PHILADELPHIA — Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is 22 years old, has just four professional starts under his belt and, like the rest of his teammates, is in the midst of learning a new system under coach Nick Sirianni. But that hasn’t stopped him from switching from student to teacher this spring when the moment has called for it, according to running back Boston Scott.
“It’s a great quality that he has at a younger age that he likes to teach,” Scott said. “We’ll be running routes and he’ll have his helmet on, and he’ll take off his helmet and he’ll go run the route: ‘This is what I mean, this is what I’m thinking, so it should look like this given this look.’ Not only is he a hard worker and takes care of his stuff individually, but he wants to make the people around him better.”
Speculation over whether the Eagles would acquire a big-ticket quarterback this offseason has largely quieted. And while Sirianni has declined to name a starting QB at this point in the process, Hurts has been the man out front during the team’s organized team activities, which wrap up Friday.
The Eagles modified their offseason schedule after consulting with players. Mandatory minicamp was eliminated, as were 7-on-7 and team drills during OTAs. It will be a while before we get a true sense of how the offense will look under Hurts’ stewardship. For now, all he can do is set the tone.
“I think his confidence, it really stands out,” tackle Jordan Mailata said. “He’s trying to be the leader, trying to be the first one in the building and the last one to leave. His attention to detail, his energy as well, it shows through his confidence. He’s just trying to pick up people, and trying to get the receivers here doing the right stuff, and even the cadence, making sure the O-line understands the cadence. He’s done a real phenomenal job on that, and came into this OTA with the confidence that we needed.”
Hurts has been reunited with his old batterymate from Alabama, wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who was selected No. 10 overall by the Eagles in April’s NFL draft. According to Smith, Hurts has “grown a lot” since their days together in Tuscaloosa.
“He’s smarter. The decision-making … he works hard and he understands everything a lot more,” Smith said. “Not only with just me and him but his connection with all the other receivers, the running backs, the O-line, just the communication as an offense, everything is getting better and it’s only going to get better as we keep going.”
Philadelphia is coming off a dysfunction-ridden 4-11-1 season that ended with the departure of Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson and onetime franchise quarterback Carson Wentz. The public expectation for the Eagles is low: Their over/under for wins in 2021 sits at seven — even with the extra game added to the regular season — and they have the longest odds to win the NFC East (+500), according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Part of that is related to uncertainty about Hurts, who gave the offense a spark when he replaced Wentz in the lineup last season as a rookie and earned high marks from teammates for how he handled a difficult situation, but finished with a low completion rate (52%) and saw a dip in production as defenses adapted to his style of play.
The Eagles, though, have refrained to this point from making a splash move at QB following the trade of Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts, instead signing veteran Joe Flacco to serve as the presumptive No. 2, then adding undrafted free agent Jamie Newman out of Wake Forest, signaling they want to give Hurts a legitimate shot at winning the job.
With upward of three first-round draft picks next year, the Eagles are well-equipped to pursue a quarterback if the 2021 season is a flop. But Hurts sits atop the depth chart for now, and appears to have the backing of his veteran teammates.
“That’s a cool, calm and collected dude,” Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo said. “That’s what you look for in the huddle, when you look in their eyes and the way they talk, nothing fazes them, especially at the quarterback position. Jalen is already super talented, real smart, guys trust him, can make plays obviously. But so far, Jalen has really taken that leadership role and run with it. I’m happy for him, man, and hope he continues it, because we’re only going to go as he goes.”