Drafting Jalen Hurts was right call for undefeated Eagles
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By DAN GELSTON
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Jalen Hurts saw the area code pop up on his mobile device on draft night and thought for a moment the numbers represented that other NFL city in Pennsylvania. Nah, the 2-1-5 digits the QB read came from Philadelphia and that meant one thing, the Heisman Trophy finalist out of Oklahoma was about to become an Eagle.
Who knows, had the Steelers snagged Hurts with the 49th overall pick in 2020 and groomed him as a successor to Ben Roethlisberger, maybe they wouldn't be 2-6 and already playing for next season.
At the very least, Hurts wouldn't have thrown four touchdown passes against them last month as part of the Eagles' 8-0 start - the first in franchise history. That record makes Philly the only undefeated team in the NFL.
Hurts, though, fell to the Eagles and in his third season, he is having an MVP-type year - per FanDuel Sportsbook, only Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo QB Josh Allen have better odds to win the award - and boasts a team-record winning streak for starting quarterbacks headed into Monday's game against Washington.
More a jawn guy than yinzer, Hurts revealed on a recent podcast co-hosted by teammate Jason Kelce that he thought for sure on draft night he was Pittsburgh-bound. Hurts had one interview with the Eagles at the combine, and based on that, "I didn't think I was going to be an Eagle."
Serious and straight-faced at the podium, Hurts still doesn't impress much when addressing reporters.
Good thing for the Birds, general manager Howie Roseman made the choice - yes, that was his phone call from the Philly area code - to draft Hurts based on his arm, legs and other intangibles, which turned the QB into one of the best picks of his regime.
"He's been a pretty cool, confident, competitive guy from the moment he's been here," Kelce said.
The numbers show Hurts has the Eagles positioned for more big numbers with a win over the Commanders. With a victory, Hurts would extend his franchise record - and longest streak for an active NFL QB - with 12 straight victories. The Eagles also would match their longest winning-streak in team history with nine, set in 1960 and matched in 2003 and 2017. The credit in large part belongs to Hurts.
"I don't know if I truly knew everything about how steady he is until you're around him every single day," coach Nick Sirianni said. "When you live it every day, it smacks you in the face every day, like, man, this guy is steady no matter what the situation. I'd be lying to you if I said, yeah, we picked that up. You knew how good, how high his football character was, you knew how high his football intelligence was and his general overall character, as well, but to say that you knew - until you live that with him - I'm sure the Alabama coaches know, I'm sure the Oklahoma coaches know. But until you live that with him, that's when it becomes really impressive and you really feel it."
Hurts has passed for 2,042 yards and 12 touchdowns and has run for 326 yards and six TDs this season. He has thrown just two interceptions while accumulating a 107.8 QB rating, which is second in the NFL behind Tua Tagovailoa's 115.9. The Eagles sure weren't positive Hurts would rise into the ranks of elite NFL players. And they sure didn't see a perfect season in sight this deep into the season.
"I knew we had a chance to be really good, but I didn't think we'd be 8-0 at this point," Kelce said. "Not that I worry about where we're going to be."
Washington coach Ron Rivera said Hurts reminded him of a young Cam Newton, another dual-threat QB in his prime who kept defenses off-kilter. Rivera should know: He was Carolina's coach when Newton won the NFL MVP award and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in the 2015 season.
"I watched the way the young man plays and Cam was a highlight reel into himself," Rivera said. "A lot of times when you watch the way Jalen's playing, you can see a lot of those flashes, or at least I do. He will tell you though, Cam's taller, but the young man is a heck of a football player and he does really truly remind me of the way Cam plays. He plays with a lot of passion, which Cam did, too."
Much like most teams had trouble solving Newton, Rivera's squad has yet to slow Hurts.
Hurts was 22 of 35 for 340 yards and three touchdown passes, one each to DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert, in a 24-8 rout in September against the Commanders. For the Commanders to have any chance of an upset, they will have to pressure and contain Hurts, something that defenses have not been able to do yet this season.
Washington's line is stout, with interior lineman Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen providing strong play up the middle. Payne has 5 1/2 of the Commanders' 23 sacks. Montez Sweat is a threat off the edge. Washington also could see the return of defensive end Chase Young, who hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee last Nov. 14.
Maybe some pressure will rattle Hurts.
Maybe not, since not much else has troubled the unflappable, unbeaten QB.
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Updated November 13, 2022