PHILADELPHIA – Donovan McNabb could run but didn’t want to be known as a running quarterback. Still, the former Eagles’ quarterback could motor when required, and in just his second season of his 11 years in Philadephia, he ran for a career-high 629 yards.
You have to go back to 1990 when Randall Cunningham was running all over the place to find a quarterback with the running skill set that Jalen Hurts possesses.
Michael Vick had legs, too, but he came to Philadelphia in 2009, after a 21-month prison sentence had robbed him of some of those skills that saw him run for 1,039 yards in 2006 and 902 yards in 2004 when he was with the Atlanta Falcons and before he was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth for operating a dog-fighting ring.
Nobody ran better in Eagles history than Cunningham. He holds the franchise record for single-season rushing yards with 942 set in 1990. Vick’s 676 in 2010 is the second-highest in team history.
Hurts has a chance to break both of them.
Certainly, Vick’s is in trouble.
Last year in just four starts and a snap here and there in a few other games, Hurts had 354.
Already this year, he has 144 yards in two games, which leads the Eagles heading into their Monday night matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s enough ground yards to put him 12th in that category among all running backs in the NFL, and second among quarterbacks behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, who is third overall with 193 yards.
The Ravens have done well with Jackson leading them as a rusher, but is it sustainable for the Eagles?
“Some of the things that happen are sometimes it's on a pass play, so he's getting on pass plays, getting more opportunities at times than the backs in kind of spread-out situations,” said Nick Sirianni when asked about that very thing by SI.com Eagle Maven on Saturday.
“I think when you have that element of the quarterback being able to rush the ball, it opens up the rushing game for everybody, so I'm not concerned about that. I think over time that will balance itself out.”
Miles Sanders has 129 yards, Kenny Gainwell has 51, and that’s it.
They and Hurts are the only three players who have run the ball. No Boston Scott, yet, and maybe not in Dallas on Monday night with him listed as questionable with an illness.
Asked if he would like to see Hurts run less, Sirianni said he believes Hurts is running out of necessity only, and not taking off too soon when a play breaks down.
“I really believe that he's going through his reads and making his reads,” said the coach. “If something breaks down upfront, he runs…I would feel that way if I felt like he was unnecessarily leaving the pocket.
“And you don't have to have something break down. It's also the play wasn't there. Like, in the case of him and Dallas [Goedert] in the Atlanta game on the touchdown, the play wasn't there. He made something happen because he had to.
“And so, I'm good with how he's playing the game right now because I don't believe he's leaving the pocket early. He's leaving the pocket out of necessity.”
The previous quarterback who played here, Carson Wentz, was as brittle as porcelain, a cringe-worthy runner every time he started to run.
Wentz was notorious for trying to get every inch out of every run, repeatedly being asked about sliding and getting out of bounds in order to preserve his health.
Hurts’ scrambles seem to end up with him darting out of bounds and he seems to understand how to take a hit without too much damage.
It helps that his 6-1 frame is layered with 223 pounds and that he has the experience of running with the ball from Alabama to Oklahoma, gaining 3,274 yards in four seasons at both of those college stops.
Of course, that doesn't make immune to injury. No player is.
Still, in his one year at Oklahoma, he ran 1,298 yards. At Alabama, he had seasons of 954, 855, and 167 yards.
If he does anything like that this season with the Eagles, he has a good chance to become this franchise’s first 1,000-plus yard rushing QB.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.