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Jalen Hurts Leading Eagles into Territory the Cowboys, Giants, NFC East Can't Match

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 26, 2022

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles attempts a pass against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on September 25, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There were a number of impressive performances in Week 3, whether it was the Miami Dolphins outlasting the Buffalo Bills to claim first place in the AFC East or the Jacksonville Jaguars serving notice that they are no longer a tomato can by shelling the Los Angeles Chargers.

But no performance was more dominant than what happened in the nation's capital. For the second week in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles made quick work of their opponent, blasting the Washington Commanders 24-8 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was fantastic again in the win, building on his early-season MVP buzz.

That's not the only buzz in the City of Brotherly Love three weeks into the season. It's admittedly still early, but right now, the Eagles look the part of both a complete team and the clear-cut front-runners in the NFC East.

As a matter of fact, given the issues facing the division's other teams, it's fair to question whether the Commanders, Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants really have a shot of giving the Eagles a run for their money in 2022.

For the second week in a row, Hurts was excellent throwing the football—the third-year pro completed just under 63 percent of his passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns with a robust passer rating of 123.5.

It marked the second straight 300-yard game for Hurts, who is now completing 67.3 percent of his passes, averaging over 305 passing yards a game and has a passer rating of 106.5.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on September 19, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

After torching the Vikings for 390 total yards and three combined touchdowns in Week 2, Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters that he wasn't surprised by the growth that Hurts has shown this season.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised. I've seen the growth," he said. "We talk about this so much with Jalen. Why is he going to continue to reach his ceiling? Because he's tough, he has high football character, and he loves football. He's going to reach his ceiling. It's fun watching him grow."

He's growing, all right.

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Players in NFL history with at least 900 pass yards and 150 rush yards in their teams first 3 games of a season:<br><br>Jalen Hurts<br><br>END OF LIST. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlyEaglesFly?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FlyEaglesFly</a> <a href="https://t.co/DjwawpXaaa">pic.twitter.com/DjwawpXaaa</a>

For his part, Hurts was quick to thank his teammates for the success he has enjoyed this season.

"You have to draw your strength from others," he said. "I can't perform without the other 10 on the field. Same on the other side. They need me to do my job for them to eat. It's a collective group."

Hurts is spot-on. It hasn't just been him.

With the Eagles run game stymied by the Commanders, the team's pass-catchers all stepped up in a big way. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith balled out, hauling in eight passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wideout A.J. Brown caught five passes for 85 yards and a score.

Tight end Dallas Goedert also chipped in a touchdown. And an offensive line that Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus ranked as the NFL's best once again controlled the point of attack.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65) sets up to block during the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles on September 19, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It's not just the offense, either. After giving up just 240 yards of offense and eight points (two of which came from a safety) against the Commanders, the Eagles are giving up 296.7 yards per game and 16.7 points per game—numbers that both rank inside the top 10.

And after sacking Carson Wentz a whopping nine times Sunday, the Eagles rank toward the top of the league in that category. Three games in, the Eagles have a turnover differential of plus-four, which, wait for it, also ranks toward the top of the NFL.

An explosive offense. A stifling defense. These Eagles are loaded on both sides of the ball. Balanced. Dangerous. Without a glaring flaw.

The same cannot be said about the rest of the division.

First off, it was plainly demonstrated Sunday that the Commanders will not be a factor in the division. After surviving the Jaguars in Week 1, the Commanders have been shredded by the Detroit Lions and now the Eagles.

The offense has seemingly forgotten that the first half is a thing—in two straight games, Washington has been invisible offensively before halftime. The defense is giving up over 402 yards and 27 points per game.

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs past linebacker Jamin Davis #52 of the Washington Commanders and defensive end Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Commanders during the second half at FedExField on September 25, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Heading into Monday's showdown with the rival Cowboys, the Giants are 2-0 for the first time since 2016 after beating the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers. But the reality is the Titans and Panthers aren't very good—and neither are the G-Men.

New York's offense ranked outside the top 20 in yards per game and averaged just 20 points a contest entering Week 3. The defense's numbers are inflated by playing two of the league's most stagnant offenses.

The Giants are a mirage. They don't have the firepower on either side of the ball to maintain their early success.

Then there's Dallas, the preseason favorites to win the division in the eyes of most pundits. The Dallas offense should improve once the team gets quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Michael Gallup back, but offensive line issues have led to the Cowboys averaging a dismal 89 yards per game despite the presence of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.

The Cowboys are better defensively than the Giants and Commanders, but they aren't as stout on that side of the ball as the Eagles.

That's the thing. Last year, the run-heavy Eagles had a flaw—one that was exposed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs. The recipe was simple. Load the box, take away the run game and make Hurts beat you throwing the ball.

But if Sunday's domination of the Commanders was any indication, if you do that against the 2022 Eagles, your secondary will get carved up like a rotisserie chicken.

Maybe it's the arrival of a true "alpha" receiver in Brown. Maybe it's the maturation of Hurts. Maybe it's another year of familiarity with Sirianni's offense. Maybe it's a combination of all those factors. But whatever the reason, Philly's biggest weakness in 2021 is a strength in 2022.

There are no guarantees in the NFL, and there's a long way to go. All it takes is a couple of critical injuries to derail a season. But three weeks into the season, it appears that may well be what it takes to stop the Eagles.

Because the rest of the NFC East isn't going to.

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