Eagles’ Jalen Hurts changed Nick Sirianni’s view of QB position

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How Hurts changed Sirianni’s outlook on QB position originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

We spend so much time talking about what Jalen Hurts can’t do that sometimes we forget about what he can do.

That’s not lost on Nick Sirianni.

The Eagles’ second-year head coach spent the 2021 season coaching Hurts and that experience has altered the way he thinks about the quarterback position. Sirianni previously put in order the necessary qualities for a successful quarterback:

1. Accuracy
2. Decision making
3. Ability to create
4. Arm strength

But based on coaching Hurts in 2021, Sirianni thinks that ability to create might be just as important as decision making … at least for Hurts.

“He has qualities that, I think, first of all, you saw the abilities to create,” Sirianni said in June. “If I’m ranking what’s important for a quarterback, it’s always going to be accuracy as No. 1. And then No. 2, I went back and forth on whether I thought that would be decision making or ability to create. And the reason I went back and forth with that was because of the dynamic playmaking ability Jalen has.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you got it. You don’t know what’s important until you got it, right? And so, it’s like, ‘Wow, how many we made because of his athleticism.’ So whether it’s 2A or 2B with the decision-making. You saw that last year – how much ability he had to create plays for the offense when something wasn’t there. And so, you saw that last year, a very important part with the ability of making plays for the quarterback and to be the guy.”

That’s not to say that decision making isn’t important. It is absolutely important. And so is accuracy and arm strength. Those are the things every quarterback needs to have. But what became apparent in 2021 was that Hurts’ ability to create as a playmaker matters too. And it’s what makes him special.

Of course, Hurts needs to get better in other areas. He needs to improve as a passer if he ever wants to be considered the long-term franchise quarterback and one of the top QBs in the NFL. He completed 61.3% of his passes in 2021 and even if that metric isn’t the be-all and end-all, it still needs to get better along with a list of other categories in the pass game. Everyone knows that.

But if he can develop in those areas, he’ll add that to his special playmaking ability.

Sure, any quarterback’s prowess as a passer matters more, but that rushing ability matters too.

In addition to throwing for 3,144 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, Hurts also ran for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hurts was able to pick up big yards without taking a beating. Hurts actually led the NFL in rushing yards before contact last season, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. The next closest players were Josh Allen (3.9) and Lamar Jackson (3.6).

Hurts also rushed for 57 first downs, tied for 8th in the NFL and second among quarterbacks. Those are big plays that extend drives.

And Hurts’ legs aren’t just used when he takes off running. He has the skill of extending plays to buy time for his receivers to get open. There’s a fine line of knowing when a play is dead but whenever a QB can extend plays, it can really help an offense.

Sirianni also learned how to better coach Hurts in 2021. Typically, Sirianni said, he goes easy on quarterbacks. But he learned that tough coaching seems to get through to Hurts — probably a product of Hurts’ growing up with a coach as a father. In any case, the two forged a tight bond last year.

Sirianni is expecting bigger and better things from Hurts in 2022. The Eagles had the NFL’s 25th-ranked passing attack last season and that’s not good enough. But there are reasons Sirianni expects it to improve. A big one is the expected growth from Hurts.

Despite a report about one poor day of practice from Hurts this spring, Sirianni seemed impressed by what he saw from Hurts during the Eagles’ abbreviated OTAs. For what it’s worth, Hurts performed well in the two OTA practices open to reporters.

“I’m not BS-ing you guys,” Sirianni said in June. “I’ve been really impressed with the ability to process the plays that we’re going through, and to get it out on time. He’s making good, accurate decisions, and he’s doing them on time.”

Of course, Sirianni allowed that the Eagles were running 7-on-7 drills in OTAs without real pressure, a setup that lends itself to quarterback success. But he thought Hurts’ processing speed had really improved and he said he saw improved fundamentals from his young quarterback too.

“So, it’s just gotta continue on the uprise, or else it’s just talk, right?” Sirianni said. “We just have to continue that little bit of get better every day, and I think we’ve seen that with Jalen. He’s gotten better throughout his entire career.”

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