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You can’t overlook Jalen Hurts’ playmaking ability with his legs


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You can’t overlook Jalen Hurts’ playmaking ability with his legs


When it comes to creating with his legs, Jalen Hurts is pretty flippin’ good.

If that wasn’t obvious enough before Sunday, it became even more evident as Hurts converted a 3rd-and-4 in acrobatic fashion against the Chargers in the fourth quarter.

No, the Eagles didn’t win, which is all Hurts cares about.

But in the last couple of weeks, Hurts has really shown an ability to create big plays with his legs. And as much as his necessary growth as a passer is always the focus, we can’t lose sight of the fact that his running ability is what gives him the potential to be a special player.

In addition to that 3rd-and-4 conversion, head coach Nick Sirianni also mentioned another big run from Hurts on Sunday. There was a snap on a zero blitz when Hurts was able to escape from an unblocked Joey Bosa to pick up a nice gain down the sideline.

"Those are plays that I know a lot of guys can't make in this league,” Sirianni said.

The week before, the Eagles called Hurts’ 3rd-and-12 scramble for 20 yards against the Lions the offensive play of the game.

For as many questions that remain about Hurts’ long-term future and his overall ability as a passer, his legs are special. And when the Eagles evaluate his play at the end of the season, they need to take that into consideration. Even if that’s not what this coaching staff is used to.

Nick Sirianni hasn’t ever worked with a dual threat quarterback quite like Hurts before. He admitted on Wednesday that it’s not going to look the same — "It's going to look different,” he said.

When asked if he cares if the Eagles pick up yards on a designed play vs. an off-schedule one where Hurts moves the sticks with his legs, Sirianni said this:

"15 yards is 15 yards, is 15 yards. I'm excited either way.”

How good has Hurts been with his legs this year?

Well, he leads the Eagles with 494 rushing yards, which is the third most ever for an Eagles QB through nine games and the 14th most for a QB in NFL history.

He’s averaging 6.0 yards per carry, which is third in the NFL behind just Lamar Jackson (6.2) and Nick Chubb (6.0).

And he’s rushed for 35 first downs, which is fourth in the NFL behind Derrick Henry (49), Jonathan Taylor (49) and Jackson (36). Hurts’ 35 first-down runs are the most through nine games for the Eagles since LeSean McCoy (36) in 2014 and the most for an Eagles quarterback since Donovan McNabb (35) in 2002.

It’s not even like Hurts is getting all his yards from designed runs. A lot of his yards, especially recently, are coming from his escaping pressure and making things happen with his legs.

But as Sirianni always says, it’s a fine line. There’s a design for each play and Sirianni has been critical of Hurts at times for leaving the pocket early.

For Hurts, it’s about finding a balance. He’s never going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time, but it’s about making the right decision most of the time when it comes to standing tall in the pocket vs. escaping with his legs.

"I think I said this before that — I'm not ever trying to make him somebody he's not,” Sirianni said. "So, I got to be careful, too. Like, ‘Hey, hang in there and make this play.’ Well, he sees stuff and there's a gap or an edge, whatever edge it might be. And so, that's instincts. And so, I think that's always something that's underrated in players.

"Like, you always look at their skill and what they have. And instincts is a big, big piece of this, right? I think we've been around players — in my past, I've been around players that have all the skill in the world, but they lack a little bit of instinct. And that instinct is a big-time separator in making plays.”

There’s also a fine line for Hurts when it comes to making decisions at the end of runs. There are some moments where the Eagles will want him to avoid contact. But there are other times — like on that 3rd-and-4 flip, where taking on contact is necessary to make the play.

On Wednesday, Hurts brought up an example from the Raiders game when he slid short of the sticks on a 2nd-and-11. It set up a 3rd-and-short but the Eagles got a penalty and then the drive stalled.

"That’s a moment vs. the Raiders that I learned from,” Hurts said, "and I guess that was on display in that drive (against the Chargers).”

Sure, it’s scary to see the starting quarterback somersaulting through the air, but it worked on Sunday.

As much as offensive coaches try to control the game, they have to let Hurts’ instincts take over on occasion. Sometimes, he’ll make mistakes and sometimes they’ll be rewarded with big plays.

"He has played enough football, and in those moments, when we have to go get it, he went and got it,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. "And that was a heck of a play by him. That was a big-time play by him on third down.”

It was a big play from Hurts. And it’s a nice reminder that the ones he makes with his legs count too.


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