Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit
EAGLES COMMENTARY

Jalen Hurts' poor practice performance highlights risk of Eagles regression in 2022

  • 0
Eagles Football

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts greets fans during training camp July 29 at the team's practice facility in Philadelphia.

It was only three months ago that I wrote that the easiest money in the world was betting the over on the 8.5 win total the Vegas books had posted for the Philadelphia Eagles’ futures odds.

A lot of people apparently came to the same conclusion, as the number has since jumped to 9.5. But with the preseason opener a week away and a little more than a month to go before Week 1, I’m starting to wonder if we’ve been adequately pricing in the risk that Jalen Hurts quickly reveals himself to be a quarterback traveling in the wrong direction.

Full disclosure: I’m writing all of this after having spent my morning watching a couple of hours of especially poor quarterback play by Hurts during the Eagles’ practice session Thursday. Training camp is a convenient place to talk yourself into and out of all kinds of crazy things. Often, these things fail to account for the realities of practice in a controlled, largely noncontact, intrasquad environment. August is no time for actionable decisions.

Yet Hurts’ performance on Thursday was notable for a couple of reasons. One, his struggles were the result of some of the same fundamental inadequacies that he displayed throughout last season. It wasn’t the sort of thing that you could easily chalk up to day-to-day variance: off-target throws, poor decisions, etc. Rather, it was the sort of thing Eagles coach Nick Sirianni often has pointed to when asked to evaluate Hurts’ play from a holistic perspective.

In the coach’s words:

Oct. 21, 2021: “When it’s going well, I feel like he’s taking his drop on rhythm, he is being able to it sit in the pocket and able to throw it on time. If something breaks down, he scrambles and gets out of it and makes a play. I feel like when it’s not going well is when he’s quick to escape.”

March 2, 2022: “Just want to see him continue to get better with his accuracy and with his decision making. I mentioned it earlier, decision making, it’s about your mind recalling the things that have happened in the past and knowing, ‘OK, last time I saw this, I went here with the ball. Here we go. Oh, shoot, last time I saw this, I went here with the ball, but this happened.’”

July 27, 2022: “Decisions are being made quicker and faster each time he gets a rep at it. Just like a lot of quarterbacks in this league, they get better with their decision making over time.”

Fast forward to Thursday morning and a four-rep stretch during seven-on-sevens in which Hurts twice ended up tucking and running after failing to find an open receiver and once held onto the ball until the last second before forcing a panicky underneath throw that nearly was picked off. Keep in mind, this was a drill in which he was facing only linebackers and defensive backs. There was no pass rush, only four staffers walking toward Hurts with blocking pads to help him calibrate his internal clock.

The results largely were the same during the Eagles’ team scrimmage periods. These were a little more defensible, given that the defense often appeared to be playing 11-on-10. With Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard sidelined, backups Le’Raven Clark and Kayode Awosika barely offered even a token resistance at left tackle. Still, there were several occasions in which Hurts simply could not find anything downfield. One rep in particular stood out, with Hurts breaking the pocket after locking in on the short side of the field and never even looking to his right.

After practice, Sirianni wasn’t ready to bury the quarterback or the offense without having watched it on film. Instead, he gave some general credit to his defense.

“I think when you’re in training camp, there is going to be ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball,” the second-year head coach said. “In fact, that’s what you want. You want there to be ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball. You don’t want one side to dominate the other side. And so, you’re going to look for those. There is no doubt we have good balance on both sides of the football. [The] defense is presenting challenges both with the looks and then with the players that we have on that side of ball.”

That’s more than fair, and it’s worth reiterating that training camp practices are breeding grounds for overreaction. A session like Thursday’s does not offer nearly enough context to arrive at any conclusions. It does, however, offer a reminder that Hurts has not yet reached a point where anybody should feel comfortable with whatever expectations they have for this Eagles offense.

From Week 8 on last season, only three quarterbacks in the NFL had a lower passer rating than Hurts’ 79.8 (minimum 200 attempts). They were Zach Wilson, Baker Mayfield, and Trevor Lawrence. Among 26 quarterbacks, he ranked 23rd in interception percentage, 23rd in completion percentage, 24th in touchdown passes. All of these numbers represent a significant regression from those he posted in the first seven weeks of the season.

This proves nothing, of course. Mostly, it’s a reason to question the notion that Hurts is bound to take “another step forward” this year. After all, that implies that he definitely took his first one last year. The quarterback we saw in practice on Thursday looked disconcertingly similar to the one who struggled to do anything of substance in the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Bucs.

The league adjusts quickly, especially when given an offseason to do so. The Eagles made the playoffs mostly because of Sirianni’s ability to design an offense that made the most of Hurts’ strengths while hiding his weaknesses. But you can’t hide forever in the NFL. Thursday was a reminder of the strides Hurts still needs to make. The upside of this quarterback and this offense is real. But so is the risk that things end up going the other way.

0 Comments

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

The best local coverage, unlimited

Sign up for a digital subscription to The Press of Atlantic City now and take advantage of a great offer.

LEARN MORE

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News