MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The progress has been steady, measured by the speed of the game and the way it has slowed down for Jalen Hurts in his three NFL seasons, but the recognition he has gained through countless hours of studying film and talking through it with coaches and by the performance – decision-making, accuracy, timing – he displays on the field.
His third Training Camp is all but in the books – the Eagles have a walkthrough tomorrow before Saturday night's preseason finale – and then next week, it's all about reducing the roster to 53 players and focusing on the Detroit Lions and the regular-season opener on September 11.
Hurts has been asked about "which areas do you think you've most improved on since camp started" every time he's sat in front of a microphone this summer and he has answered every time patiently, thoughtfully, and respectfully. Inquiring minds keep asking the same thing.
And Hurts keeps answering.
"Just an overall understanding of what I'm supposed to do, doing my job and doing my job at a high level," Hurts said. "Knowing what's right and knowing what's wrong. I've always had a very high standard for myself, so I'm taking that mentality that I've always had and just soaking up everything, growing, chasing growth every day, and I think that's allowed me to grow as a quarterback."
Just a couple of hours earlier, Head Coach Nick Sirianni raved about Hurts from a day before when Miami threw everything at him with its aggressive, attack-the-line-of-scrimmage scheme that included a zero blitz look on which Hurts threw deep for a 65-yard touchdown play. It was a highly competitive practice in searing heat, exactly what the Eagles were looking for in a two-week series of joint practices against Cleveland and the Dolphins.
Hurts, said Sirianni, passed the test with flying colors.
"It was definitely a competitive practice, and I was glad our guys fought through some of the adversity that we had as far as the heat and just competed," Sirianni said. "One thing that really stood out to me offensively was the efficiency on third down, I thought that was really good. I thought Jalen was outstanding. I mean, to me, Jalen's practice yesterday was the best practice he's had as an Eagle since I've been here. I can't speak for the year before I got here. What he was doing with the football and being able to go through reads and the progressions that fast and getting the ball to where it needed to go, I thought, was unbelievable.
"There was a play on third down. We're running some sort of slant to (wide receiver) A.J. (Brown). They took it away by coverage, and it was third-and-5. And he checks it down quickly to the tight end, to Jack Stoll. He did the same thing on another slant to A.J. when he went over top to (wide receiver) DeVonta (Smith). I'm not sure on all the times I've ever been a part of that play, I've never seen the ball go there and Jalen found it and figured out how to get it there.
"It was just happening. Everything was happening so quick for him – not quick for him – actually, it seemed like everything had slowed down for him and he was getting the ball out on time. And I just thought he was at the top of his game yesterday. And that's a great development for us."
No doubt about it. You wonder how defenses are going to play it against an Eagles offense that has been constructed so completely, that the team hopes can dictate with its versatility. Hurts is striving for consistency and with that, he has the belief that he will be an elite-level quarterback in this league.
"You either get better, or you get worse," he says. "You're just trying to take steps every day."
That's where we are with Hurts and with this Eagles offense, one that has been so impressive throughout the summer. He's happily on the grind every day – never has a quarterback come through the Eagles in the last 25-plus seasons with such a positive attitude every day – working on his game.
On September 11, likely the next time we will see Hurts on the field, every second counts as the regular season opens. He will be the full-time starter for the second season in his career, making his 20th regular season start at the ripe young age of 24.
"You're looking for growth," he said. "That's the goal, and I feel I've made growth and taken necessary steps. I'm just keeping my focus on today and making myself a better football player."