With Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ season officially over, it’s time to look back at what transpired. Philadelphia strung together an amazing season, capped off by the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl appearance ever. For the most part, every position group shined this year, but starting today, we will take a deeper dive into each position group, giving them one final grade for the season. First up for review, we’ve got the quarterbacks.
Grading Each Eagles’ Position Group: Quarterbacks
Jalen Hurts’ Sudden Rise to Stardom
Coming into the season, one question remained: could Jalen Hurts be the guy for Philadelphia? The lineup was stacked, with AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert making up an elite receiving core, the o-line star-studded as ever, and the run game coming off of a historic season. The situation was perfect, but Hurts was yet to show that he could be the one to command the offense, at least with his play.
The concerns were completely legitimate, too. Coming out of Oklahoma, it’s not a stretch to say that Hurts arm was terrible. He was inaccurate at every level, struggled to push the ball down the field, and would often rely on his playmakers to make him look good. In his first two NFL seasons, these issues were magnified tenfold. For example, the wildcard game against Tampa Bay was an awful showing for Hurts, who looked rattled from start to finish, missed on most of his throws, and showed terrible pocket presence. With this being our last look at Hurts coming into 2022, many analysts and fans (myself included) wondered if he could ever flourish into an NFL talent.
Hurts responded to these concerns by putting up one of the best seasons for a dual-threat quarterback ever. Right out the gate, he showed off his connection with his new weapon, AJ Brown, with the two connecting for ten catches and 155 yards. Hurts’ accuracy issues seemed almost entirely cleaned up, and his pocket presence and decision making became a lot more confident and decisive. Rarely was the ball put into bad places, and if it was, the misses were so small that the elite cast of receivers could still make plays on the ball. Truthfully, this was one of the greatest one-year turnarounds of any quarterback ever.
Jalen Hurts, for the vast majority of the season, made every play the team needed him to. Whether it was on the ground, where he finished the year with 903 yards and 18 touchdowns, or through the air, he was dialed, consistently setting up the team for success. In all but two games, these chances were capitalized on.
Minshew’s Terrifying Two Game Stretch
However, there were two games where Hurts wasn’t available due to a shoulder sprain, leaving Gardner Minshew to command the offense. Needless to say, it wasn’t the same.
In his first start against Dallas, Minshew actually looked pretty solid, tossing two touchdowns, two interceptions which weren’t entirely his fault, and leading the offense to 34 points. Unfortunately, the Cowboys took advantage of some key defensive injuries in Philly’s lineup and put up 40 points, ruining Minshew’s great game. With this performance, the Eagles staff believed they could ride their backup quarterback to a couple wins to end the year while Hurts healed up from his injury. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Minshew’s performance the next week against the Saints was one of the single worst games I’ve ever seen an Eagles’ quarterback play. Granted, the play calling appeared to be fairly stripped back, but that’s no excuse–Minshew looked timid, indecisive, and terribly inaccurate. His weak performance kept Philadelphia in a hole all day, all leading up to his terrible pick six to ice the game. This was a truly awful game, and one which proved just how important Jalen Hurts was and is to the offense’s success.
A Super Bowl Performance for the Ages
Heading into the playoffs, Hurts was back in the lineup with only small regression due to injury. In the Giants and 49ers games, his arm strength and touch seemed a bit off, but still, the Eagles’ offense roared ahead dropping 38 and 31 points respectively. However, in order to beat the high-powered Kansas City offense, Hurts would need to be near perfect.
And, well, he pretty much was. Ignoring a second quarter unforced fumble which led to an easy scoop and score for the Chiefs, Hurts played out of his mind, passing for 304 yards and a touchdown while adding 70 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. The fumble was, obviously, pretty terrible, but the rest of the game was about as perfect a quarterback performance as one could have. Despite losing the game, Hurts was clearly the best player on the field from either team and earned his stripes on the biggest stage football has to offer.
If there’s one thing we learned this year, it’s that Jalen Hurts isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s also taught me and the many others who enjoy the talent evaluation side of the sport that natural ability isn’t the end all be all–hard work and determination go a long way, too. In the league today, you’d be hard pressed to find a man more determined to win than Hurts is, and that paid major dividends in his development going into this season. After the 2017-18 season, the Eagles suffered a serious Super Bowl hangover, but with this team’s leadership, I don’t expect that at all. Philadelphia has its franchise quarterback, and his name is Jalen Hurts.
Final Grade: A+
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