Jalen Hurts has done it all through five games in this 2022 season and those multiple skills certainly put a lot on the plate for defenses to consider. Hurts has thrown for 1,359 yards and four touchdowns and he's added another 266 yards on the ground with six touchdowns scored.
His running game was the subject of some questions for Head Coach Nick Sirianni at his day-after press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday, as reporters wondered just how the team balanced the want for Hurts to be a threat in the running game and a concern that he might take too many hits along the way.
"We never want him to take a lot of hits, or any hits really for that matter. Some of those carries too, you're going to have to calculate in. Like seven of them yesterday were quarterback sneaks, as you guys all saw how we handled a couple of those things yesterday," Sirianni said, referencing Hurts' 15-carry, 61-yard, 2-touchdown day in the 20-17 win at Arizona.
"Not to say that that's a safe play for him either, but it's safer than the other ones, in our opinion. But we're going to do what we need to do to win the football game. One of the things that makes Jalen a really good quarterback is the ability that he has to throw the ball, read the defenses, and have the ability to move around and make plays. So, one big reason – you hear me talk about the offensive line every time I talk about our run game, of why our run game is good. Jalen has a huge, huge, influence on the backside of the run game because of his ability to run the ball.
"Now, you got to run them for them to respect that, which we obviously do. But why is our run game good? Why did it get going in the second half? It's still that Jalen demands respect on the back side. I was always taught you win games on the front side, you win championships on the back side. That was always a saying (Indianapolis Colts Head Coach) Frank (Reich) would say. So, Jalen does a great job of holding that back side. As far as scrambles, those are going to happen in the game when he thinks that he has a pressure breakdown or nobody was open on the perimeter, he's got to move and make a play, and you can see he creates – on third-down scenarios can create first downs for you with his legs and with his arm."
Hurts has been brilliant running the football on RPOs (run/pass options), designed runs, runs when he takes off in the event receivers are covered as well as quarterback sneaks. Philadelphia's run game ranks fourth in the NFL, averaging 160 yards per game.
Having Hurts as a threat, as a take-off-and-go player, is something defenses have to account for each week. Sirianni is going to continue dialing up Hurts as part of the running game, understanding that No. 1 continues to play it smart and avoid defenders when he is able to do so.
"He's smart with how he takes hits. He's not going to be able to protect himself completely every single play, but he knows how to not take a hit. I mean, you saw him. He's really shifty. He ran one yesterday on an empty play, kind of got out of the pocket, and he has the linebacker trying to tackle him," Sirianni said. "He sticks his left foot in the ground and then makes a cut, and now that guy that you thought, oh, he was about to get hit, with how shifty Jalen is, he's about to get hit, he doesn't take that hit. So, we trust Jalen. We talk about trusting Jalen, we trust him in those scenarios as well to not take big hits. Again, you're not going to be completely perfect with that. Jalen is going to be like all our other guys at this point of the year where you're five games into it, right now your body is not going to feel like it did at the beginning of Training Camp.
"So, he's just like all our other guys. But are we always trying to be smart with him? Of course. We don't want to put him in danger. There is a difference between running him recklessly and really going through every play of when he is a running threat and say, 'Are we putting him in harm's way?', which is what we do in each and every case. If there is something that looks muddy, maybe a ball is going to be able to get spit back into a certain part of the field, we talk about that and say, 'Is this worth it? Is the 8 yards we're going to gain worth it on this particular one?' Most likely the answer is no.
"So, what you're seeing are the plays we feel comfortable about. Again, is it going to be perfect? No. But what you're seeing on Sundays are the plays that we feel comfortable putting him in that scenario. What you're not seeing is obviously the ways we're protecting him when we say scratch that, get that out, move this out, change this guy's blocking technique here. And I don't want to get too far into that because I think that would be a competitive advantage if I get too far into this but, change this guy's blocking technique here to allow him to not take this hit that we don't want him to.
"That is a constant part of our discussion. So, we're taking a lot of things out, we're keeping things in that we know we need in our offense, but then also the technique and the fundamentals of guys' blocking assignments are tweaked to protect him as well."