Why Jalen Hurts Deserves to Be Eagles Starting QB in 2022 Despite Playoff Loss

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 18, 2022

Why Jalen Hurts Deserves to Be Eagles Starting QB in 2022 Despite Playoff Loss

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    There's no more important position in football than quarterback. And for the Philadelphia Eagles, they have a decision to make regarding their future at QB this offseason.

    Is Jalen Hurts the franchise quarterback? Or is it already time to go in a different direction?

    The answer may lie somewhere in the middle for the Eagles. While Hurts may not have moved to elite status during the 2021 season, he also improved in some areas from his 2020 rookie campaign. It may not be time for Philadelphia to bench or trade Hurts, but it may not want to commit long term to the 23-year-old.

    Hurts' final appearance of the season was his playoff debut, and it wasn't a great one. In the Eagles' 31-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round on Sunday, Hurts went 23-of-43 for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His lone TD pass came in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia had been down 31-0 after three.

    But a player shouldn't be judged on one tough game, and Hurts played well enough during the regular season to help lead the Eagles to a 9-8 record and a wild-card berth. During that time, there were much better performances than his final showing Sunday.

    With that in mind, here are three reasons why Hurts should be Philadelphia's starting QB in 2022.

Hurts Showed Improvement with His Arm

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Hurts is known as a mobile quarterback who can make big plays using his legs, but he's also capable of being a strong passer. He showed that during his final college season at Oklahoma in 2019, when he threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.

    Although Hurts didn't put up those types of numbers this season, he still showed improvement and gave reasons to believe he can be a successful NFL quarterback. He threw for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games, six of which he had multiple TD passes in.

    Nick Sirianni, who just completed his first season as the Eagles' head coach, came away impressed with Hurts' play throughout the year and the QB's maturation process.

    "I felt like Jalen grew throughout the year, and he got better as a passer," Sirianni said, per The Athletic's Zach Berman. "And he got better reading the defenses, getting the ball to the right place. He developed so much in his ability to extend plays, not only making plays with his feet but also making plays downfield on the scramble."

    Hurts has still played only 30 NFL games, and it's likely he hasn't reached his peak as a passer. If the Eagles give him the chance to keep starting in 2022, then he should continue to develop and could continue to improve his passing numbers.

Hurts May Have Been Limited by Ankle Late in Season

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Hurts was a big part of Philadelphia's running game this past season, as he rushed for 784 yards and 10 touchdowns. His mobility and agility have been among his strengths since his college days, and he's at his best when he's contributing on the ground.

    However, Hurts didn't run for more than 44 yards in any of the Eagles' final three regular-season games, and he had only seven carries for 39 yards in their playoff loss to the Bucs. A reason for that may be because the quarterback wasn't at full strength.

    Following Sunday's game, Hurts arrived at his press conference wearing a walking boot on his left foot. The ankle injury he was dealing with late in the season caused him to miss a game down the stretch, and it may have been affecting him after his return.

    "I think it's something we all know I've been battling with this last stretch of the games we've played in since I've been back," Hurts told the media Sunday.

    Hurts played better early in the season, so maybe he will perform at a level closer to that if he can get healthy ahead of 2022. The Eagles should give him more opportunities to show what he can do when he's not dealing with an ankle injury.

The Eagles Receiving Corps Still Wasn't Exceptional

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Even though Philadelphia had a better receiving corps in 2021 than it did the previous season, the unit still needs improvement. DeVonta Smith flashed his potential and could develop into a No. 1 wide receiver, but there isn't a ton of depth behind him.

    Dallas Goedert has the potential to be a top tight end, but he was inconsistent this past season. However, he will remain one of Hurts' best targets moving forward, especially with Zach Ertz no longer in Philadelphia.

    Beyond Smith and Goedert, the Eagles have several receivers who have underperformed. Jalen Reagor hasn't played up to expectations over his first two NFL seasons, while others such as Quez Watkins, Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seem unlikely to emerge as top receiving options in the future.

    Hurts could have more success and put up stronger numbers if the Eagles had an elite playmaker or two on offense. Smith may develop into one, but Philadelphia could still benefit from bringing in a top wide receiver in free agency, especially after it has taken a wide receiver in the first round of the past two drafts.

    It can be tough to evaluate a quarterback if he doesn't have several viable receiving options. The Eagles should bring in a top-tier wide receiver and let Hurts work with numerous talented playmakers around him.