PHILADELPHIA – Eagles coach Nick Sirianni profusely praised quarterback Jalen Hurts on Sunday, even after a 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Hurts was not asked to make a ton in the passing game, he finished 11-of-17 for 162 yards, but added 62 yards on the ground and was in his prime in the deciding moment, engineering a play of 10, March of 78 yards in the fourth quarter, capped off with a 28-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver DeVonta Smith. The key play was a fight at third and 4. Hurts had his legs hit as he lunged toward the first down marker, causing him to do a full frontal spin. He got up unscathed and the crowd went wild.
Sirianni he said after that it hurts “He made plays that I don’t think any other quarterback in the NFL can make,” he praised him for his performance down the stretch.
“We definitely have to take advantage of this,” Sirianni said. “There is no secret. Jalen has had good practices the last two weeks, he played two good games in a row, so we just have to go back and have another week like we did last week, offensively, to get in position to win.” . next week.”
It’s no coincidence that Hurts’ solid back-to-back starts coincide with a shift in offensive focus. Sirianni, after neglecting running backs for several weeks, has raged in the past two weeks against the Chargers and Detroit Lions (a 44-6 win). Consider: In weeks 1-7, running backs totaled 96 carries (13.7 per game) for 444 yards and three touchdowns. In weeks 8 and 9, those numbers soared to 66 carries (33 per game) for 258 yards and six touchdowns.
Hurts accounted for nearly 90% of the Eagles’ offense early on, the most in the NFL. The last two weeks have been easy by comparison. He has averaged 15.5 passing attempts in the last two games compared to 34.5 attempts per game in the first seven weeks.
Putting so much in Hurts to start with was never fair or practical. He has only 13 starts in the NFL and is still learning a lot on the job. While he has shown improvement in throwing the ball, increasing his completion rate from 52% last year to 61.5% in 2021, he still ranks 28th among quarterbacks in terms of accuracy.
But it is still quite dangerous. Hurts entered Sunday’s game in fifth place in red zone passer rating (116.8) and with the seventh most total yards (3,289) by a quarterback in his first 12 starts in NFL history. according to the Eagles. He is a strong leader and has a firm hand in the big moments, as evidenced at the end of the game last week.
It hurts he’s not far enough forward as a passer to go back 45 times a game consistently, and this Eagles defense certainly can’t be relied on to hold onto strong when such an approach fails. A steady dose of the running game eases some of Hurts’ load, opens up more room for him to run when he decides to keep it (he’s already second among quarterbacks in rushing yards with 494), and most of the time he’ll keep games close. , giving Hurts a chance to make some magic happen late.
The running game also draws on one of Hurts’ greatest strengths: the action-play pass. With the Eagles presenting the run and Hurts ranked below center more in Weeks 8 and 9, he completed 83.3% of his game action passes (20.5% higher than expected) and averaged 13 yards per attempt for a QBR Raw. of 95.6, which ranks four. In weeks 1-7, he had a 66% completion rate in such scenarios and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt for a 26.3 raw QBR, which was ranked 29th.
“Clearly, I think we’ve taken action throughout the year,” Hurts said when asked about developing an offensive identity. “I think we’ve grown. I think we’ve communicated better. From coach to player, I think we’ve had better conversations and we’ve gotten to be on the same page more consistently. Get out there and it shows.”
The caveat to all of this is that Philadelphia faced two of the worst running defenses in the NFL: the Chargers and the Lions. Expecting the Eagles to rush 40 times a game going forward would be foolish. But there is more than just the opponents they have faced lately. The coaching staff recognized that it was putting too much on Hurts’ shoulders, and that in order to become a more efficient offense, they needed to lean on its strong offensive front and allow running backs like Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell to get on. to work.
There will be more of that in the future, which should mean good things for Hurts and the offense in the last eight games.