans everywhere. On RPO plays in 2020, Hurts was 11/15 with 198 passing yards and 2 TDs. He also racked up 140 rushing yards with a rushing TD. That success should continue this season.
2nd half. We saw some excellent flashes from Jalen Hurts last year. There’s a reason Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie were confident enough to give him the reigns for this upcoming season. We also saw some struggles from the former Sooner. Hurts’ numbers dipped significantly last season in the second half of games compared to the first.
FIRST HALF: 39/66 (59.1%) 555 yards 5 TD 1 INT 105.3 rating 25 rushes (8.8 Y/A) 219 yards 2 TDs
SECOND HALF: 38/82 (46.3%) 506 yards 1 TD 3 INT 55.2 rating 38 rushes (3.6 Y/A) 135 yards 1 TD
There could be many reasons for these struggles: play-calling, defensive schemes, etc. And let’s face it defenses adjust in the second half and most rookie QBs struggle to have an answer. Regardless, we need to see improvement in the second half of games from Jalen Hurts in 2021.
Rating on play action. Play action is obviously a crucial factor in all offenses across the NFL. That is especially true for offenses with mobile quarterbacks. On play action last season Hurts went 13/19 (68.4%) for 198 pass yards 2 TDs 0 INT. He also ran for 31 yards on 6 attempts (5.1 Y/A) and one TD. A big key to running play action successfully this year is going to be Miles Sanders. You obviously need to be running the ball effectively for play action to do the most damage. Miles Sanders has some question marks heading into this season, but he still has a tremendous amount of potential. If Sanders has the type of season we all think he can have watch for play action to play a huge role in this Eagles offense, and for Hurts to thrive.