Eagles Observations: A new way for Jalen Hurts to win football games

In Roob's Observations: A new way for Hurts to win football games originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A look at the longest QB winning streaks in Eagles history, auspicious progress from a rookie and the greatest collection of Mack Hollins stats ever assembled in one place in the history of the universe.

All that and tons more in a Week 4 edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations.

1. The Eagles on Sunday did something they hadn’t done in four years. Something Jalen Hurts had never done. They won a football game without running the ball. The Eagles never got untracked on the ground in Washington, finishing with 30 carries for just 72 yards and a 2.4 average – lowest of the Nick Siriani Era. The Commanders crowded the line of scrimmage, daring Hurts to beat them with his arm. And he did, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first game the Eagles won with fewer than 75 rushing yards since the 2018 playoff game in Chicago and the first time they’ve won with a rushing average that low since a game against the Panthers in 2014. That’s huge for Hurts and huge for this team because it shows Hurts can win a game throwing the ball when a defense forces the Eagles to be one-dimensional. Hurts has won a lot of games since the middle of last season working the passing game off an explosive ground attack. But for him to go out there and win a game – a division game on the road on a short week – without the benefit of an effective running game is another sign of growth for the 24-year-old QB.

2. Remember when Hurts threw three interceptions against the Giants last November? In six regular-season starts since then, he’s 6-0, and in those six games he’s completed 67 percent of his passes, thrown for 271 yards per game with 12 total touchdowns (seven passing, five rushing), one turnover and a 104.2 passer rating. Only Patrick Mahomes has a higher passer rating during that span. That six-game winning streak is tied for ninth-longest in Eagles history. Here’s a look at the eight longer streaks:

9 … Donovan McNabb [Week 6 – Week 15, 2003]
9 … Carson Wentz [Week 3 – Week 12, 2017]
9 … Norm Van Brocklin [Week 2 – Week 11, 1960]
8 … Randall Cunningham [Week 14, 1992 – Week 4, 1993]
8 … Ron Jaworski [Week 5 – Week 12, 1980]
8 … Tommy Thompson [Week 5 – Week 12, 1949]
8 … Tommy Thompson [Week 4 – Week 11, 1948]
7 … Donovan McNabb [Week 1 – Week 8, 2004]

3. Avonte Maddox is as important as anybody on the Eagles’ defense, and that’s a huge loss for this defense. Especially with Christian Kirk coming to town. Kirk plays almost half his snaps (90 of 198) inside. Slot corner these days is a starting position, and Maddox has played the fifth-most snaps on the Eagles' defense. He’s actually played the second-most snaps of any slot corner in the league (behind the Bengals’ Mike Hilton) and according to Pro Football Focus, QBs have a 61.1 passer rating when targeting Maddox, and that’s 4th-lowest in the league among corners who have played at least 50 snaps in the slot. He's been terrific. With Maddox inactive Sunday against Jacksonville with an ankle injury, the Eagles have a few options – moving Chauncey Gardner-Johnson from safety to the slot, where he has a lot of experience (just not here), and going with K’Von Wallace at safety; a straight replacement with Josiah Scott in the slot for Maddox; or even moving James Bradberry inside and using Zech McPhearson at outside corner opposite Slay. But whatever they do, this defense won’t be as sound as it has been with Maddox.

4. There are only 14 players league-wide who have at least 10 catches with at least a 15.0 average. Three of the 14 are A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. No other team has three. In fact, 22 teams don’t have any. Last time the Eagles had three guys at 15 yards per catch after three weeks was 1969, with Gary Ballman, Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins. This offense puts so much pressure on defenses down the field, and to do that without turning the ball over is rare and makes this offense extremely dangerous. The Eagles are No. 1 in the league with 53 plays of at least 10 yards and No. 2 with 6.5 yards per play (behind only the Ravens), but they’re tied for first in fewest turnovers with just one. The Eagles are only the 10th team in NFL history to average 6 ½ yards per play with one or fewer turnovers after three games. Keep getting the ball down the field without turning it over and this offense is going to be hard to stop.

5. The Eagles are also only the ninth team in history to average 6 ½ yards or more per play and allow 4 ½ yards or less per play through three games and the first since the 2007 Patriots. The last NFC team to achieve that rare double was the 2001 Rams.

6. Re-watching the Washington game, one thing that really stuck out was that Jordan Davis was a beast. He’s never going to be a guy who puts up elite stats, but in his third NFL game we really saw what made him one of the best defensive players in the country last year. He took on double teams, he stopped the run and most importantly he showed some real force on passing downs, and even though he didn’t get credited for any sacks, he had a lot to do with at least two of the Eagles’ nine sacks. Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Marlon Tuipuilotu, Milton Williams and Davis are all playing between 32 and 57 percent of the snaps, and the rotation is working. They’re all contributing. But if Davis keeps playing like he did Sunday, the snaps will come. They’ll have to.

7. Three weeks into the season, the Eagles rank 29th in the NFL in average starting position (their own 25-yard-line) but fifth in scoring (28.7 points per game), which is remarkable. Nobody is working harder for their points. Just imagine how many points they'll score if they actually get some decent field position?

8. It’s so rare to find a big-time NFL wide receiver who is humble and unselfish and not obsessed with shameless self-promotion. And the Eagles have two of them. We know how talented A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are. We’re three weeks in, and they’ve already each had a career game. They’re the first WR tandem in Eagles history with 225 yards each after three games. But what’s just as impressive is how Brown and Smith are ultimate team players. If they don’t catch a pass – like Smith in Week 1 – they don’t complain. If they were asked to block every snap of the game to help the team win, they’d be happy to do it. Whatever the team needs it, they’ll do it. Brown and Smith can both do anything. Except focus on themselves. Great players, great teammates.

9. MACK HOLLINS STAT TIME!!! Mack Hollins last weekend became only the third player in NFL history with 158 receiving yards and a completed pass in the same game. Hollins had 8-for-158 in the Raiders’ loss to the Titans and also completed a four-yard pass to Josh Jacobs. Hollins, the Eagles’ 4th-round pick in 2017, surpassed his previous career high for receiving yards by 86. He had 72 yards last year for the Dolphins against the Jets. His biggest game as an Eagle was a 1-for-64 as a rookie in 2017 when he caught a 64-yard pass from Carson Wentz against Washington. Hollins already has a career high with 240 yards this year. In his first 67 career games, Hollins had one 40-yard catch. In Nashville Sunday he had two. In the fourth quarter alone Sunday, he had 129 yards. That’s 13 percent of his career total. The top two receivers in Week 3 were both Howie Roseman draft picks – DeVonta Smith (169 yards) and Hollins (158 yards). The last two Raiders with 150 yards in a game? Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins.

10. Brent Celek didn’t have a 40-yard catch until his 24th career game. Zach Ertz didn’t have one until his 46th game. Dallas Goedert didn’t have one until his 47th game. Grant Calcaterra had one on his first NFL target.

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