Why the Giants' defense must be prepared for Eagles to use Jalen Hurts as an X-factor on Thursday

Alex Smith
·3 min read
Jalen Hurts rushing the ball
Jalen Hurts rushing the ball

When the Giants take the field on Thursday night, they’ll square off with an Eagles team that is very shorthanded.

With playmakers Miles Sanders, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Reagor all banged up, the Eagles have a very different cast of weapons at Carson Wentz’s disposal, and the quarterback has struggled this season as a result of so many players missing time.

But the Eagles are now employing an X-factor on offense, and the Giants defense knows they must prepare to see a lot of quarterback Jalen Hurts on the field on Thursday, and in a variety of different roles.  

The Eagles shocked many on the second day of the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected the Oklahoma quarterback in the second round, given how much they’ve invested in Wentz. But after keeping Hurts inactive in Week 1, the Eagles have activated him in all of their games since, and while his playing time has been sparse, Hurts saw seven snaps against the Ravens last week, as he helped kick-start the Eagles’ offense in their 30-28 loss.

Hurts was on the field for 10 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps last week, his most all season, and now that Sanders and Ertz are both added to the growing list of banged up players for Philly, it’s likely that Hurts will see even more action against the Giants, and Joe Judge knows how dangerous Hurts can be.

“He definitely has the ability to run, that’s something they are doing a good job highlighting and using. I wouldn’t fall asleep at all on this guy throwing the ball,” Judge said earlier this week. “This guy has thrown for a lot of yards to a lot of really good players, against a lot of good players as well, and he’s been very productive. I think the way they’re using him is obviously very inventive, it’s very productive for them right now. You have to be very aware of how they get him on the field.”

Against Baltimore, Hurts ran the ball twice for 23 yards, and added another catch for three more yards, but his impact extended beyond his own stats. On the Eagles’ first touchdown of the day, a 74-yard Sanders rush and fumble recovered by JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Hurts was used as a decoy, lined up as a receiver and brought around the back of the formation in motion. The Ravens paid some extra attention to Hurts, which helped Sanders break free.

Just how much of an impact will Hurts have? The Eagles gained 109 yards on the seven plays when he was on the field, an average of 15.57 yards per play. He was on the field for two of the Eagles’ touchdowns. Without Hurts on the field, the Eagles totaled 246 yards on 60 plays, or just 4.1 yards per play on average.

“He’s a talented player,” said Logan Ryan. “I think of like a Taysom Hill-type. Some variety to their packages, we know he can throw the ball well. We know he can run it, he’s a strong runner. He’s just another little thing that we have to prepare for. We don’t know how they can use him. His packages seem to advance from week to week. We just have to be fundamentally sound when he comes into the game. He’s a dangerous skill player.”

At 1-4-1, the Eagles come into Thursdays' game just as desperate as the Giants, and it will be up to defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to find a way to limit what the Eagles can do when Hurts takes the field.

It's a short week for both teams, and while that gives the Giants less time to prepare for a two-quarterback look, limiting Hurts' production could be the key to leaving Philly with a big division win.