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What's next for Jalen Hurts? Here's 1 thing to focus on this Sunday

Quarterback Jalen Hurts
Quarterback Jalen Hurts

He has said this throughout the early 2021 season in his matter-of-fact, we're-going-to-make-it-happen kind of way – quarterback Jalen Hurts says the offense is close to putting it all together and that when it happens, you're going to see the Eagles click. Sunday represents Hurts' 11th NFL start, so he's just scratching the surface of his knowledge of the game at this level, in this new offense. So, we will all watch and see how Hurts performs against a Las Vegas Raiders defense that features a robust pass rush from a strong front four and a secondary that swarms to the football.

It's another challenge for the Eagles, Week 7 of this 2021 season. It's also another opportunity to evaluate Hurts, who has had the kind of six games that, if you really are honest about things, were to be expected. He's been really good in some spots and at other times Hurts has been inconsistent, a theme with a new head coach, youth at many key positions, and injuries that have disrupted the flow.

What's next for Hurts?

"I'm seeing him grow as a player," Head Coach Nick Sirianni told me earlier this week. "We know he's such a dynamic player with his feet and being able to get out of pressures. Slowly but surely you want to see him become a better player within the pocket. I definitely see him improving in that area."

A better player within the pocket.

That's the key step for any young quarterback in this league. Many of them have played in a spread attack in college, so when they get to the NFL, the adjustment period is intense. Forever in his football life, Hurts has had the ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet, and that skill set has served him so very well. But he, like every quarterback with that kind of multidimensional ability, has to grow in the pocket. It takes time to develop comfort, confidence, vision, and timing.

And that's where Hurts is in his development, and that's what the Eagles are drilling him on – better play setting up and throwing from the pocket. It isn't something, Sirianni says and Hurts understands, that happens overnight.

"When you have something that you want to work on," Sirianni said, "it's not like you say that (he snaps his fingers) and it's automatically fixed. You have to go through the process of it. It's something we'll always talk about with him."

Go through the process. Believe in the process. The Eagles are and the Eagles do, and they enter Sunday's game knowing it's another gameday to put what they've taught and what they've learned on display. Philadelphia's offense has not been proficient the last two weeks, but even within that, you see the encouraging moments – the fourth quarter in Carolina, the second half against Tampa Bay – when you understand where Hurts is coming from when he says the offense is getting closer. Sometimes, it's hard to see, and the teaching points from struggles are what provide value in the end.

Sometimes, we've seen the rhythm and the balance of this offense and the way Hurts is best incorporated within it.

The goal is to see that for 60 minutes on Sunday.

Hurts was asked this week about what Sirianni had said to reporters about the quarterback at times leaving the pocket and creating with his legs a touch sooner than Sirianni would like, and Hurts was asked how he would correct that issue. His answer was simple and to the point and right on the mark.

"Stay in the pocket and make the throw," Hurts said. "It's me. It's something I hold myself accountable for. You have different situations, different things come up. No one sees what I see out there, but you've just got to go out there and execute and make it right. It's my job to make it right."

Sunday is another work day, another day to "make it right." How will we measure Hurts' progress in Las Vegas? What matters most is the win, yes, but also the way he conducts business in the pocket and the times when he decides to jet out of there and drive the Raiders' defense crazy with his legs. In his 11th start, Hurts aims for a solid step forward.

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