5 reasons Jalen Hurts will be a more accurate QB in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The number jumps out at you: 52 percent.
That was Jalen Hurts’ completion percentage this past season after replacing Carson Wentz, and it was lowest in the NFL in 2020 among quarterback who threw at least 100 passes. Nobody was close. Jake Luten had the next-lowest completion percentage at 54.6 percent, and if you have no idea who that is, he was a rookie 6th-round pick who started three games in November for the Jaguars.
Hurts’ completion percentage was lowest by an Eagles quarterback since Mike McMahon completed 45.4 percent of his passes in 2003.
Safe to say if Hurts doesn’t improve on that 52 percent figure, he won’t be the Eagles’ starting quarterback very long.
Can Hurts raise that 52 percent figure significantly?
Here are five reasons to believe he can.
Experience: Just being a year older and having a year of experience will help Hurts become more accurate. A lot of quarterbacks who relied heavily on their running ability in college struggle with their accuracy early in their NFL careers as they begin to acclimate to the pro passing game. Randall Cunningham completed 42 percent of his passes as a rookie but completed 55 percent of his passes the rest of his Eagles career (the league average was 55.8 percent during that span). Donovan McNabb was at 49 percent as a rookie but up to 58 percent by Year 2. Look around the league. Josh Allen was just under 53 percent as a rookie, then 59 percent in Year 2 and over 69 percent last year. Even pocket passers like Matt Stafford (53 percent as a rookie, 63 percent since) and Andrew Luck (54 percent as a rookie, 62 percent the rest of his career) made huge strides in accuracy in Year 2. Experience is a valuable tool.
Better receivers: Having a presumably upgraded group of wide receivers should help a lot. All those young receivers Hurts was out there with in 2020 are now a year older and have some experience and now add a potential star in DeVonta Smith into the mix and some of those drops and incompletions should turn into completions and even big plays. If Hurts’ WRs caught just two more passes per game last year in his four starts, that 52.0 percent completion figure jumps up to 57 percent. If they catch three more per game it jumps up to 60 percent. That’s without Hurts doing anything different, just with his receivers making one more play every other drive.
Balanced offense: In the three games Hurts started and finished, the Eagles ran 160 pass plays (passes, sacks, Hurts scrambles) and 46 running plays. That’s a 78-22 pass-run ratio. In the first half of those three games, the ratio was a reasonable 67-33, and Hurts completed 62 percent of his passes. In the second half, the pass-run ratio jumped to an out-of-whack 82-18, and Hurts completed 48 percent of his passes. There’s no question the lack of balance in Doug Pederson’s play calling hampered Hurts’ ability to operate the offense efficiently. Not many young rookie QBs getting their first NFL playing time would be able to function at a high level when opposing defenses know they’re throwing every down.
Offensive line: You’re a rookie getting your first significant NFL playing time and your offensive line includes overmatched Brett Toth, struggling Matt Pryor, promising but inexperienced Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig and an aging Jason Peters playing what may be his final NFL game. Good luck with that. Hurts played behind a different patchwork o-line every week, and he’s fortunate he had Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo out there the whole time but the three other positions were in constant flux with young, inexperienced players replacing other young, inexperienced players. Or in Peters’ case, an older player playing out the string. By the time Hurts first replaced Wentz, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard and Sua Opeta were already done for the season and Peters, Driscoll and Jordan Mailata soon followed. It was hard enough for Wentz – a 5th-year pro and one-time MVP candidate – to function behind those duct-taped offensive lines. You can imagine the challenge for Hurts. If the Eagles can get through the year – or most of it – with Dillard or Mailata along with Seumalo, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson, Hurts will be in a much better position to succeed. Anybody would be.
Sirianni’s offense: Hurts threw down the field on a percentage basis more than any NFL quarterback last year, and those are naturally low-percentage throws. That explains why although he was last in the NFL in completion percentage, he was actually a respectable 25th out of 44 in yards per attempt at 7.2 – right at the NFL average. Hurts’ average yards-per-completion was 13.8, highest by any NFL rookie since Vick in 2001 and second-highest of ANY quarterback in the last six years. Over the last five weeks of the season, Hurts completed nine passes of at least 30 yards. Only Tom Brady had more (13) during that span. And Hurts only played half of two of those games. Wentz completed only 14 passes of 30 yards all year, and he threw almost 300 more passes than Hurts. Nick Sirianni’s offense is big on creating matchup advantages and getting the football quickly into the hands of play-makers on high-percentage throws and letting them make plays down the field. Hurts will still take his deep shots, but just the nature of Sirianni’s offense should help Hurts dramatically.
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