Eagles’ Jalen Hurts Now an MVP Contender, Analytics Paint Conflicting Stories

Jalen Hurts

Getty Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is suddenly among the MVP favorites in the NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is receiving a lot of accolades for his Week 1 performance, and while some of the analytics disagree, if you follow the money he’s now an MVP contender. While Hurts is not the odds-on favorite, he’s got the 8th lowest odds in the league at the FanDuel Sportsbook, tied with Lamar Jackson and just a tad behind Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow.

That’s good company for the 24-year-old quarterback, who turned a lot of heads with his season opening performance after being considered a dark horse MVP candidate coming into the season. Hurts completed 18-of-32 passes for 243 yards, while running 17 times for 90 yards and a touchdown, in a performance that center Jason Kelce said bailed the team out.

Now that the dust is settling and the numbers, film, and analytics are being broken down, there seem to be two primary camps. One is full of those that see Hurts as a rising star, legitimate MVP candidate, and analytics darling. The other still sees him as limited in his tools and views a lot of those numbers as deceptive.


Jalen Hurts Among NFL’s Best Quarterbacks by Analytics

According to Pro Football Focus, Hurts graded out with the third highest passing grade in the league at 80.8, trailing only Josh Allen (90.3) and Kirk Cousins (83.4). Hurts graded out with 1 big time throw and 0 turnover worthy plays.

It was the second best passing grade Hurts has ever received, with his best passing game being the season opener at Atlanta last year when he earned an 87.8 grade on 27-of-35 passing for 264 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Pro Football Focus also called Hurts the most accurate quarterback on throws down the field in Week 1, a key accolade for a quarterback who’s accuracy downfield was questioned over the offseason.

The Eagles public relations department also announced that Hurts became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in his first 20 career starts, a feat he actually accomplished in his first 19 starts.

The Eagles communications staff also pointed out that Hurts leads all quarterbacks in explosive plays per game since the start of the 2021 season.

We live in an era full of stats and data, and sometimes they can be misleading. However, when you’re on a list that includes Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady, and Josh Allen, you’re certainly in good company and it seems like a meaningful statistic.


Jalen Hurts Still Has His Critics

That doesn’t mean there’s no criticism of Hurts at all, and the one aspect of his season opening performance that is still drawing some fire was the percentage of throws down the field.

While that is valid criticism in a vacuum, it’s important to note that Hurts was blitzed on 21 of his 42 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 84 yards on those plays. While his yards per attempt were down significantly, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt against the blitz and 9.9 when not blitzed, that’s to be expected. Less time to throw means less time for receivers to get down the field.

Generally against a blitz, coaches want their quarterback to get the ball out quickly and give their receivers a chance to make plays against a defense that has fewer defenders down field to tackle. Sometimes their best play is to throw it away, which hurts the passing statistics more than a sack but is obviously far better for the team’s chances of winning.

Only time will tell definitively who’s on the right side of this debate, but one thing’s for sure: as Jalen Hurts rises up the MVP short list, there’s going to be a ton of attention on his play.

 

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