When Jalen Hurts has ‘complete control,’ Philadelphia Eagles have shot at special season

PHILADELPHIA — If Jalen Hearts’ Week 1 performance against the Detroit Lions is a sign of things to come, there are no limits for the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles.

“He had complete control over what was happening there. [Sunday],” coach Nick Siriani said of his quarterback. “He looked at the field perfectly. He really did.”

Taking “absolute control” in that environment was no easy feat. There was talk that the Lions’ Super Bowl was entering Week 1, and it felt like it. Ford Field was commissioned. Apparently excited by his team’s appearance at “Hard Knox”, fans sold the building, prompting the Lions to reportedly offer standing room tickets for a non-Thanksgiving Day game for the first time since 2017. Eagles players said they could not hear the roar of the domed crowd talking of offense.

Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn added to the frenzy by dialing 15 blitz, taking a kitchen sink approach. Only Patrick Mahomes (21 Blitz) suffered overheating in Week 1. But Hurts scattered and slipped and tossed around in chaos, accounting for 73% of the Eagles’ offense with 333 yards (243 passings, 90 rushing) and a touchdown en route to a 38–35 Philadelphia victory.

“He took us out several times,” said center Jason Kelsey. “There are many blitz pickups that we need to fix. That’s the advantage of having a guy with this kind of versatility. If you have a team that’s aggressive [the Lions] And all of a sudden we haven’t blocked it in the right way, whatever happens, to have that kind of guy go off schedule and be able to do something, it was tremendous.”

Off-schedule playmaking is nothing new. It was the rhythm throw that needed improvement in Hearts’ second year as a full-time starter for the offense to reach its potential. Siriani called Hearts’ pocket play against Detroit “really good.” He averaged 2.55 seconds before the throw – the 13th fastest time in Week 1 – compared to his average of 3.12 seconds last season, which was ranked last in the NFL. And his throws were generally on point, even if the stats didn’t come back perfectly – his four throwaways to avoid sacks affected his completion rate (56.3%). Hurts went 5-of-7 on passes that traveled 10-plus yards, tied for third-best points in Week 1 at 71.4%. He had no turnover.

This helped AJ Brown, who was hit 13 times by Hurts, resulting in 10 completions for 155 yards. Hurts darted Brown late in the second quarter on the right flank to complete a 54-yard run, arguably his best pass as a pro.

“That was a penny,” Brown said. “Falled from the sky.”

But there are caveats and concerns to consider.

Warning: This was against the Lions, who over the years have a habit of showing good to the opposing quarterback. Last season, Detroit’s pass defense was ranked 24th (244.7 yards allowed per game). And it was only one week. Hurts has proven over 20 starts that he is capable of exceptional play; It is this high degree of stability that has remained elusive up to this point.

Worry: He got hit a lot. The Hearts absorbed 20 QB contacts, the most in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (Bengal QB Joe Buro was second with 17.) Siriani’s answer postgame reflected the high-wire balancing act teams up with mobile quarterbacks forever, saying you always want to limit hits and players. Safety is a top priority, while keeping in mind that “if we have to play it 20 times to win a game, we’ll do it.” In addition to short straps on his left arm and arm while standing on the podium late Sunday afternoon, Harts was out of the game—despite a late helmet-to-helmet hit from Detroit safety Tracy Walker III in the third quarter. after the slide.

“It’s not the first time it’s going to happen, it’s probably not going to be the last,” Hurts said. “It just comes with the game. Just recover and keep moving on to the next play.”

That play resulted in a Walker’s ejection when he swung in the direction of receiver Zach Pascal, who had confronted Walker with tight end Dallas Goedert after an illegal play. Siriani suggested that the late hit could have been done out of frustration after Hurts had cut the defense off his feet all day.

“Everything he does frustrates the defense,” Kelsey said.

What has largely determined this season has been this: The Eagles have a strong enough roster to be a legitimate NFC contender, as long as the Hearts leap in at quarterback — or, seen another way, until the Hearts catch up. them back. On Sunday, in a game where his defense was faltering (386 yards) and the Lions’ defenders were coming over the walls, he not only met that threshold, but massively propelled the team.

Trials starting Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC) will be tough, but if that level of play continues, the calculus turns on the Eagles season.

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