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Analyzing Jalen Hurts’ 2020 Season as Starting QB

Barring injury or catastrophe, Jalen Hurts is the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback for the 2021 season. The Eagles didn’t draft a QB and only signed an over-the-hill Joe Flacco to back Hurts up. Philadelphia spent a valuable second-round pick to grab him, so they clearly think he has the potential to be a franchise guy. Has the play he’s shown so far warranted that?

Let’s take a look at Jalen Hurts’ 2020 season as the starting quarterback. 

Jalen Hurts’ Numbers at a Glance

The passing numbers as a whole don’t look great — 52% completion percentage, 1,061 yards and a 6:4 TD:INT ratio. That amounts to a 77.6 passer rating and a 41 QBR, which would put him pretty much at the bottom of QBs if he had played enough to count for leaderboards. His ANY/A, which is the new school hot metric in determining QB ability, was 5.85, which actually puts him quite a bit higher, right below Mitchell Trubisky and above names like Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Daniel Jones. Still in the bottom half, but not terrible either, like the traditional efficiency stats show.

The story for Hurts was never going to be all about his passing, however.  

A strong runner in college, Hurts carried that to the NFL as well, rushing for 354 yards and three scores. The running and scrambling also did contribute to him taking 13 sacks and an 8.1% sack percentage, which would have put him in the top five worst percentages in the NFL. He also fumbled nine times and lost two of them. This puts his combined total touchdowns to turnovers at 9:6, which really doesn’t change much, and overall it’s not an ideal ratio by any means. 

Hurts’ Three Full Games

Hurts only played a significant portion of five games, and only three of those games he started and finished. His performances in those games were actually pretty solid. He still took quite a few sacks, and his completion percentage was still rather low, at 54.87%, but he averaged 282.3 passing yards per game and had a 5:2 TD:INT ratio.

For his rushing, Hurts averaged 79.3 yards on the ground, which is a great mark. For context, Lamar Jackson averaged 80.4 rushing yards in his MVP year. We’ve seen QBs that are elite runners succeed in the NFL recently. Jackson is the obvious example, but Kyler Murray also averaged 50 yards per game in 2020. Point is, QBs that rely heavily on the ground can work. If you combine Hurts’ passing and rushing in his three full games, he averaged over 350 yards per contest, which is really great. Again though, his total TD:TO ratio was 6:4. You can’t escape that number I guess.

The thing is, we all know numbers can be misleading. Let’s take a look at each game individually.

Jalen Hurts Eagles stats
Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Game-by-Game Jalen Hurts Stats and Analysis

Green Bay Packers: 30-16 Loss

Grade: N/A

We’ll briefly start here. Hurts was finally thrust in after Carson Wentz’s poor play could be tolerated no longer. The game was fairly over when Hurts came in late in the third, with Hurts inheriting a 23-3 deficit. On his first throw, Hurts completed one of the bigger (in terms of distance) plays of the Eagles season, which was, sadly, a 34-yard completion to Jalen Reagor. He didn’t do much else and the drive ended in a punt.

In his second drive however, Hurts led the Eagles to their only touchdown drive of the game. Starting at the Philly 27, Hurts went 73 yards in 10 plays, gaining 25 on the ground and the rest through the air, finally scoring on a 32-yard pass to Greg Ward. Hurts’ ability to evade pressure was on full display on the touchdown pass, and his throw on the run was accurate. Ward was wide open, but accurate deep passes on the move are still pretty difficult.

The rest of the game was pretty much a bust for Hurts. He completed just one more pass and didn’t rush at all. Hurts also had an interception and took two sacks. It’s hard to count this game against Hurts though, as he was trying to complete an impossible comeback in the fourth quarter without any prior preparation. 

New Orleans Saints: 24-21 Win

Grade: C+

It may be a surprise to see the only win on Hurts’ record with a relatively low grade, but it really wasn’t that great of a game for him or the Eagles. In a vacuum, winning against the (at the time) 10-3 Saints was a significant feat and Hurts played well enough to pretty much secure the job for the rest of the season. 

In terms of actual game impact though, Hurts essentially just avoided mistakes. The Eagles defense stepped up, causing two turnovers and sacking Taysom Hill five times. That may not sound like a lot, but considering the Eagles only had 19 takeaways the whole season (1.2 per game) and 49 sacks (3.1 per game), they punched well above their weight in this one. 

The Eagles jumped out to an early 17-0 lead at half time and hung on to win. Hurts’ first drive was pretty emblematic of the whole game, with just dink and dunk passes and plenty of runs.

Hurts finished with a fairly pedestrian stat line of 57% completion for 167 yards and one passing touchdown, to go with 106 yards rushing (on 18 carries) and one fumble that was lost. Importantly, Hurts avoided being sacked a single time, but as we’ll see later, that seems to be more of an outlier than anything. The best thing Hurts did was not mess up, and the rest of the Eagles delivered. Again, to be fair to Hurts, that’s something that Wentz had been wholly unable to do in 2020, but it’s not really enough for a truly good grade for the game. The running was great, but the passing produced legitimate questions. 

Arizona Cardinals: 33-26 Loss

Grade: A-

Despite the loss, this was Hurt’s best game as an Eagle by a fairly large margin. For the negatives, Hurts was sacked six times. He also fumbled it three times and was lucky not to lose any of them. 

The positives far outweigh the negatives, though. Hurts was dynamic as a passer and runner, finishing with 401 total yards and four scores. Hurts was not a passenger in this game like he was against the Saints. Instead, he was the driving force behind the Eagles offense. It didn’t start pretty, with Hurts taking a safety and keeping most of his passes short. Once the Eagles got down early though, Hurts opened up. His pass to Alshon Jeffery on the Eagles first scoring drive was a dime. Even though the touchdown pass was a screen, the earlier throw to Jeffery showed a lot that you want out of your QB. 

The second scoring drive was mostly thanks to a turnover and Miles Sanders, but the rollout throw to Greg Ward showed good vision by Hurts and a willingness to stop moving and deliver an accurate ball.

The final scoring drive showed off Hurts’ running ability. He stayed alive to convert a third and short by finding Dallas Goedert, and managed to draw two long defensive pass interference penalties.

Down seven with four minutes left to go, Hurts converted multiple third downs through the air, including a 3rd and 12. He did take two brutal sacks, but it took an incredible play by Cardinals’ CB Byron Murphy to prevent a Goedert TD catch on 3rd and 21. 

Hurts had one more drive left after that, and it showed Hurts resilience and clutch. Right after he converted a 4th and 10 through the air, Hurts was magic again, delivering a 14-yard strike to Goedert after fumbling the ball, picking it up off the bounce and firing while being brought down. Another deep pass to Travis Fulgham put the Eagles within striking distance to tie the game in the dying seconds, but they did eventually come up short. 

Hurts and the Eagles walked out with a loss, but with a lot of newfound confidence. Hurts didn’t simply rely on his feet or the defense, or his pass catchers taking screens long. He had multiple long throws and competitions, and showed he could stay in the pocket and deliver while keeping the dynamic running and scrambling. That Hurts is someone that could really go places in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys: 37-17 Loss

Grade: C-

This game was kind of an opposite to the Cardinals game, where Hurts started slow and turned it on late. Here, Hurts started hot, with two straight touchdown drives in the first before becoming rather ineffective the rest of the way. 

The first drive the Eagles committed to the ground, with Hurts only attempting three passes. Hurts did have two long runs that helped set up the eventual Sanders score. The second touchdown was vintage DeSean Jackson, with Hurts launching a play-action bomb to the speedster who took it the rest of the way for an 81-yard score. Hurts showed composure in the pocket despite an oncoming rusher and flung it about 40 yards down the field to hit Jackson for Jackson’s final contribution as an Eagle

The game was pretty much downhill from there. Hurts had a number of positive plays left to go, from long runs to long completions often on the run, but ultimately he couldn’t keep up with the pounding the Eagles defense took.

Hurts’ last major highlight of the game (and of the season really) was a deep completion to Quez Watkins on the scramble drill. Unfortunately, he immediately followed that up with a sack fumble that lost 13 yards. That was pretty much the story of the rest of the game. Hurts makes a couple nice plays, then a couple bad plays prevent a score. This includes two interceptions and a fumble, although the last pick came with 45 seconds left in the game. 

It was a bad loss and not a great game by Hurts. He did throw for 342 yards and score, and his 69 rushing yards pushed him over 400 total again, which is impressive.

Washington Football Team: 20-14 Loss

Grade: D

Hurts didn’t play the whole game, so I won’t fully count it against him, but it wasn’t pretty when he was in. He was 7/20 passing for 72 yards and threw a bad interception. Hurts did have a couple passes dropped or drew pass interference, which didn’t help his numbers. He also contributed two scores on the ground, converting close range with nice speed and elusiveness. Half of Hurts’ passing yards came on a somewhat dangerous throw to JJ Arcega-Whiteside, but it had Hurts stepping up and throwing a bullet for a 30-yard completion. Hurts followed that up by completing just two of his next 12 passes and getting yanked in the third quarter so the Eagles could tank for a better draft spot. 

What Have We Learned?

In the three full games, Hurts played pretty well. He had two average-below average games and one great game. He was deadly on the ground, as many expected, but after the Saints game, it was a question mark if he would ever show the passing chops needed to survive in the NFL. The Cardinals’ game and some of the Cowboys’ game quieted that down, showing at the very least he has some playmaking ability through the air as well as the ground.

Overall, Hurts was good enough to feel fairly confident going into the 2021 season. It’s a weak division, and a fairly weak schedule. He was just 1-3, but the team was often much more to blame than Hurts, who went over 400 yards twice. His pocket presence and feeling pressure could definitely use work, as well as his overall accuracy, but Hurts has a good arm (he can throw is deep and he can gun it), and the ability to throw on the run. Not to mention his overall rushing ability, which is obviously great. I don’t know if Hurts will be a success in the NFL, but he played well enough in 2020 to deserve the whole year, and it looks like the Eagles agree.

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