The Philadelphia Eagles are hiding Jalen Hurts’ biggest hurdle in plain sight: Hurts makes few reads toward the middle of the field.
A great coach can design plays around a team’s weaker spots, a prime example being Bill Belichick’s adaptable game plans that vastly vary between seasons.
For example, Belichick’s New England Patriots threw for 505 yards in Super Bowl LII, then threw for 253 yards in Super Bowl LIII with a run-heavy offense.
Belichick is at it again with a conservative offense headed by rookie Mac Jones, whose accuracy and middle of the field reads has bolstered his NFL reputation.
Philadelphia Eagles are hiding Jalen Hurts’ biggest weakness in plain sight
While short outside passes have been largely successful for Hurts, they underline a bigger problem: if his play gets reliant on outside plays, defenses will adapt with outside coverage.
If defenses force Hurts to pass to the middle, it could lead to sacks and turnovers if he’s unable to execute. It’s critical that Hurts adapt to NFL expectations, meaning an ability to make reads and plays to any point on the field.
SBNation executive producer Michael Kist points out that the only successful quarterback to pull this off is Russell Wilson, a fact that is often overlooked due to his successful deep ball downfield.
Predictability breeds stagnancy in football, and it ultimately leads to losses when a defense knows exactly what the quarterback will do. While the Kansas City Chiefs offense has long been a head-scratcher across the NFL, restricting Patrick Mahomes’ scrambling abilities has been key in shutting down their offense — something that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took note of in Super Bowl LV.
Hurts’ tendencies aren’t unusual: he’s a young NFL quarterback still gaining experience with every game, and his coaches will undoubtedly play it safe for the win while he continues to develop. Or Hurts could learn to adapt the way Wilson has, disguising his outside safety net with explosive bombs downfield.
“I think the lack of consistency and finish,” Hurts said when attributing the cause for the loss. “The biggest thing is just finish, finish, finish. We got two games under our belt now, and on the tape we see what we finish and what we didn’t finish. This game, we didn’t finish more than we did. We have to capitalize on those opportunities moving forward and learn from this feeling.”
But if the Eagles want to take the division this year, Hurts will have to definitively prove his worth as the choice over Wentz with diversified play-calling.