Hurts Helps Spice Up Lackluster Offense
Despite early shortcomings, the Eagles’ offense established cohesion deep into the second half and nearly pushed a perennial AFC titan to the brink.
Long before the ill-fated, game-tying two-point conversion attempt, the Eagles’ offense spent the entirety of the first half perpetually stuck in neutral. By the end of the first quarter, the Eagles had failed to produce a first down. The uninspired effort resulted in just 10 net yards and an egregious turnover. The seemingly instantaneous 14-point deficit appeared insurmountable, and desperation began to intensify.
It wasn’t until Doug Pederson inserted rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts into the game that the unit showed any sign of life.
With 5:32 remaining in the second quarter, Hurts fielded the snap and proceeded to follow the blocks of left guard Nate Herbig, left tackle Jordan Mailata – and Carson Wentz. The rookie exploded through the crease for a 20-yard pickup, earning the Eagles their first initial first down of the afternoon. The gadgetry continued, as Hurts moved the sticks again two plays later on a nifty 3-yard run from a zone read and then added a 3-yard reception from Wentz.
The rookie quarterback was also on the field for Miles Sanders’ 74-yard run, running a fake end-around while Wentz handed off to Sanders, who followed a convoy of blockers on the left side before busting into the second level and beyond. “I think Jalen’s a playmaker," Wentz said after the game. "You bring him in off the bench and defenses have to be ready for him. He’s at where I’m at and all of the above and I think it puts a little stress and a little pressure on the defense. "There are some exciting plays potentially there to be had. It’s something that we’re going to keep repping, keep working on and hopefully find ways to supplement our offense and find ways to get some big plays that way.”
Few will suggest Hurts should assume a sizable snap share moving forward, but few would also argue that the Eagles' offense couldn't use someone who spice up a playbook that's been stale, unimaginative, and lacking intimidation through six weeks. Defenses know what to expect from them, and the Eagles haven't adapted.
Perhaps it's time to actively implement Hurts into the weekly game plan – or at least prioritize that Hurts play a half dozen or so snaps each game to add a badly needed wrinkle to an offense absent of explosive playmakers.
The intriguing rookie can galvanize an offense on designed runs – where his elusiveness, vision, and acceleration are desirable traits – and also manufacture yards through the air, as a pass-catcher or on Run Pass Option (RPO) concepts. As a senior, 16 percent of Oklahoma’s offensive snaps were dedicated to RPOs and yielded a high success rate.
From a preparation standpoint, it behooves the Eagles to integrate a player of Hurts’ caliber. His presence alone can give the Eagles a competitive advantage. The multi-faceted nature of Hurts’ skill-set tends to counteract tactics and coerce aggressive-minded, fast-flowing defenses into playing tentative. Teams must account for his whereabouts whenever he's on the field.
Sure, there will be times where simply deploying Hurts as a decoy can open doors for teammates. However, increased usage will eventually lead to the inevitable home run.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.