Jump to content

Five areas Jalen Hurts can still improve


Recommended Posts

Five areas Jalen Hurts can still improve

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published August 8, 2023


The main theme in just about every Jalen Hurts interview is how obsessed he is with improving.

Here’s a guy who was the favorite for MVP last year before missing a couple games with a late-season injury, who became the 6th-youngest QB to lead his team to a Super Bowl and the youngest with a passer rating over 90 in a Super Bowl (103.4), who became the 2nd-youngest quarterback (and youngest in 37 years) to win 14 games.

"It’s all about getting better,” Hurts said during OTAs. "I think the thing that kind of keeps me going is being my biggest critic.”

Asked what areas he hopes to improve in 2023, Hurts smiled and declined to answer.

The days of Hurts improving by leaps and bounds – like he did from 2021 to 2022 – are over, simply because there just isn’t that much room for improvement. 

But with his work ethic, approach to the game and natural tools, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to get better.

Here are five areas we could see Hurts improve in 2023.

Accuracy: He’s already made such huge strides in accuracy – from 52.0 percent as a rookie to 61.3 percent in 2021 to 66.5 percent last year. But he can get better. The league average was 64 percent last year, and Hurts ranked 11th out of 30 QBs who threw at least 300 passes. That’s really good. But most quarterbacks become more accurate the more experienced they get, and I expect that to happen with Hurts as well. Geno Smith led the NFL last year at 70 percent at 32 years old in his 10th season. Matt Stafford had a career-high 68 percent at 34 in his 14th season. Matt Ryan was 67 percent last year at 37 and in his 14th season – well above his career average. Tom Brady had his 4th-most accurate season in a 23-year career last year at 45. As he continues mastering the offense and working on his footwork, release and follow-through, Hurts will continue to become more accurate. 

Fumbles: Hurts fumbled nine times last year, tied for 5th-most in the league (behind Justin Fields, Ryan, Josh Allen and Trevor Lawrence and tied with Baker Mayfield.) And that’s not including his damaging fumble in the Super Bowl that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by Nick Bolton. Ball security has always been an issue for Hurts. He has 27 fumbles in three seasons, only five fewer than Ryan, the league leader over that span. And he wasn’t even playing most of 2021. A lot of this is really just Hurts getting into trouble because he’s so good at extending plays and making things happen outside the pocket that he puts himself at risk just by his sheer ability to make plays on the move. You obviously don’t want to take that away, but a little more focus on hanging onto the football wouldn’t hurt. 

Running less: With 139 carries in 2021 and 165 last year, Hurts joined Lamar Jackson as only the second QB with 300 carries in a two-year span. Of his 304 rushing attempts since 2021, 31 were kneel downs and 38 were keepers on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 (he converted 33). Hurts is virtually unstoppable on those goal-line and short-yardage plays, and that’s such a weapon you don’t want to take it away. But it still leaves about eight carries per game on called runs, RPOs or scrambles, and as effective as he is running the ball, with the weapons he has, there are going to be several plays per game where Hurts can pick up just as many yards taking the boring underneath throw as taking off running. Hurts is too valuable, too unique, too irreplaceable to risk losing him. Hurts will always be a threat with his legs. It’s those games where he has 15 or more carries that worry me. Hurts had six games with 15 carries last year, most ever by a quarterback. A couple fewer carries per game would still allow Hurts to use his legs when there are big plays there but would also keep him a little safer.

Late-season interceptions: Hurts doesn’t throw many interceptions. In fact, he’s got the 9th-lowest interception ratio in NFL history (one every 55 attempts). But both his years as the full-time starter have followed the same pattern. In 2021, he had just four INTs in 273 attempts in his first nine starts (one every 68 passes) and then seven in 202 attempts in his last seven games (one every 29 passes). And last year, he had just three INTs in 290 attempts in his first 13 games (one every 97 passes) and three in 159 attempts in his last six games (one every 53). I don’t think this is a huge deal. But if there’s anything to it – maybe the cold weather, maybe corners have a better idea of his tendencies later in the year, maybe he’s getting just a bit careless – Hurts just needs to be a little more careful with the football late in the season, when the stakes are the highest.

Throwing to the backs: Hurts loves going vertical and driving the ball down the field, and he’s really good at it. He was 3rd-most accurate in the NFL throwing the deep ball last year, and his 12.1 yards per completion was 2nd-highest among QBs who started at least 10 games (behind college teammate Tua Tagovailoa). But on 3rd-and-5 or shorter, he was only 17-for-31, and that 54.8 percent completion percentage ranked 23rd out of 36 QBs who threw at least 20 passes in those situations. One thing that could help Hurts be more effective on 3rd and short or medium is dumping the ball off more to the backs, and that’s been a big focus in training camp. It doesn’t mean he can’t take risks, it doesn’t mean he needs to stop being aggressive. It just means if nothing is open down the field, there’s nothing wrong with taking the easy answer with an underneath throw, which is almost guaranteed to be open considering the Eagles’ outside weapons and the receiving ability we’ve seen from D’Andre Swift and Kenny Gainwell. The Eagles got the fewest catches (48), yards (262) and TD catches (0) from running backs last year. Miles Sanders, Gainwell and Boston Scott caught 79 percent of their targets (48 of 61), which is very good. But Hurts just didn’t throw to them very much. Hurts has only thrown two career TD passes to running backs – one to Gainwell late in 2021, another late in the blowout playoff loss to the Bucs a couple months later. With Gainwell expected to take on a bigger role and Swift now in the mix (156 catches the last three years), throwing to the backs should be a safe, efficient way for Hurts and the Eagles to pick up yards and convert third downs.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...