This is about, as quarterback Jalen Hurts said on Monday in his post-practice press conference, "taking steps." Some days, they may be small steps. Other days, they could be lateral steps when things don't go according to plan and the fix-it work in the film room and practice field is dedicated to correcting mistakes. Here and there are the days when significant progress is measured, but they are rare and generally large steps forward happen when all the small steps lead into bigger gains.
This is the world of Hurts, the second-year quarterback whose every throw has been scrutinized and dissected and discussed through the first week of Training Camp. We all must remember that he's in his second NFL season learning an offense for the first time – it's the fourth consecutive year with a different offense for Hurts, dating back to his final season at Alabama, then a season at Oklahoma, then last season, and now 2021.
Hurts talks about the importance of attention to detail, taking care of the little things that are going to add up to the bigger picture: The Eagles want to incorporate all of his skills – the arm, the great ability with his legs, the will to win, and the leadership – into this offense. The Eagles have a lot of options with No. 1 and they intend to use them.
"When you talk about growing as a player, I know I haven't touched the ceiling yet, I haven't scratched it," he said. "I know that it's important to continue to take coaching, continue to take these things so I can grow, so we can continue to grow as a football team. I love those details. I love those little details. I love the coaching and I love how hard they are on me, because they're challenging me to be the best player I can be. I'm all for it."
Watching a young quarterback put in the work to take the steps forward is always interesting, and it's particularly so with Hurts in 2021 because we had a taste of him last season when he started four games, played extended snaps in five overall, and looked like he had the goods. He's got a live arm and he is a threat to the defense because of his running, so those multiple skills are what the Eagles want to incorporate into the offense.
That's where we are – installing the offense and grading Hurts on one play and then another.
"I've been really impressed with him. We all know this about him, this guy loves football," Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen said. "Like, he loves football. And he's a tireless worker and he wants to be the best he can be. But just watching him in practice, the plays he makes, as we know he has big scrambling ability. But the way he throws the deep ball, he hit DeVonta (Smith) the other day on this field for a big deep ball and he hit (TE) Zach (Ertz) the other day down the sideline, too. To be able to throw the deep ball and hit guys in stride, that's an 80-yard touchdown instead of a 60-yard gain. So, really impressed with how he throws the deep ball right now."
Speaking of Smith, the first-round draft pick who has been so impressive since he arrived in Philadelphia, the Eagles said he is "week to week" with a knee injury. They aren't going to rush Smith back onto the field, understanding that he and Hurts already have terrific chemistry and that there is a lot of time to feed Smith the offense before the regular season begins. Hurts is the piece of clay to mold with every pass catcher on the roster, and that's the focus now.
His performance is not perfect every day, which is why the upside is so enticing. Once it all comes together for Hurts ...
"I think we're taking steps every day," Hurts said. "Getting comfortable in the offense and getting a feel for everything and more importantly getting a feel what Coach (Nick) Sirianni, Coach BJ (Quarterbacks Coach Brian Johnson), and Coach Steichen, what they want me to do and how they want me to do it. I clearly understand that they don't want to take away any of my athleticism, but we haven't gotten to a point where that's needed to be displayed.
"We're just playing ball, trying to execute, need the offense to be efficient in what we're doing."
Hurts sets the tone every day with his work ethic and his energy and the rest of the offense is following him. He's taken all the first-team reps in practice, building from one day to the next. The pads go on for Tuesday's work. The preseason starts a week from Thursday. Things are happening quickly.
Hurts is keeping his focus on the here and now.
"Attention to the little things," he says. "That's what we're working on every day."