Jalen Hurts Doing His Best Lamar Jackson Impersonation

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – Miles Sanders watches Lamar Jackson on his TV and marvels.

“I’m a fan,” said the Eagles’ running back. “Me getting to see him up close, it’s going to be pretty exciting. But we got a pretty tough defense ourselves, so we’re going to see how he acts against them.”

Jackson is this week’s tall order for an Eagles defense that made Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger look like a 25-year-old again.

The Eagles’ defense is preparing for Jackson by watching plenty of film of course, but they also have a rookie running the scout team offense this week. That would be Jalen Hurts, who completed his first NFL pass against the Steelers last week, an 18-yard dart down the middle of the field to Richard Rodgers.

“It has helped us out a lot,” said safety Rodney McLeod. “He understands the zone-read scheme, and his athleticism speaks for itself. He’s putting that on display for us throughout this week, giving us a real good look, scrambling around, whether it’s designed runs or it’s him just doing things similar to Lamar Jackson.”

One thing that separates Jackson from Hurts is speed.

Jackson didn’t run at the NFL Scouting Combine when he was coming out of Louisville, but at a so-called “speed day” on campus a couple weeks later, he clocked a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash.

That speed, combined with his shiftiness in the open field, make him a very dangerous weapon, one Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called “the most dangerous player in the game” on Tuesday.

Last year, when he earned first-team All-Pro honors, he ran for 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns with a 6.9 yards per carry average.

“With Lamar, you try to swarm him,” said defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. “Bring a lot of guys and focus on your rushing lanes, and not let him get any open gaps to use his legs and extend the plays. We have a big challenge to keep him contained, to swarm and get him down.”

So far this season Jackson has 238 yards rushing and one touchdown in five games as he seemingly tries to work more on becoming a drop-back passer.

“From what I see, yeah, he is trying to stay back there and make those throws,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “They’re still coming out pretty fast, too, but I do see him a lot differently than we did seeing him last year (when the Eagles and Ravens held a few practices together in the summer). He’s trying to be great every year, trying to do something different as far as getting better in the area of staying back there. That’s something I do see on film.”

Hurts doesn’t have that same Jackson skill set when it comes to using his legs, at least as far as we know right now, but he is able to simulate some of the throws Jackson makes from the pocket and while on the move.

“For us, as a defensive back group, staying in coverage is going to be big for us, understanding how Lamar Jackson likes to make his plays,” said McLeod. “So, we’ve been getting a very good look. It’s exciting to see. Not sure how the speed, whether it’s similar or not, but it’s good enough.”

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