‘Winner’ Jalen Hurts Opening Eyes Across NFL

Jalen Hurts’ physical ability wasn’t what caused former Philadelphia and current Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson to essentially end the Carson Wentz era in 2020.

It was Hurts’ indomitable spirit.

He’s a winner,” Pederson texted Tuesday after watching Hurts lead the Eagles past Minnesota on Monday night. This followed a performance that hinted that Hurts might be the franchise quarterback Wentz was supposed to be. “I’m telling you that he will overcome any criticism of him. Great kid. Nothing bothers him and he thinks he is the best player in the league.”

The question is whether Hurts’ play will make the Eagles confident enough to pass on the idea of taking a quarterback in the 2023 draft, which is expected to be loaded with passers. The Eagles have two first-round picks and were considered an early favorite before the season to draft a passer, even if that required a trade up.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to pass under pressure in the second quarter during the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jalen Hurts Was A Second Round Draft Pick In 2020

Hurts has maintained that confidence through on Monday nights that didn’t go as well as this week. At 2-0, the Eagles have now won five straight and seven of the past eight regular-season games that Hurts has started. He also posted a quarterback rating of more than 100 for the fifth time his past nine starts.

His 26-of-31 performance with 333 yards passing, one touchdown throw and two rushing TDs against the Vikings was a remarkable display of efficiency. This coming from a quarterback who had once been criticized as a run-first quarterback with little more than a backup future.

“He’s a completely different player right now,” one NFC East assistant coach said, comparing Hurts to his rookie season when he finished the year as the Eagles starter and caused the team to trade Wentz. “The technical side of the game is so much cleaner, the footwork and the release.

“Yeah, he still runs more than you want, but it’s designed and it compliments what he does in the passing game … and I didn’t think I would ever talk about him as a thrower when he was at Alabama.”

Certainly not after his first big Monday night game when he was with the Crimson Tide. That was the college national championship game against Georgia on Jan. 8, 2018. That’s when Hurts was benched in favor of freshman Tua Tagavailoa in the second half with the Crimson Tide down 13-0.

Hurts was only three of eight for 21 yards passing in that game. And he wasn’t doing much in the running game (Alabama had only 89 yards on the ground at the time Hurts was benched by coach Nick Saban.

Hurts Is Completing Better Than 69% Of His Passes

The opinion of many people is that current New York Giants coach Brian Daboll, who was the offensive coordinator at Alabama at the time, had done much to cover up Hurts’ deficiencies.

The following season, Hurts completely lost his job to Tagavailoa, throwing only 70 passes and then transferring to Oklahoma, where he put up a great statistical season in an offensive system that many NFL people still dismiss as a gimmick.

Despite rising to starting status as a rookie under Pederson in 2020, Hurts wasn’t given much due by NFL coaches. That lack of respect seemed to be justified in his lone Monday night appearance last season. In Week 3 at Dallas, Hurts and the Eagles lost 41-21. Philadelphia first seven possessions ended with two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and five punts.

Hurts continued to be inconsistent for most of the first half of the season. He seemed to turn the corner against the Chargers. Now, the promise seems to be playing out more than anyone thought possible.

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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  1. He has a really good offensive line but, most importantly, he has very good receivers that the Birds have not had for awhile. AJ Brown, Devonta Smith and TE Dallas Goedart. I’ve admired Hurts since his Bama days, handled adversity with such class.

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