He's the guy, has been the guy all season, and you see how naturally it fits for quarterback Jalen Hurts to lead this Eagles offense into Sunday's Super Wild Card Weekend playoff game at Tampa Bay. For a quarterback who has started huge games in his football career, Hurts understands the stakes in the NFL's postseason. At the same time, the unflappable Hurts is doing what he's done all season to reach this point – his preparation is on point and his focus is locked in.
"The importance of fundamentals throughout this week, the importance of detail, and simply doing the things that we've done all year," Hurts said on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex. "I preach about the process, I preached about it when we were 2-5 and I preached about it when we've made the run we made to get to this point. Nothing changes as far as our preparation and our intent as a football team, so it's all about getting better every day and doing the things you need to do to get better every day. You either get better or you get worse. You don't stay the same. Having the right focus, the right attention to detail every day throughout this week."
Hurts is a remarkably consistent second-year quarterback who has the maturity of a long-time NFL veteran. He is always on his game, right? Throughout last season's tumult and the transition to a new coaching staff and a new offense and the slow start for this football team and the sizzle down the stretch, Hurts has been the same guy: Serious-minded, intentional, focused.
So that isn't about to change now. No way. No how.
"What I expect is that Jalen has played in a lot of big games," Head Coach Nick Sirianni told me in our weekly one-on-one interview on Tuesday, "and I kind of talked about that with our team (Monday). We know we're playing the defending Super Bowl Champs. But, we've got a lot of guys who have played in big games as well. We have a lot of guys, right? We have a lot of guys who were on the Super Bowl team of 2017, we have guys who have played in AFC Championship Games, NFC Championship Games ... we have guys who have played in the final four of the NCAA tournament and in the National Championship Game. We've got experience, too.
"Jalen is one of those guys. He's played in a National Championship Game and he's played in a final four game with Oklahoma and with Alabama. We've got winners on this football team. So much tribute to Howie (Roseman, Eagles general manager) and his staff for bringing in guys who have won football games. That's something we look at when you're evaluating a player. You want to know that they have the right formula and one of the formulas with the addition of being a talented player, being tough, being physical, being smart, having high character, did they win? And we have a lot of guys on this football team who have been through that."
Hurts, of course, has been through a ton in his football career. Ups and downs. Highs and lows. He has experienced just about everything a player in his second NFL season can experience. With that maturity and that experience, Hurts has advanced his game. Hurts has made steady progress in every facet of his game, something he acknowledges.
Now he takes the stage in the postseason, and Tampa Bay is well aware that this No. 1 isn't the same quarterback as the one the Bucs saw in Week 6.
"Dramatic improvement. Total control of that offense, really accurate down the field, really improved as a passer," Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians said on Wednesday in a conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "He knows when to pull it down and he knows when to throw it. I've seen great growth out of him."
Hurts and the Eagles aren't going to go off course as they prepare for Tampa Bay, nor will they try to reinvent themselves on Sunday. This is an offense that has an identity of being physical and nasty, leading with the offensive line. Hurts is a multidimensional weapon Tampa Bay focused on containing. He's a threat with his legs and his arm, and the advancements he's made from the pocket are probably the most significant this season. The moment won't be too big for Hurts.
Truthfully, he's excited to get after it against a Tampa Bay team that beat the Eagles 28-22, and the steps Hurts and the offense have made since then are worthwhile discussing.
"I think as an offense we've kind of revolutionized and evolved in terms of who we are and our identity," he said. "I've said it all year. I've said it's coming. I've said different things to kind of ignite the growth in where we are now. Early on, we were searching for who we were, how we wanted to do it, and now kind of fine-tune some things and now we've gotten good at a lot of different things.
"It comes down to us executing our job, us knowing our job and doing our job, and going out there and playing with the right fundamentals and playing the type of football we've been playing."
The Eagles prepare to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round this Sunday. As part of our preview, here's a look at the projected starters on offense for both teams.