Why Jalen Hurts improved so much


Jalen Hurts kept all the positives from last year and eliminated the negatives.

He was accurate. He was clutch. He didn’t force anything. He protected the football. He ran when it made sense to run.

Everything the Eagles needed from Jalen Hurts they got.

“He’s the leader,” DeVonta Smith said. “When things go wrong, he’s the guy that’s picking everybody up. When things go right, he tells everyone to keep pushing. Him and the offensive line. They’re the ones that’s going to lead the team and that’s what they did.”

The Nick Sirianni Era started out with a huge win Sunday in Atlanta, and one of the biggest reasons was Hurts, who led the Eagles to their biggest opening-day win since 2008 and biggest under a new coach since 1964.

It was a model of efficiency from the 23-year-old Hurts, who for the first time in his career was the beneficiary of creative play calling, a healthy offensive line and a system designed for him.

He responded with a calm, measured, mistake-free performance in the Eagles’ season-opening 32-6 blowout of the Falcons.

“It’s good to win opening day,” Hurts said. “All the hard work we put in. All the different changes we've endured and had to overcome and persevere through new coaching, new values as a football team, and buying into it and coming out here Week 1 … it started off well.”

The biggest differences in the Hurts of last year and this year? He was accurate and he didn’t turn the ball over. Last year he completed only 52 percent of his passes, threw three interceptions and fumbled nine times.

Sunday? He completed 77 percent of his passes. No interceptions. No fumbles.

“It’s me going out there and doing what I'm coached to do,” Hurts said. “We prepare, we hit it every day. I always talk about executing. I want to execute at a high level running the ball, throwing the ball, alignment things, situation things, I just want to execute at a high level.”

Hurts completed 27 of 35 passes and threw touchdowns to Smith, Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor. He also scrambled for 62 yards, running the RPO game to perfection.

His 77 percent completion percentage is highest in Eagles history on opening day, and he became only the third quarterback in NFL history to complete 75 percent of his passes with three TD passes, no interceptions, 250 passing yards and 60 rushing yards in a game.

Hurts’ 18-yard TD pass to Smith in the first quarter – Smith’s first career catch – gave the Eagles the lead for good, but his best work came in the two-minute drill at the end of the first half.

The Eagles drove 62 yards in 12 plays over 1:42, with Hurts capping the drive with a wild 9-yard TD pass to Dallas Goedert as he faded toward the right sideline. Hurts was 5-for-6 for 46 yards on the drive  with three runs for 24 yards. Because of penalties, he had more yards on the drive than the length of the drive.

“Taking what the defense gave him,” Sirianni said. “Methodically going down the field, making big throws when he needed to make big throws, creating, checking it down when he needed to check it down, making a run when he needed to make a run. Just playing good quarterback.

“Jalen was in complete control there. He was in complete control the whole game. He played a heck of a football game and (I'm) just really happy with the way he played.”

The Falcons blitzed Hurts all day, but he either escaped the pressure, found his hot receiver or threw the ball away. He was sacked just once on 39 pass plays.

“I feel like we got some good pressure on him but just didn’t get him down,” Falcons two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said.

“He definitely is very, very impressive with evading defenders and making throws on the run, so he definitely, definitely impressed me today and he’s a very, very strong guy. I tried to get him a couple times and he stayed up on his feet. They’ve definitely got a good one.”

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