Jalen Hurts threw his first touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in relief of Carson Wentz. The rookie replaced Wentz with under eight minutes left in the third quarter, providing an immediate spark to the offense after another poor day from the franchise quarterback.
Wentz was laboring on offense yet again: 6-of-15 for 79 yards (57.4 passer rating) — and head coach Doug Pederson turned to Hurts. He finished 5-of-12 for 109 passing yards (five carries for 29 yards) with one touchdown in a 30-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He also chucked up an interception late in the fourth quarter.
Throw the stats out the window, though. Hurts gave the Eagles a noticeable shot of adrenaline in this one. Hurts, the second-round pick out of Oklahoma, took over with the Eagles trailing the Packers 23-3 and led the team on a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive. He hit Greg Ward for a 32-yard touchdown strike as Wentz looked on from the sideline.
Hurts’ first series ended in a Philly punt but not before he completed a beautiful 34-yard bullet to Jalen Reagor. On the next series, Hurts flashed all his athleticism and hit five different Eagles receivers while picking up back-to-back first downs (three carries for 25 yards) with his legs. Reagor also took a punt return 73 yards to the house for a score to cut the Packers lead to 23-16. Jake Elliott missed the extra point there but nailed a 52-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Head coach Doug Pederson shed light on how his quarterback rotation might work earlier in the week. The initial plan was to use Hurts as a decoy and gadget-play specialist. But once Hurts got into a rhythm on Sunday at Lambeau Field, Pederson stuck with the hot hand. Hurts stayed in the game and accounted for 138 total yards, including that highlight-reel touchdown to Ward.
“But as far as the rotation goes, you would like to be in a little bit more of a rhythm,” Pederson told reporters on Dec. 1. “If it were Jalen in there, maybe he goes a couple plays in a row; obviously if Carson is in there, he takes the bulk of the action. They’re both professionals and they understand and expect nothing less.”
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Hurts Helped Offensive Production, Provided Spark
The Eagles didn’t come all the way back and pull off an improbable comeback on Sunday but the attitude seemed to change in the huddle when Hurts went in.
Guys were fighting for extra yards and getting open down the field, with the rookie extending plays with his feet. More importantly, Hurts remained calmed in the pocket even when the offensive line collapsed around him. There was a noticeable spark.
Pederson has been asked multiple times this year about Hurts’ development and mindset as he adjusts to life in the NFL. The head coach praised him for picking up the “mental side” of the game.
“I like where he’s at. I think for a young rookie quarterback he’s right where he needs to be,” Pederson told reporters on Nov. 28. “He keeps improving each week with the terminology and the mental side of learning the game, right? Playing obviously helps it [the learning curve]. That’s one of the things as we went along this year, having the two quarterbacks on the field, it really has helped some of our production offensively, yards per carry, whatever it might be.”
Hurts entered Sunday’s game averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry on 33 total offensive snaps. He turned five designed runs into 29 yards (5.8 yards-per-carry) versus Green Bay.