Jalen Hurts’ Development Leading Eagles’ Super Bowl Charge

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts runs
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Colton Pool @CPoolReporter May 16, 2023, 3:43 PM
  • Jalen Hurts missed two games during the regular season due to a shoulder injury.
  • Hurts has played in both of the Eagles’ playoff games.

Jalen Hurts quelled concerns over his shoulder injury with the very first question posed to him during the Super Bowl’s media day. The Eagles quarterback claimed with confidence he was prepared to take the field in Super Bowl 57 against the Chiefs.

Hurts’ life, and especially the past year, primed him for this moment of amplified scrutiny and glory.

Former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin opened up Hurts’ media availability by asking how his shoulder was feeling. Hurts missed Weeks 16 and 17, both losses for the Eagles, before returning for Week 18 and the playoffs.

“I’m good. We’re at the Super Bowl,” Hurts said. “… It don’t matter too much at this point. We came here to do something and we’re going to finish it off, whatever it takes.”

Jalen Hurts’ Development

Hurts has improved his passing yards, passing touchdowns, interception rate, and rushing touchdowns every season since he was drafted in 2020.

Hurts was the starter at Alabama before losing that role to Tua Tagovailoa. He then transferred to Oklahoma where he was a Heisman Trophy finalist and, six months later, a second-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Leadership qualities were always there. Eagles cornerback Darius Slay took note of that as soon as Hurts was drafted.

“Guys believed in him,” Slay said, “and when he finally got that starting job as the quarterback, you can see guys just following in his footsteps because a lot of guys will run through a wall for him.”

Hurts also had the mobility to make defenders miss in the pocket.

Chiefs defensive lineman Khalen Saunders said those quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson of the Ravens and Josh Allen of the Bills are the most difficult to defend. A secondary can cover receivers perfectly and defensive coordinators can call the exact right play, but they can still gain enough yards to sustain drives on the ground.

Hurts’ mental approach in how he could attack defenses substantially improved, however, and that was for multiple reasons.

For starters, he was simply in the league for a bit longer and clearly became more comfortable. This was his second full offseason knowing he was going to be a key contributor and acted accordingly.

“Just overall consistent growth. Just trying to attack everything. I feel like there’s always room for improvement,” Hurts said.

“Whether that’s me running the ball, throwing the ball, understanding what’s going on with my scheme, understanding the defense, all of those different things. I can’t really put an emphasis on one. Just continuing to rise, and I feel like I’ve always said the only direction is to rise.”

The Eagles appeared slow to commit to Hurts as a long-term solution at quarterback the past two years. Some wondered if the organization should move on after 2021.

But the apprehension was mere fuel for the signal caller as he dedicated himself to his offseason training.

“We have doubters,” Hurts said. “I think it can do either one of two things for you: It can either break you or it can push you to go to new heights.”

From the first day of organized team activities, Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell noticed a difference in Hurts’ demeanor. This confidence was so tangible it boosted the rest of the squad.

“Oh yeah, he’s for real. Oh yeah, it’s that time,” Gainwell recalled thinking. “That’s just how we run and connect. That confidence bounced from Jalen. Once everybody saw Jalen have that attitude and we want to go win, everybody fueled off that energy.”

His work translated to an enhancement in Hurts’ comprehension of the game and his decision making.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni credited quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson for making complex concepts simple so Hurts could think and play faster.

Johnson said Hurts’ offseason allowed him to “accelerate his vision” when looking downfield. 

“It’s really about training your eyes and making sure you’re looking at the right stuff,” Johnson said. “Jalen has unbelievable football instincts and he has a great feel for the game, but I think he really has a chance to make sure that your eyes are in the right spot because he’s such a good decision maker.”

The Eagles also built a roster that set Hurts up for success. Philadelphia traded a first-round pick for wide receiver A.J. Brown, who had known Hurts since high school.

Johnson said Hurts’ deep passing improved because he knows how to better exploit different leverages of defenders in coverage and perhaps more importantly the timing required to connect with receivers more than 10 yards down the field.

Having receivers like Brown and DeVonta Smith also didn’t hurt.

But Hurts isn’t done. Sirianni expects him to be even better next year.

“You really want to give him positive feedback when he does things right, and when doesn’t do it the way you envisioned it going, you make those corrections,” Sirianni said of Hurts making even more improvements in 2023. “He’ll have things he’ll want to work on and he’ll attack it just like he did last year.”

The journey hasn’t been easy for Hurts. Yet the scrutiny, the setbacks, and the work have been worthwhile.

He’s now in the Super Bowl. And he’s here to finish the job.

“I never knew where I was going, I never knew where I would end up, I never knew where I’d go, but I never said it couldn’t be done,” Hurts said. 

“One thing I’ve always been adamant on is not putting a limit on myself, and that’s never something I’ll never start doing. I’m not going to put a limit on myself or my game. I’m just going to continue to grow. I truly feel like people expect a person to arrive, but I believe there is no arrival, there’s only the journey.”

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About the Author

Colton Pool

Read More @CPoolReporter

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.