The debate as to whether Jalen Hurts can be the Eagles’ quarterback beyond this season has gained steam with each passing week.
It’s an argument that seemingly picks up in intensity almost daily and really hit full boil last Thursday night when a short clip made it to Twitter showing GM Howie Roseman with binoculars glued to his face taking in Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and maybe even North Carolina’s Sam Howell.
Tom Donahue, one of Roseman’s right-hand men as the senior director of player personnel, was sitting next to Roseman. Both men were presumably watching both quarterbacks and probably other players, too, and they weren’t alone. Plenty of other NFL teams had GMs and/or front office personnel on hand as well.
Meanwhile, Hurts is doing his best to make drafting a quarterback in the spring moot. Or at least taking one with what looks like will be three first-round selections.
There’s no question Hurts has been a better quarterback these past three weeks than he was at the start of the season. The vastly improved running game has no doubt helped him, but there are aspects of his game that have improved, too.
Head coach Nick Sirianni highlighted one instance on Monday, a day after Hurts completed 16 of 23 passes for 178 yards, two touchdowns, and his first interception since Oct. 14 in beating the Denver Broncos, 30-13.
It was the 24-yard completion he threw to Dallas Goedert on third-and-12 to keep alive a drive that ended in a 36-yard touchdown throw to DeVonta Smith.
Sirianni called it a “big-time football play."
“I think if you look back and you look maybe five weeks ago, I think that he probably tucks that and runs and maybe gets 10, right?” said the coach. “And (Sunday), he stepped up in the pocket, he stepped up with two hands on the football – I mean, and look how good he's done taking care of the football just as far as interceptions and fumbles, right?
“He steps up in the pocket, he rips through, he slides in the pocket, keeps his eyes down the field, and then he delivers a strike across the middle.”
Hurts has 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions, with only one lost fumble.
In the last three games, which coincides with the Eagles’ asserting themselves on the ground, he has completed 66.7 percent of his throws (36-for-54) with three TDs and one pick.
In that time, he is ranked in the top 10 of five categories among other QBs: first in rushing yards (186), second in passer rating (102.6), third in passing yards/attempt (8.2), eighth in total first downs (36), and tied for ninth in completion percentage (66.7).
“I just see his arrow completely pointed up,” said Sirianni. “I think we've all seen the way he's played. The way he played (Sunday), again, when we got into the second half, we kind of took the air out of it a little bit and we played a little bit different the way our defense was playing and the lead that we had.”
One of the early-season criticisms of the QB was that he was quick to flee the pocket whenever the pressure was getting close, rather than climb into it.
Hurts said in Sunday’s postgame interview area that wasn’t the case.
“Throwing from the pocket ain’t like it’s something I can’t do,” he said. “It’s something I think I do very well. It’s just taking advantage of it. Third down, they’re power rushing, trying to get me to escape out of there. They’re giving me more time to stay in the pocket. I took advantage of it (Sunday).”
Sirianni said that the evaluation of Hurts needs to take into account that he has started just 14 games.
“All the rookie quarterbacks in this class are at about 10 games right now,” said the coach. “At the most, nine or 10. So, to me, it's, like, well, he's still a rookie, right? He's still in his rookie season and – essentially if you count the amount of games started.
“And so, all I see is improvement every day from him because, again, it starts with the type of person that Jalen is and how much he loves this sport and how much he loves his teammates and how tough he is. And he doesn't make the same mistake twice.”
Sirianni cited another example of the improvement in Hurts’ game.
“We had a shot play called, the one that DeVonta scored on, and we actually had that called a couple times earlier in the drive,” he said, “and they didn't give us a look that we liked, and Jalen was able to check out of that play and get us into a better play that got us two first downs on top of that.
“Again, I just see him making strides in all aspects of his game. My job here and Jalen's job is to not focus on franchise quarterback moving forward. It's about, ‘What can we do today to get us ready for Sunday and what can we do tomorrow to get us ready for Sunday.’”
There are still seven more Sundays to go and at 4-6 maybe, just maybe, a wildcard playoff game.
The debate on Hurts being the starter in 2022 is far from over, but it’s trending in a positive direction for him.
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.