Quarterback Jalen Hurts turned in a really strong performance on the road in a division game that the team needed in order to clinch a playoff berth in Week 17 – and that's what you want from your starting quarterback.
Fighting through an ankle injury suffered in Week 12 against the New York Giants, Hurts was a big part of Sunday's victory against Washington. The Eagles' offense couldn't quite run the ball at the same level that we have become accustomed to over the last two months ... but you know what? That's OK! It's not always pretty in the NFL, especially when you reach the postseason, and you have to find other ways to win ballgames. In the last couple of weeks, the Eagles have fought through adversity and have come out on the other side with a W, and that's a good sign moving forward.
Hurts was largely efficient on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, but one area that I thought was especially fruitful for him was the play-action pass game. Hurts was 8-for-12 off play-action on Sunday, and the Eagles ran a handful of concepts for him off of the ball fake in the backfield.
The play-action pass is a very effective tool for the Eagles, as they rank 10th in the league with 190 such plays this season, which is no surprise given the effectiveness of their run game. The Eagles have consistently been very good at meshing their play-action passes with their base runs and vice versa.
I mentioned in the clip above that one of my favorite throws from Hurts in his contest was the checkdown to running back Boston Scott that went for 18 yards down the left sideline. That wasn't the sexiest play, it wasn't going to make any highlight reels, but it was an example of his continued development as a young quarterback in the NFL. Rather than force-feed this ball to DeVonta Smith on a concept that the offense has run time and time again, Hurts smartly gets to his second read, and not only does he get there, but he gets there fast. What's that do? It sets up an opportunity for Scott to pick up yards after the catch. Great job by Hurts on that play.
Two other traits showed up for me in this game while watching Hurts, his poise and his creativity – two very important qualities for a starting quarterback in the league.
Hurts' ability to create has been no secret. It's long been one of his best traits, but when you pair that with this poise ...
Now you're cooking with gas! Throughout the course of this season, we have seen Hurts continue to improve from the pocket, making throws with defenders around him, delivering the football from tight and muddy pockets. When Hurts breaks the pocket, he's not always just looking to run, he's often looking for his receivers to uncover. We've seen him beat the blitz, defeat both man and zone coverages, work all levels of the field, and spread the ball around to various pass targets. Is it all perfect yet? No, of course not. He's still improving in all areas of his game, but this win over Washington was another good sign of his progress as this team marches to the postseason.