In Roob's observations: Hurts' remarkable progress vs. blitz


The Eagles' revived pass rush, the greatness of Mike Quick and a Nick Foles record falls by the wayside.

The Eagles keep sailing along and so does Roob's Weekly 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. The Giants blitz more than any NFL team, and for Jalen Hurts those are plays of opportunity these days. Hurts has improved dramatically this year in a bunch of areas but handling the blitz is one of the biggest. Hurts last year completed 56 percent of his passes with nine TDs and four INTs when blitzed according to Pro Football Focus, and this year he’s at 63 percent with seven TDs and just one INT. As he’s grown in this offense, Hurts has become much quicker diagnosing what defenses are doing and determining where to go with the football. Last year, 58 percent of blitzes against Hurts turned into hurries. This year that figure is down to 26 percent. He's identifying the blitzes and finding the open man much more efficiently than last year. This will be huge Sunday because the Giants are averaging a league-high 15.1 blitzes per game, and Hurts’ ability to make plays when blitzed should give the Eagles some big-time opportunities. The teams that have blitzed Hurts the most – the Steelers (23 times), Lions (21), Cards (16), Cowboys (14), Packers (10) and Texans (10) – have allowed an average of 30 points per game to the Eagles. Also interesting to note that as Hurts has continued to have success making plays against the blitz, teams have done it less and less. Hurts was blitzed an average of 13 times the first seven games and 7.4 the last five. Teams are going to keep looking for ways to slow down the Eagles’ MVP candidate. And he’s going to keep making them pay.
2. Since 2008, the Eagles are 21-6 vs. the Giants and 11-4 in East Rutherford. The Giants haven't swept them since 2007.

3. One of the Eagles’ most improved areas from last year is pass pressure. The Eagles recorded just 29 sacks all last year – matching their fewest since sacks became an official stat in 1982 and second-fewest in the league. They had that beat this year by Week 9. They’re now up to 42 sacks, second-most in the league behind the Cowboys (48). Last time the Eagles had more sacks through 12 weeks was 1991, and you know what kind of defense that was. The Eagles are on pace for 59 sacks, which would be their most since 1989. Over the last six games, they have an NFL-best 25 sacks. What makes the Eagles so dangerous is that so many different guys are generating pressure. Haason Reddick (9.0 sacks) and Javon Hargrave (8.0) lead the way, but Josh Sweat, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham each have at least five sacks, and the Eagles have never had five guys with six sacks. This team has improved in a lot of ways, but going from second-worst to second-best in sacks is one of the biggest. 

4. Britain Covey’s 13.6 punt return average is third-highest in the NFL since Week 8, behind only Donovan Peoples-Jones (16.9) and Marcus Jones (14.1). 

5. It’s really crazy how well Reed Blankenship has played these last two weeks. Not only was he an undrafted free agent, he wasn’t even one of the Eagles’ priority free agents. Ten of the Eagles’ rookie free agents got more guaranteed money than Blankenship: Carson Strong, Noah Ellis, Kennedy Brooks, Mario Goodrich, Jarrid Williams, Josh Blackwell, Britain Covey, Josh Jobe, Josh Sills and William Dunkle. One thing about Blankenship: He played a ton of football before he got here. He was a five-year starter at Middle Tennessee State and played in 53 college football games, piling up over 400 tackles. And that’s probably a big reason he carries himself with the confidence and savvy of a seasoned pro. Blankenship has that combination of intelligence and physicality you want in a safety, and while you don’t want to get carried away after just two games, it is rare to see an undrafted rookie play at this level. In the last 25 years, I can think of six undrafted rookies who were big-time contributors as a position player: Chad Lewis in 1997, Hank Fraley in 2001, Jamaal Jackson in 2005, Hank Baskett in 2006, Josh Adams in 2018 and T.J. Edwards in 2019. It’s rare. And Blankenship is right in that mix.

6. Jalen Hurts quietly broke the Eagles’ record for highest career passer rating Sunday, passing Nick Foles. Before Sunday’s game, Foles owned the highest career passer rating in Eagles history at 93.2 and Hurts was second at 92.1. But with his 29-for-39, 380-yard, 3-TD, 0-INT performance against the Titans, Hurts improved his career passer rating from 92.1 to 93.7 and moved past Foles into the top spot. 

7. If Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts each score one more rushing touchdown this year, the Eagles will become only the sixth team in history with two players with double-digit rushing TDs. The others were the 1960 Packers, 1975 Colts, 2002 Vikings, 2008 Panthers and 2020 Cards. Only the 1960 Packers had two with 11 – Hall of Famers Paul Hornung (13) and Jim Taylor (11).

8. How great was Mike Quick? During the five years from 1983 through 1987, he averaged 62 catches for 1,087 yards, 10 ½ touchdowns and 17.6 yards per catch. The last Eagle other than Quick to record those numbers in a single season was Pete Retzlaff in 14 games in 1965 (66-for-1,190, 10 TDs, 18.0). Quick’s average over a five-year period is equivalent to one of the best seasons in franchise history.

9. Five of the Eagles’ last six head coaches won at least 20 games in their first two seasons. Rich Kotite was 21-11, Ray Rhodes, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson were all 20-12 and Nick Sirianni is 20-9 with five games to play this year. Kotite, Rhodes, Kelly and Pederson were a combined 81-47 their first two years (.633) and 52-73-2 after their second seasons (.417). The worst record by an Eagles head coach in his first two years over the last 30 years belongs to Andy Reid, who was 16-16. He was 114-77-1 after that. 

10. Miles Sanders has 187 carries and no fumbles this year, and if he gets through the final five games without a fumble, he’ll break the Eagles record for most rushing attempts in a season without a fumble. Brian Westbrook (156 in 2005) and Jordan Howard (119 in 2019) are the only backs who’ve had 100 carries in a season without a fumble. Sanders only fumbled once last year – against the Saints. He’s had 254 consecutive carries without a fumble and just one on 324 carries his last two years. Sanders fumbled six times his first two seasons. Joe Mixon has the next-most carries in the league without a fumble at 158. 

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