Has Eagles Decided To Be More Careful With Jalen Hurts?

He still walks a lot. He just doesn’t walk that much. And it seems to be on purpose.

As the season has progressed and the Eagles’ offense has evolved, Jalen Hurts has begun playing the football less frequently.

He’s still in pace for the 2nd-Most baiting attempts in NFL history by a quarterback, but in recent weeks the Eagles seem to have made a conscious choice to play less with hurts and not put him at risk as often.

Head coach Nick Sirianni and play caller Shane Steichen both said every game is different and they will always do whatever it takes to win the game.

“Jalen’s ability to run will be a big part of our success,” Sirianni said on Friday. “If we have to run him 20 times, we run him 20 times. If we have to run Miles 20 times in a row, we will run him 20 times in a row. If we have to pass it 20 times in a row, we will.

“Whatever we have to do and whatever we think is best to win the football game, we will do and it will just happen.”

Maybe.

But the numbers say something has changed.

  • In the first five weeks of the season, Hurts was averaging 13.6 carries per game (excluding squats), and over the last three games he’s averaged 6.7 carries — less than half that number.

Most interestingly, the Eagles continue to use hurts almost as often as they did when the season started on March 3approx and 4th down where he’s such a devastating weapon. In those first five games, he had 26 carries on 3approx or 4th down – or 5.2 per game. The last three he has nine – or 3.0 per game.

That’s a drop, but not nearly as dramatic as on January 1St and 2nd Down, that’s a whole different beast, because those are situations where Hurts is generally in the open field and at higher risk.

Consider:

  • In the first five weeks, Hurts ran 36 times on JanSt or 2nd down – that’s 7.2 times per game. In the past three weeks, that number has dropped to seven rushes on the 1stSt or 2nddown – that’s only 2.3 per game.

Now some hurts-rushing attempts are called plays and some are no-pressure scrambles. But it’s also interesting to note that the Eagles have also reduced the number of RPOs they run, another way to avoid hurts.

In the first three games of the season, they ran 40 RPO snaps — that’s 13.3 per game and 19 percent of their total snaps. Since then, they’ve taken 27 RPO snaps — that’s 5.4 per game and about 6½ percent of their total snaps.

One thing we’ve seen is that running back carries have increased while carries from hurts have decreased.

In those first five games, Miles Sanders and the other defensemen had a quick try on 32.9 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps. In the last three, that number has risen to 37.2 percent.

It’s also interesting to note that as he runs less and less, the last three games have been among Hurt’s most efficient as a passer. He’s rushed for just 60 yards in the past three weeks, but he’s completed 69 percent of his passes for 683 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

His 128.3 passer rating in victories over the Cowboys, Steelers and Texans is the highest all-time in a three-game span (and the highest in the NFL), and his 60 rushing yards is by far the lowest in a three-game span Play since it became the starter in late 2020.

This is no coincidence.

Perhaps it’s too early (and too simplistic) to conclude that Hurts has grown so much as a passer that he just doesn’t need to walk as much anymore.

But that’s something we’ve seen with other quarterbacks who ran a ton early in their careers. Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb, two of the greatest running QBs in NFL history, ran infrequently during their most successful seasons. Cunningham ran just 32 times (including squats) during his 1998 MVP season with the Vikings. McNabb only had 30 rushing attempts (without kneeling) in the 2004 Super Bowl season.

Cunningham had Cris Carter. McNabb had TO and Hurts has AJ Brown. If you’re a quarterback, why start scrambling and leave yourself open to big hits in the open field when you’ve got one of the NFL’s best wide receivers 15 yards down the field?

And the reality is that Hurts average 4.4 yards running and 8.5 yards throwing (2ndnd-highest in the NFL). Obviously he’s practically unstoppable on these 3approx– and 4th-and-1, but reduces his workload to 1St and 2nd down seems to make sense.

Well, maybe Hurts will start 16 times against Washington like he did in the opener, or maybe he’ll run 14 times like he did against Arizona. Maybe this is all coincidence.

But it sure seems like something has changed. And changed for the better.



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