Will 4 starts really be enough to evaluate Jalen Hurts?

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Dave Zangaro
·4 min read
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Will 4 starts really be enough to evaluate Hurts? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Four games. That’s it.

After the 2020 season ends, the Eagles are going to have to make some franchise-altering decisions at the most important position in sports and those decisions will largely be based around the performance of 22-year-old Jalen Hurts down the stretch.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Monday named Hurts the starter for Week 16 against the Cowboys — “Obviously,” Pederson added — and while he wouldn’t commit to Hurts beyond that, it’s fair to assume Hurts will start in Week 17 as well.

If that holds true, that means the Eagles will get four starts out of Hurts this season. And then they’ll have to figure out what to do with Carson Wentz and at the position going forward.

Is four games really enough to get a fair evaluation on Hurts?

“Well, that's obviously kind of probably a loaded question a little bit,” Pederson said. “I think you have a good idea. Obviously, we haven't had a full body of 16-plus games, a preseason. We really don't know necessarily. I do think you can go back and just watch him from his college days. Again, Alabama, Oklahoma, how he's led those teams and the success he's had there, I think that gives you a good indication as to maybe who he is and what he can be, I think, down the road.

“We still have to improve, though. There's room to grow. Nothing is perfect, and there are some mistakes that are still being made that we have to correct, even in his game. It is a little bit of a small sample size to really probably make that determination, overall.”

It will be a small sample size but that’s all the Eagles are going to have unless they win the NFC East.

Wentz was benched in the second half against the Packers but the Eagles didn’t game plan for Hurts until last week against the Saints. So, ultimately, the Eagles are going to watch Hurts play quarterback for four games and try to figure out the future of their franchise this offseason. That’s not easy.

Pederson brought up Hurts’ success at the college level and while that’s a reason to draft him, it probably shouldn’t factor into his professional evaluation all that much. After all, plenty of great college quarterbacks flame out in the NFL.

And we’ve seen quarterbacks in the NFL have really good stretches that weren’t sustainable. Heck, we’ve seen it in Philadelphia. In Bobby Hoying’s first three career starts back in 1997, he threw 6 touchdowns and 1 interception with a passer rating of 98.0. That’s not to compare Hurts to Hoying, but to simply point out how tricky it is to evaluate a quarterback with such a small sample size.

Maybe Hurts will be great. Maybe we’re seeing the beginning of a tremendous NFL career. It’s very possible and some signs are there. But it’s hard to know and that’s the point.

Because the Eagles will have to figure out the future of their quarterback position based largely on projection. How good do they think Hurts can be? Do they think Wentz can ever regain his old form? Are they willing to get rid of one of them and simply roll with the other?

There is a nightmare scenario here where the Eagles trade Wentz or Hurts and they go somewhere else and have great success. What if the Eagles trade Wentz to Indianapolis — that’s the hot name, right? — and he ends up playing at a Pro Bowl level and Hurts isn’t what you thought he was. That would be a disaster.

The Eagles probably waited too long to make a QB switch this season and it might have cost them a chance at winning the division. But it also took away time to evaluate Hurts, which would’ve come in handy.

Hurts is halfway through what we presume will be four starts to finish out his rookie season and the early returns are good. In his first two starts, Hurts has thrown for 505 yards with 4 touchdowns and has also added 169 yards and another touchdown on the ground.

It hasn’t been perfect, there are plenty of things to work on, but he’s showing promise. And the Eagles are simply performing much better offensively with him on the field.

How good can Hurts be?

“Obviously a lot of that depends on Jalen,” Pederson said. “I know his makeup, his chemistry, he is an extremely hard worker. He is diligent, he wants to improve. He took the loss yesterday very personal and he wants to get back out there and keep going.”

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