Does Eagles QB Jalen Hurts have an NFL arm?

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Does Hurts have an NFL arm? Is that really a question? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

“He can’t throw!”

If I’ve heard it once this offseason, I’ve heard it a million times. 

Jalen Hurts, the logic goes, can’t throw the football well enough to be a successful NFL quarterback.

I’ve heard it from the usual Carson Wentz apologists, but I’ve also heard it from some pretty knowledgeable Eagles fans and some highly respected NFL analysts.

My only question is: Where is this coming from?

The answer I usually get is that 4th-and-goal throw to Quez Watkins in the end zone against Washington that fell about 10 yards short and wound up being the last pass Hurts threw last year.

I’ll give you that one. Terrible pass. Maybe the ball slipped coming out of his hand. Maybe it was just a bad throw. Maybe dismissing a QB for one pass at the end of his rookie year against the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense in the middle of a pandemic with Brett Toth and Matt Pryor playing tackle is a little extreme? Maybe every rookie quarterback has a throw or two like that?

There’s no evidence Hurts “can’t throw,” and if you’re buying into it, you just haven’t been paying attention.

Playing alongside a bunch of unproven rookies and aging veterans, the dude threw for 338 and 342 yards in his second and third career starts. Which makes him the second QB in NFL history to throw for 335 or more yards twice in his first three starts. And his 847 yards are the sixth-most ever by a rookie in his first three starts. 

What about the interceptions? What about the lack of touchdowns? What about the accuracy?

In his first three starts — the only three games he’s ever played start to finish — Hurts completed 55 percent of his passes with five TDs and two INTs. He’s one of only 10 quarterbacks in NFL history to put up those numbers in his first three starts as a rookie.

In his first three starts, Hurts had a higher completion percentage than Peyton Manning, Johnny Unitas and Steve Young, threw more TDs than Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray or Cam Newton and was picked off less than Troy Aikman, Josh Allen or Andrew Luck.

The Washington game was a disaster for everybody and it skewed his final numbers, but he didn’t even get to finish because, hey, it was Nate Sudfeld’s day, and anyone who wants to draw conclusions about Hurts based on a half of football on the last day of a lost season against the NFL's second-ranked pass defense with that O-line and that play-calling and those receivers just isn’t being honest with himself.

If you’re still hung up on the 52 percent completion percentage — and I wrote in detail about this last month — consider this: According to NFL advanced stats, 12 of his 71 incompletions were throwaways, one was a spike and four were drops. Remove the throwaways and the spike and turn the drops into catches and he’s right at 60 percent.

Still doubt whether Hurts has an NFL arm?

How did he complete nine passes of 30 yards over the last five weeks of the season, second most in the NFL during that span and one fewer than Drew Brees threw all year in 250 more attempts?

How did he have as many games with 330 or more yards as Donovan McNabb had in his first five seasons?

How did he have more passing yards in his first three starts than any quarterback in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had as a rookie?

How did he average 13.8 yards per completion, highest by any NFL rookie in 23 years?

I don’t know what Hurts’ future looks like. I don’t know if he’s the answer at QB. I don’t know if they’re going to need to draft a quarterback next year. 

None of us do. So much goes into whether a quarterback succeeds or fails. Coaching, learning the offense, receiver play, play-calling, health, O-line.

But I know one thing. If Hurts fails, it won’t be because he can’t throw a football.

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