Skip to main content

Jalen Hurts' Running Ability is Eagles' Safety Net

The Eagles want to throw it more but also have a proven Plan B

When an NFL quarterback can use his legs as a weapon, coaches - both offensive and defensive ones - will often describe the impact as a plus-one in the running game.

In other words, defenses are not typically equipped to handle that extra body when it comes to run fits never mind the headaches a scramble can cause when the back seven is immersed in coverage responsibilities.

The Eagles' Jalen Hurts is considered to be perhaps the best running quarterback in the NFL not named Lamar Jackson and when it comes to designed runs, the third-year player has a case to be labeled as the best in the entire league.

In 2021, Hurts paced the NFL in designed QB runs (72), rushing yards garnered on those runs (377), and yards per carry in such circumstances (5.2), per Next Gen Stats.

That despite the fact that Hurts injured his ankle late against the New York Giants on Nov. 28 of last year and was dramatically scaled back from a mobility standpoint to finish the season.

When it comes to the advanced numbers - things like yards gained over expectation - in many ways Hurts was even more impressive, something not lost in the analytically inclined Eagles organization.

Ultimately, he was forced to undergo surgery for the ankle injury and the Eagles' have a cost-benefit analysis on their hands regarding the QB's abilities.

Common sense and every running back will tell you that banged-up is part of the job description and the more you handle the football, the more likely the next ache or pain is around the corner.

That's just one of the reasons the Eagles want to become more adept at throwing the football.

"I think you see it many different ways throughout the NFL of how teams get it done,” coach Nike Sirianni said at the NFL owners’ meetings this spring. “You can be a top-ranked run team. You can be a top-ranked pass team. The main stats that we’re always focused on are, ‘Did we win the explosive-play battle and did we win the turnover battle?’”

Of course, it's easier to generate explosive plays in the passing game but you're also far more apt to turn the football over if it's in the air when compared against a sure-handed ball carrier. 

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Conversely, Hurts offers explosive ability as a runner few can duplicate.

So everything is always on a sliding scale but the $100 million the Eagles gave A.J. Brown on top of the first-round pick the organization sent to Tennessee for the star receiver is as good as a hint you're going to get on the preferred path forward.

If you need more help listen to the QB himself.

"It's my job to just go out there and play point guard," Hurts said earlier this spring. "Distribute the ball, get the playmakers the ball, and my plays will come."

READ MORE: Expect Davion Taylor to Be in a Battle for Playing Time

Meanwhile, when Sirianni talks about the evolution of Hurts he rarely mentions the running game because that box is already checked.

"Jalen is, in my opinion, more comfortable in the offense. That's just the part of the process the second year [as the starter]," Sirianni said. "He knows where the receivers are going to be versus different looks. He knows where to go with the football a little bit quicker.

"... What I noticed is he's really seeing where to go with the football and going there quick. But again, have to keep working that because it's just going to get harder and harder."

If it reverts back to being a little too hard, Sirianni has already shown the willingness to toggle from pass-first back to run-first.

"We’re going to do what we feel like we can do best to win football games,” said Sirianni.

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen