Coming into the 2022 NFL season, the biggest question for the Eagles raised by national media was if Jalen Hurts was the right quarterback to lead this team. With the best offensive line in football, ample receiving weapons led by the newly acquired AJ Brown, and a revamped defense, Hurts would be under the biggest microscope.
So far, he’s shined and the Eagles have soared to an early 2-0 record after their 24-7 win over the Vikings. Hurts threw for 333 yards, ran for 52 and scored three total touchdowns in the win. Reviewing the tape, it was easy to see how the signal caller is in full control of the offense, and how Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has empowered Hurts and built it around his developing strengths.
We know one thing for sure: Jalen Hurts has gravity in the Eagles offense. When a QB is a such a dynamic run threat like Hurts, defenses have to account for him by adding more defenders to account for him, leaving free chances for other players to create. On Monday against the Vikings, Hurts’ gravity was on display on three separate occasions, and they all look like the same play to the defense.
A popular play to run with mobile threats at QB is a read option with a “lead” blocker. Normally this lead blocker is a detached (off the LOS) tight end or perhaps another back or receiver. The Eagles consistently forced the Vikings to be wrong whenever they used this play, and a large reason of why they were wrong is because of the gravity Hurts has at the position.
In the first clip, LB Eric Kendricks attacks Hurts, who scored on a similar play by the goal line. This opened a lane for Hurts to throw it to Zach Pascal, who lined up in the backfield with Hurts and Miles Sanders, and they picked up the first down:
Hurts’ second run, a long 26 yarder, is based on this same play, but this time safety Harrison Smith takes TE Dallas Goedert, who runs into the flat. This opens a massive lane for Hurts, who takes it to the goal line and then proceeds to tell the entire world that he lifts, dragging guys into the endzone:
Watch the Vikings defenders’ body and eyes on this next play, a six yard gain by Sanders. Look at all the attention Hurts attracts when they show the same action. That’s part of how you win games offensively, making the defense wrong:
What impressed me the most about Hurts’ night against the Vikings was how in control he was in the passing game. Nothing fazed him, and he knew he had answers for every question the defense would throw at him. This throw is an example of the gravity running the football and having an explosive run game can create. The linebackers creep up to stop the run, leaving the middle of the field open for an AJ Brown in-breaker(maybe a Bang 8, a rhythm throw that resembles a post). Pitch and catch, easy money.
These are the throws that get me excited about the ceiling for Hurts and the Eagles offense. Philadelphia is running all hooks, a deeper curl route which really means run to the first down line and turn around, and the Vikings run Half-Quarter-Quarter defense. This means that to the side of the field away from the motion the Vikings are running Cover 2, and to the motion side they’re running Quarters.
The middle hook occupies the linebackers, but only for a split second, because Eric Kendricks recognizes the concept. Hurts has a small window to fit this ball in to AJ Brown, and he fires it in for a chain mover. Really good stuff, but watch it from the endzone angle and you’ll see the tight window Hurts had to get this ball into:
Then we have the long TD pass to Quez Watkins, which is an example of the Eagles knowing the Vikings’ concepts and having a perfect counter for it. The Eagles run a Sail concept, which is a go route paired with an out route or corner route from the slot, and a swing pass out to a back as a checkdown. The Vikings run their Half-Quarter-Quarter coverage, but this time the Quarters coverage is to the play side.
The WILL LB to this side is at the LOS and is Za’Darius Smith (when you run the 5-1 “Penny” front this is the trade off), and he drops into the flat. Where we’re really looking is at the corner and safety on this play. In this quarters coverage, the corner plays man on everything deep, or MOD coverage. The safety in this case has man on the second receiver.
But this is where the Eagles, and offenses in general, hit defenses with a combo breaker. The out route portion of the Sail concept sees the second receiver run almost directly at the corner, who sees the green flash in front of him and bites on it. The safety also plays man on the second receiver, leaving Watkins nothing but green grass stopping him:
That wasn’t the most impressive throw of the night for Hurts, however. This pass to get the Eagles in field goal range was my favorite of his, mainly because of the anticipation and timing of the throw, with a defender in his face. The Vikings are again running Quarters, but to the backside the linebacker is aiming to “wall” off Goedert, or not give Hurts any way to get this ball in there before the Safety could get over the top. Watch the endzone angle, and when Hurts releases this ball, with pressure in his face. That’s a big boy throw.
Hurts had every tool in the toolbox working on Monday, and if his development continues to look like this, the Eagles are going to be formidable in the Super Bowl race.