Jalen Hurtz almost won the MVP award last season. Here’s why it could be better this season

Jalen Hurtz almost won the MVP award last season.  Here's why it could be better this season

PHILADELPHIA — As Jalen Hurts’ teammates said, there are two screens.

“A two-computer setup, not a monitor,” says AJ Brown, a Philadelphia Eagles receiver.

The $255 million company Eagles runs home shoots across multiple drives simultaneously. Why not? In game situations, Hurts must process multiple sources of information and respond instantly.

Entering his fourth pro campaign and coming off the 2022 MVP-caliber, Hurts has shown growth in the distillery. His game last season benefited from a long-awaited continuity of play after seven consecutive years of change.

Then, the Indianapolis Colts hired Shane Steichen as their head coach, teaming the Hurts with their ninth player in eight years. The feature changes.

But she may have grown.

Because Hurts isn’t just preparing to play in a return system overseen by Eagles coach Nick Siriani and with offensive coordinator in Brian Johnson who has known Hurts since Hurts was a kid. Coaches and teammates say Hurts is increasingly relying on defenders’ responses to plays and chart wrinkles as the Eagles aim to sharpen their attention to detail and execution quality.

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“It’s getting deeper and deeper — just like your relationship with your wife,” Siriani told Yahoo Sports over lunch Wednesday. “This conversation gets deeper into the relationship but also the knowledge and productivity you get in the middle room.

“As the quarterback, you’re building from the like bank, ‘Okay, last time I saw this, I hit here. Last time I saw this, this is what we achieved.

“You have to have the cast and the obsession. And he’s got both of them to have these conversations.”

How Jalen Hurts Experience Can Raise Eagles

There’s a word that resonates in the Eagles quarterback’s room on repeat: completions.

Complements can be explosive, like the 50-yard go ball that was dropped into the hands of receiver AJ Brown on the team’s last first-team snap at training camp practice on Wednesday.

Completions can be subtle, like the four-pitch run out of an empty formation that Hurts completed on third and shortstop two days earlier, per third-string quarterback Ian Book, a reminder that the long ball isn’t always the best option.

And sometimes the completions are especially fun, like the instrument he plays with. The book says Johnson “has a really good feeling for connecting…at the right time on a particular line in a particular yard.”

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has another new offensive coordinator this season in Brian Johnson, but there's still a lot of confidence and continuity there.  (Photo by Mitchell Leaf/Getty Images)

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has another new offensive coordinator this season in Brian Johnson, but there’s still a lot of confidence and continuity there. (Photo by Mitchell Leaf/Getty Images)

But before style points and above with decision making lies the importance of completions. Second-string quarterback Marcus Mariota, who joins the Eagles with an 87-game career experience across three different NFL franchises, repeats for the group the power of achievement.

“A coach once said to him, ‘The game probably defines itself if you complete the ball to somebody every game,’” Bock told Yahoo Sports. “If you watch Tom Brady clips, he throws five-step, five-yard knocks all the time. Or he throws it to a running back for 2 yards and allows those running to make one miss.

Only: completions.

Therefore, Hurts’ improvement as a passer this season should not be measured solely by extending noteworthy reel plays. Efficiency, as the Eagles saw last season, can run a Super Bowl.

Eagles evaluators weren’t concerned in the 2020 NFL Draft about Hurts’ arm strength even as the second baseman’s movement reduced his reliance on the passing game. However, Hertz’s year-over-year passing improvement is trending steadily and sharply higher. Hurts improved from a 77.6 in junior passer rating to 87.2 in 2021 to 101.5 last year. He completed 66.5% of his pass attempts last season after previous campaigns of 52% and 61.3%. Hurts’ third-year touchdown passes tied his first two seasons together, while his best interception rate of 1.3% tied for fourth in the NFL last season. That’s it plus 13 rushing touchdowns in the past year.

Certainly, pundits will point to arguments about the Eagles’ roster tee that greatly affect Hurts’ ability to produce. But those who know Hurts best and those who spend the most time discussing football with him see tangible changes in his technical consistency and how he conveys his understanding of concepts. They said his confidence helped simplify game scenarios. Take the Eagles’ 35-10 win over the Titans last December, Brown explained to Yahoo Sports.

With the game tied at 7, Hurts sailed a 40-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 14:05 to play in the second quarter. But the Browns got out of bounds by a yard and a half too soon. The landing was reversed upon revision. Never mind: Hurts still loves his man and he still loves the road out against the cover. When the Eagles broke the rally, Hurts admonished Brown: “Do it again.” He added, “Pump it up.”

Brown flipped to the left side, then snapped and cut again in a double motion. A 40-yard wide touchdown It ensued against the team that the Browns ultimately drafted and traded to Philadelphia, and the Giants were unable to catch with nearly three-quarters to go. Brown doesn’t recall a coach questioning the sound.

“Because they trust us,” Brown said. “That’s why this is my favorite midfielder. My favorite place to be because of the freedom we have.

“It definitely makes playing football a lot easier.”

“Striving for absolute consistency” is the next limit to your pain

The pressure to perform will intensify this season as the Eagles transition from NFC favorite 2022 to 2023 prospects. Each team will have a Philadelphia number. It’s a level of pressure that can overshadow a midfielder’s ability to tackle with speed and clarity.

But if the Super Bowl is any indication, Eagles fans shouldn’t have to worry about mischief.

Hurts completed 27 of 38 attempts for 304 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions. He rushed for another 70 yards and three touchdowns, although he did surrender one penalty in the 38-35 loss.

“If there were any doubters, there shouldn’t be now,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said after the Kansas City win. “It was a special performance. I don’t want you to get lost in the loss they suffered.

“Make sure you appreciate that when you look back on this game.”

Jalen Hurts played well enough in the Eagles' Super Bowl loss to indicate there were more bites at the apple's starting date.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Jalen Hurts played well enough in the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss to indicate there were more bites at the apple’s starting date. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Hurtz said afterward that he would turn a loss into a teachable moment, repeating Thursday at training camp that “time is the biggest teacher and experience is the biggest teacher.”

“The more I get the chance to play with this group, the more I grow and learn,” said Hurtz. “So I think that’s an ongoing development.”

Hurts is now aiming to carry that level of play through this season, both physically and mentally.

“There’s enough talent around him[and]he’s got enough talent to put in amazing, fantastic performances any time he’s out on the court,” Johnson told Yahoo Sports. “But I think a big part of it is just looking for the ultimate consistency[when]the guys are just doing routine plays.

“He’s right now, in his third year in the system, to understand answers and anticipate problems within certain plays.”

The sources of information Hurts tackles unite, and the pieces of the proverbial puzzle come together. In the field, the two-engine film study is beginning to look like a single wizard.

So much so that there may come a time when Hurts physical screens made up of a PC suddenly appear as a single input with an extended screen.

Brown may speed up both processes.

Perhaps a birthday present for the quarterback who turned 25 on Monday?

“It may be,” Brown said. “This might be something to think about.”

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