Eagles Observations: One area Jalen Hurts has made remarkable progress

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Roob's Observations: One area Jalen Hurts has made remarkable progress originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

An area Jalen Hurts has shown remarkable improvement, an unbelievable stat that gets even more unbelievable and an Eagles achievement that hadn’t happened in 72 years.

Must be Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations time!

1. Something Jalen Hurts has not gotten enough credit for this year is dramatically reducing his turnovers. Remember what a big issue fumbles and interceptions were last season? Hurts played 334 snaps in 2020 and turned the ball over six times – four interceptions and two fumbles. That’s one turnover every 56 snaps. This year he’s played 557 snaps, hasn’t lost a fumble and has thrown four INTs. That’s one turnover every 139 snaps. He’s reduced his total fumbles from one every 37 snaps to one every 111 snaps. And he's averaged one interception every 68 pass attempts this year, 7th-best in the NFL after averaging one every 37 attempts a year ago. Hurts now has the best career interception in Eagles history and 13th-best in NFL history (minimum 400 attempts). Still plenty to work on. Still plenty of areas to improve. But give credit where it’s due. Hurts has made huge strides when it comes to protecting the football.

1A. Overall, the Eagles have committed just seven turnovers, 3rd-fewest in the league and tied for the fewest in franchise history after nine games with the 2004 Super Bowl team.

2. Rookie Landon Dickerson is one heck of a run blocker. One of the reasons the Eagles have run the ball so well the last few weeks is Dickerson’s size, power and athleticism. He’s still a work in progress in pass blocking, although he’s getting better. But watch him run block. The dude is a monster.

3. A lot has been made of opposing quarterbacks completing 75.5 percent of their passes, which puts the Eagles on pace to allow the highest completion percentage in NFL history. But as bad as those numbers are, the numbers on first down are worse. Opposing QBs are 94-for-119 on 1st down this year, which is 79.0 percent. That’s 25 incomplete passes all year. The league average is 67.6 percent, which is high. But 79 percent is ridiculous. Just makes it very difficult to stop anybody when you’re almost guaranteed to be in a hole by second down. The Eagles are actually 7th-best in the NFL on 1st down against the run at 3.9 yards a pop. Makes you wonder why anybody would run against them on 1st down.

4. There’s a perception that Jordan Howard is a straight-ahead no-nonsense runner and Miles Sanders is more of an all-or-nothing guy who can bust a huge gain but is also prone to losing yardage. The stats say that’s true. During their 2 1/2 seasons together with the Eagles, Sanders has been stopped for a loss twice as often. Howard has lost yards on 5.8 percent of his carries (9 of 155) and Sanders on 11.8 percent of his carries (45 of 406). On 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1? Sanders is 13-for-24 (1.9 yards per attempt) with 8 conversions and Howard is 4-for-21 (5.3 ypc) with three conversions. Sanders has a much higher average – 4.9 to 4.4 – because he hits a lot more long gainers. But if you just want to move the chains, Howard brings terrific value to the offense. He should have been on the roster all year.

5. Here’s a crazy thing: The Eagles are now up to 6th in the NFL in rushing and 4th with 5.0 yards per carry. Yet they’re one of only eight teams without a run longer than 27 yards. This is the first time since 1999 they don’t have a 30-yard run through nine games.

6. Alshon Jeffery is currently the exact same age as Terrell Owens was when he had his monster 2004 season.

7. The Eagles need to get back to throwing the ball to their backs, something Nick Sirianni said during the summer would be a big part of the offense. And it was for a while. Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell are all very good receivers and Howard can catch the ball too. The first four games of the season, the backs averaged 6 catches for 56 yards. The last five, they’ve averaged 3 catches for 14 yards. Sanders has missed the last couple games, but even before he got hurt he had only 13 yards in his last three games. Gainwell, was 13-for-114 yards the first month of the season but just 6-for-50 the last five games and doesn’t have a target the last two games. Scott caught 49 passes for 416 yards as a backup the last couple years but has only 10 receiving yards this year. A lot of things fall by the wayside when you run the ball this much, but this offense functions best when more people are involved and in different ways. Throws to the backs are safe, high-percentage plays with the potential for big gainers.

8. Jalen Reagor has started eight games this year and is averaging 7.6 yards per catch. The only 1st-round wide receiver in NFL history to start at least eight games and have a lower yards-per catch average is Tavon Austin, who somehow averaged 3.8 yards per catch on 13-for-47 for the Rams in 2017.

9. The Eagles ran the ball 46 times and threw it 16 times against the Lions and then ran it 39 times and threw it 17 times against the Chargers. Last time they had consecutive games with 39 or more running plays and 17 or fewer pass attempts? It was the 1949 NFL Championship season in wins over the Steelers at Forbes Field (49 runs, 17 passes) and the Rams at Shibe Park (64 runs, 16 passes). That was 72 years ago.

10. A quick look at the stats shows that the Broncos are No. 10 in the NFL in run defense. Impressive. But let’s look a little deeper. As the season has gone on and they've lost defensive personnel, they’ve gotten progressively worse stopping the run. The first three weeks, they were No. 2 in the league (59 yards per game, 3.6 per carry), but since then they’re 24th in the league (118 per game, 4.4 per carry), and the last three they’re 29th (124 per game, 5.1 per carry). Definitely no reason for the Eagles to stop running now.