Eagles, Jalen Hurts could make a dual-quarterback formation an NFL staple

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist
Yahoo Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles franchise that pulled off arguably the single-gutsiest play in Super Bowl history is now positioned to lay the groundwork on something even more ambitious: The NFL’s first two-quarterback staple in an offense.

Taysom Hill [package] on steroids,” one source familiar with the Eagles’ draft evaluations told Yahoo Sports.

That was the descriptor used to explain the Eagles’ selection of Oklahoma star quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of Friday night’s NFL draft — with a 53rd pick that flew in the face of some team needs. Chief among them: LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton, who was once believed to be a potential top-15 pick before sliding over the course of the season and draft process.

A source with specific insight on the Hurts selection said there was some offensive evolution in mind — as well as this pick being a stiff lean into the coaching staff’s preference. That’s what ultimately led to the Hurts pick, allowing head coach Doug Pederson to groom a talented backup to starter Carson Wentz while potentially lining up some two-quarterback packages that have been on the Eagles’ mind since last offseason’s passing program.

Jalen Hurts lines up in the shotgun against LSU in a CFP semifinal last December. He's the only QB in the picture. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Jalen Hurts lines up in the shotgun against LSU in a CFP semifinal last December. He's the only QB in the picture. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Press Taylor told reporters last summer that the league’s next leap in progression in offenses could involve putting two quarterbacks into the backfield — with the potential of either of those players throwing the football.

“I think at some point, one of the big things will be having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball,” Taylor said last June. “That’s something [to watch] going forward … You’ve seen the ‘Philly Special,’ you’ve seen all different versions of double passes [in the NFL]. I think at some point I can see something like that coming into play. I’m not necessarily saying that [the Eagles will be] doing anything like that. I just think that can be something that’s pushing the envelope.”

Pushing the envelope, like, say, taking another quarterback with a lucrative second-round pick less than one year after signing Wentz to a $128 million extension through the 2024 season. It’s that kind of deal that would seem to completely remove a backup quarterback as a draft priority. Particularly when there appeared to be more pressing needs at several defensive positions that might have netted a starting-caliber player with that 53rd pick.

But the goal is apparently to amp up offensive flexibility in the playbook along the lines of how the New Orleans Saints weaponized Hill in their offense, while also providing upper-echelon insurance behind Wentz and developing a quarterback who might be more valuable down the line than anyone can see now.

That seemed to be what general manager Howie Roseman suggested Friday night when he explained the pick in the face of some significant fan backlash on social media.

“When we came in and sat down in 2016, we said we were always going to be about the quarterback position,” Roseman said. “That’s the most important position in sports and we were very fortunate to get a young Pro Bowl quarterback in Carson Wentz. Our goal is to surround him with as many good people as we possibly can — as many good players as we possibly can. And so for us in this pick, when we sat and we talked about it as a smaller group, we looked at where we were on the board and what was the thing that we believed in the most, and more the kind of people we kind of believed in the most, we balanced it out in those regards. We think [Hurts] is an incredible teammate. He’s got a lot to learn here obviously.”

Roseman added there was no questioning whether Wentz was the Eagles’ chosen player at quarterback, evidenced by the draft picks invested to move up and take him in 2016, followed by the $128 million extension in 2019. He added that Philadelphia still wanted to make the quarterback spot a priority in spite of the Wentz investment.

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/25798/" data-ylk="slk:Nick Foles">Nick Foles</a> (R) famously backed up starter Carson Wentz to glory in the 2017 season. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
Nick Foles (R) famously backed up starter Carson Wentz to glory in the 2017 season. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

“For better or worse, we are quarterback developers,” Roseman said. “We want to be a quarterback factory. We have the right people in place to do that. No team in the National Football League has benefitted more from developing quarterbacks than the Philadelphia Eagles. When we make these kind of decisions, we always go to our principles and who we are and what we believe in. Right or wrong, this is who we are.”

It’s worth noting that Roseman has seen the Eagles pull off several lucrative quarterback trades during his years with the organization, including an aging Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins in 2010 (for a second- and fourth-round pick), a faltering Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals in 2011 (for a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and a fading Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings in 2016 (for a first-round pick).

Should Hurts develop into the heady quarterback, some say could be one of the steals of this draft, it’s not out of the question that the Eagles could see a solid payoff down the line while using Hurts’ skills to expand the offense in the interim. Potentially even including the wild envelope-pusher of putting Hurts and Wentz in the same backfield for the purposes of making defenses adjust to a pair of QBs standing in the shotgun. As insane as that might sound, there has been thought to that being one of the league’s next evolutions, similar to when offenses went through a phase of using Wildcat formations several years ago.

As for the mechanics of taking another quarterback higher than anyone expected, Roseman said Wentz was made aware in advance that Hurts could be the pick. He added that the Eagles saw more value in taking Hurts at the end of the second round versus some of the players who were still on the board — and who the Eagles believed would still be available when they came back around to choose players in Round 3.

“With Jalen Hurts, he has a unique skill set,” Pederson told reporters. “You see what Taysom Hill has done in New Orleans, and now he and Drew Brees have a connection there and a bond there, and you even look at when [Joe] Flacco and Lamar [Jackson] in Baltimore for the short period of time — how they jelled together. It’s just something we’re going to explore.

“I want to make a point here first and foremost that Jalen Hurts is a good quarterback, and he was drafted as a quarterback and he’s a quarterback first, but he has a unique skill set that he’s a great runner. Obviously, he throws well on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we’re going to take a look at as we keep developing this offseason and this advancement as we get ready for training camp.”

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