After a terrible start to the 2021 season, the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves just outside the NFC playoff picture. At 7-7 the Eagles have a shot at making the postseason with a strong finish. Don't look now, but much of the team's late-season success can be attributed to second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts. That's right, despite what you may think, Hurts might actually be the future of the franchise.
If you're shocked that the 23-year-old might have actually turned things around and is headed in the right direction, you wouldn't be alone. I watched the Eagles a few times during their 2-5 start and was convinced they'd be taking a quarterback early in the 2022 NFL Draft. That seems unlikely now, given that Hurts has led them to a 4-2 record in their last six and started to put up solid numbers.
No, the Oklahoma product likely won't ever be an elite pocket passer, but he's been making plays at a tremendous clip and could have a Lamar Jackson-type impact on the Eagles if they fully embrace his skill set. His ability to extend plays and run the ball are key to his value. And, it's worth noting, he has made big strides as a passer this season.
So far on the season, Hurts is completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 2,731 yards, with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and has a quarterback rating of 85.8 and a QBR of 46.7. Those numbers are pedestrian at best. But when you factor in what he's done with his legs, things change. Hurts has rushed for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns on 130 carries (5.6 yards per carry).
Hurts is the leading rusher on the top rushing offense in the NFL. The Eagles lead the league with 2,318 yards on the ground and as a team are averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Hurts is a huge part of that. Philadelphia is relying on its excellent offensive line winning at the point of attack and allowing Hurts, Miles Sanders and recent addition Jordan Howard to lead the offense.
As the season has progressed and the Eagles have figured out their offense, Hurts has improved. His passer rating has been 103.2 or higher in three of the last five games. One of the games where it fell below was a 40-29 win over the Saints in which he rushed for 69 yards and three touchdowns. So even when he hasn't been at his best in the pocket, he's found value with his feet.
Until Tuesday night's win over the Washington Football Team, Hurts had rushed for at least 55 yards in six consecutive games. He's had at least 30 yards in every game this season and has had more than 60 six different times.
Hurts has also improved as a passer of late. During Tuesday night's win, he showed he could air the ball out a bit. On passes that had 15 or more air yards, Hurts was 6 of 7 for 149 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. He may have had his best NFL game, completing 20 of 26 passes over all for 296 yards with a touchdown and an interception, plus two rushing scores. He looked poised in the pocket, was efficient with his actions and made all the necessary throws.
The Eagles boast Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins and Dallas Goedert to build the passing game with moving forward. If they could add another receiver in the 2022 draft -- after addressing the secondary and finding an edge rusher -- the offense could look downright dangerous entering next season.
Even if the Eagles don't make the playoffs this year, Hurts has done enough in his second season to be the team's unquestioned starter heading into 2022. If the franchise continues to build around him he could flourish.