Ready to Bring the Pain: The Eagles Load Up Around Hurts
Down 17 points with 7:39 remaining in the third quarter of their week 13 matchup at an empty Lambeau Field, rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts enters the game in place of a troubled Carson Wentz. Hurts finished the game completing 5-of-12 passes for 109 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. The Eagles lost the game 30-16. But the events of this late afternoon game in a chilly Green Bay would send shock waves through the Eagles organization, just three seasons after winning a Super Bowl.
Since that time, the Eagles have traded away quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts, and hired Nick Sirianni, giving him his first shot as an NFL head coach. Thus ushering in a new era of Eagles football that will see Jalen Hurts as the centerpiece of the offense.
So– what needs to improve for the team –and more specifically Jalen Hurts– to have success in the upcoming season? Here is a look at each position on offense outside of quarterback, and the moves made to ensure that the failures of 2020 won’t be repeated in 2021.
Make no mistake about it, the Eagles offensive line was not a bright spot last year. The team allowed a league-leading 401 yards lost on 65 sacks, for a sack percentage of 9.8%. Obviously, this can’t continue if the team hopes to have any shot at being competitive on offense this year.
The upcoming season will see the return of two three-time pro bowlers in Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks as well as left tackle Andre Dillard. In 2019, Johnson received an overall grade of 88.8 from Pro Football Focus, while Brooks secured a 92.8 overall grade.
Although the Eagles were quiet in free agency in terms of addressing the offensive line, the team selected center Landon Dickerson in the second round of the 2021 draft. Dickerson is a nice pickup who will likely see time behind Jason Kelce, the 10-year veteran who has contemplated retirement the last couple of offseasons.
With high-quality players returning to the lineup for the upcoming season, the Eagles seem to believe that their struggle on the offensive line last season will be a one-off deal.
The Eagles were mistaken to skip on Justin Jefferson in last year’s draft, and they attempted to make up for that mistake by trading up in the first round of the 2021 draft. The division rival Dallas Cowboys traded down, giving Philly the 10th overall selection with which they selected Alabama wide receiver, DeVonta Smith.
The complete receiving unit as a whole was terrible last season. The Eagles had no receiver catch for over 550 yards last season, with Travis Fulgham leading the way with 536 receiving yards. Rookie Jalen Reagor finished with 36.0 yards per game, putting him in 10th among the 2020 rookie receiving class.
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, the Eagles seem to have a lot of options but still no set number one at the position. The addition of DeVonta Smith gives Hurts a familiar face, as the two played together at Alabama. The duo connected for 207 yards on 12 completions and 2 touchdowns. Although the sample size is small, getting a receiver that the second-year quarterback already knows may just do them wonders.
The tight end duo of Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz entered the 2020 season ranked 6th and 7th on PFF’s top 15 tight ends list. And for Ertz, he ended the season with the lowest overall PFF grade of his career, earning a 57.3.
Although Ertz took a step back, Dallas Goedert was able to step up. He finished 5th in the league for tight ends in yards per game with 47.6, grabbing three touchdowns in the process. Keep in mind Goedert was able to put up those numbers despite ending the season with fewer targets than Ertz.
Both Ertz and Goedert are on the roster heading into this season. If Ertz can get back to the level of play that he had during his three straight Pro Bowl seasons, the Eagles could quickly have the most dangerous tight end duo in the league.
If the Eagles want to have success on offense with Hurts at the helm, they must add an efficient running game around him. The rusher doesn’t need to be amazing, just an above-average starter to help take some of the stress off of the young quarterback.
Last season the Eagles were fairly efficient in the rush game, finishing 3rd overall in yard per attempt behind only the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. Miles Sanders led the team in rush yards with 867 yards, followed by Boston Scott with 374.
With the addition of Kerryon Johnson off of waivers, and 5th round draft selection Kenneth Gainwell, the Eagles staff has done a decent job of ensuring they maintain a steady running game. Add in the ability of Hurts being able to run the ball himself, and the Eagles have the possibility to remain one of the top 10 rushing offenses in the league.
How Does it Shape Up?
In the end, Philadelphia did all they could have done to build up the offense around Hurts. The amount of talent returning from injury on the offensive line will allow time for Jalen to make his reads, and complete more plays without a defender constantly in his face. Adding a familiar face in DeVonta Smith, and a full offseason with Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, and Dallas Goedert will make the young quarterback more comfortable as he enters into his second year. Throw in a running game that was one of the only positives from last season, and Jalen Hurts is set up to have an excellent 2021 season.