Donavan McNabb, Randall Cunningham, Carson Wentz and Ron Jaworski. Do you know what all of those quarterbacks couldn’t achieve where one Jalen Hurts did in only his second year starting?
Only the greatest midseason record in franchise history, that’s all.
With the Birds’ 29–17 victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night, the 2022 Eagles have become the lone Eagles team to sweep their first eight games. The scariest part is, they’re still just getting started.
In the two seasons we have seen Jalen command the reins, his leadership and calm-under-pressure demeanor has allowed fans to retain hope in the quarterback despite a shaky stat line. In week nine of this season, however, Hurts has almost certainly locked down the position for next season and beyond.
While he had always been a tantalizing runner, Hurts struggled being consistent inside the pocket, which allowed doubts to creep in on his ability as a passer. It even seemed that the Eagles offense would not be able to operate without the running game carrying it, a notion that was only emboldened by a playoff beatdown at the hands of Tom Brady’s Buccaneers.
At this point last year, Hurts had a 9–8 TD-INT ratio, 7.3 yards per pass attempt, and a middling 64% pass completion percentage when dealing from the pocket. Following his efficient outing against Houston this past Thursday, he sits at a 9–2 ratio, 9.2 yards per attempt, and a much more efficient 74% pass completion percentage. Not only statistically, but also from the eye test, Hurts looks much more confident and accurate in his game, dealing quickly with a deadly accurate ball and minimizing mistakes.
It of course helps any quarterback when you have an all-star receiving corps which Jalen most definitely has in AJ Brown, Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Throw in a speedy Quez Watkins and a reliable Zach Pascal, and you have yourself a dynamic offense which can be hard to scheme against as a defensive unit. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the running game which not only employs the elusive Hurts, but also the home-run ability of Sanders (who is having a quietly efficient season) and the strong running by Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.
What does all that plus a top tier offensive line add up to?
A very dangerous offense which can hurt defenses in any number of ways.
Just look at Thursday versus the preceding Sunday. When the Eagles took on Pittsburgh, Hurts threw nearly 300 yards with four touchdown passes, (a career high) three of which AJ Brown caught for a career day of eight receptions for 156 yards. It was a dynamic passing day for the team, whereas this past Thursday, the offense mainly operated through the ground game to beat the Texans. Fret not, however, for Hurts still had a very efficient passing game on Thursday going 21–27 for 243 yards and two scores. But it was Sanders, who had a very nice day running the ball, who put the game on ice against Hosuton.
The defense has also been hitting its stride in recent weeks with one of the most opportunistic secondaries in the league along with a pass rush dominating offensive linemen week in and week out. Hasaan Reddick, Brandon Graham and the rest of the pass rushers have been leading the front alongside a linebacking corps which has improved much from last season. Prior to the trade deadline, the front line was solidified even more with the addition of veteran edge rusher Robert Quinn who was sent from Chicago in exchange for a fourth round pick.
Speaking of additions, one of the most underrated moves of the offseason was the trade for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson from New Orleans. The slot-corner turned ball-hawking safety now leads the NFL in interceptions with five on the year in only eight games. His coming out party came against Dallas where he caught two picks and he has been hot ever since. He alongside shutdown corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry have boasted the most dominant secondary in the league. The cornerback duo has been unstoppable thus far and will look to continue their lockdown ways throughout the rest of the season.
Despite the early season success, the Eagles do not seem to have let the moment overtake them. Hurts is at the center of this, always striving to be better than the week he has had. That mentality has been his mantra throughout his football career from high school through the present day and it is infectious to those around him. Not one player do we see boasting about this historic moment in franchise history, they just demand more improvement, more dominance and more brotherhood from themselves and their teammates.
Here’s to hoping they can keep the winning going through February! Fly Eagles Fly.
Joseph Gill is a fourth-year English major with a minor in journalism. JG923276@wcupa.edu