Has Jalen Hurts arrived? Reasons to believe he could be special

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Most people thought Jalen Hurts would get better. In a way, that was a given. After all, he’s shown year-over-year improvement from the time he arrived in Alabama as a freshman in 2016 and we all know about his work ethic.

But this much better?

This soon?

Not many people expected this kind of jump from Hurts so quickly into his second full season as an NFL starter. It’s obviously early — and there will be plenty of ebbs and flows throughout the season — but Hurts has legitimately vaulted himself into the MVP race.

And the Eagles’ 24-year-old starter has done it with the types of performances that really have to change your macro view of his future.

“I don’t think we’ve seen Jalen’s ceiling,” head coach Nick Sirianni said on Monday. “I know we haven’t seen Jalen’s ceiling. He just continues to get better.”

In many ways, Hurts has arrived. The fact that there’s still room for growth beyond that pushes his ceiling even higher and makes you think the Eagles might really have something special brewing.

The biggest question hovering over the Birds entering this season was about Hurts. Could he do enough to prove that he’s the long-term franchise quarterback?

It was the same question last year too. And it was left unanswered after the 2021 season. Hurts was fine in his first year as a starter; the Eagles won nine games with him, but you got the sense they were winning with him, not because of him.

Not the case in 2022.

Now it’s not just looking like Hurts can be the Eagles’ long-term starter … it’s looking like they better try to sign this guy to an extension immediately when he become eligible for one after this season.

What has stood out most about Hurts’ maturation this season?

“I think his mental makeup and his DNA and how he goes about his business, it’s so impressive. It’s second-to-none, it really is,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said.

“If he continues on this trend, it’s going to be special. He’s doing a hell of a job right now and we gotta keep it going.”

The Eagles are clearly beginning to believe.

And why shouldn’t they? Through three games, Hurts has completed 67.3% of his passes for 916 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He’s also run for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s accounted for 1,057 yards of offense through three games, the 18th most ever for any player through three games in the modern era.

We knew about Hurts’ ability to run the football and at times the Eagles are leaning on that. But it’s his improvement as a passer that has really stood out. He’s creating explosive plays to all parts of the field and he’s doing it without turning the football over. That’s a pretty easy recipe for success.

Need more evidence of Hurts’ growth? Take a look at his heat chart from the 2021 season and you’ll notice some alarming tendencies about how he used the field:

This year? The addition of A.J. Brown obviously helps, but Hurts is working the entire width of the field and at all levels. The balls are coming out of his hand on time with anticipation and zip. He looks like a completely different quarterback.

On Sunday afternoon against Washington, Hurst led the Eagles with his arm in a game where the running attack wasn’t feasting. The game was placed squarely on his shoulders and he delivered in a big way.

Another factor that made Hurts’ performance in Washington so impressive was his rough start. On the first two drives of the game, Hurts was 1-for-5 for 5 yards. The rest of the way, he was 21-for-30 for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns. His poise was unmatched, especially when he called his own play on the final play of the first half.

The mental side of the game is clearly slowing down for Hurts in Year 2 of this offense. It’s the first time he’s in the same offense in back-to-back seasons since high school and that’s showing. Steichen lit up this week when talking about the experience of watching Hurts make checks or adjust routes at the line of scrimmage.

“And you get fired up when you see it,” Steichen said. “You know what he’s checking to and it’s the preparation part of it and it’s within the scheme with what he’s doing. It’s fun to see.”

So what the Eagles have is a 24-year-old quarterback with an incredible ability to run the football, who has shown tremendous growth as a passer and who has a much deeper understanding of the offense he’s operating.

Put all that together with the intangibles — leadership, poise, work ethic, etc. — and the Eagles have a quarterback who could be destined for greatness.

It’s important to note that this might not always be a linear progression. There will be bad games along the way; it’s inevitable. But there’s also the chance Hurts could become the type of elite quarterback with whom the Eagles have been infatuated for years. And they trust he’ll do everything to reach that level.

“He doesn’t leave the building,” Steichen said. “This guy is here all day, every day.”

Because of his incredible worth ethic, the Eagles were always convinced Hurts was going to reach his ceiling.

That ceiling continues to rise.

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