Jalen Hurts’ offseason started with a vote of confidence from Howie Roseman.
During his season-ending news conference, the Eagles general manager said Wednesday that Hurts did enough good things last year to earn the starting job in 2022 and the offseason would be spent building a team around the 23-year-old quarterback.
“Tremendously impressed by his work ethic and his leadership,” Roseman said during the virtual news conference.
“We said [in July] we wanted to see him take the bull by the horns, and he certainly did that.”
In Hurts’ first full year as the team’s starting quarterback, he threw for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns, and nine interceptions while completing 61.3% of his passes. He was the focal point of the team’s dominant run game as well, contributing 784 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns to the Eagles’ No. 1-ranked rushing offense.
The 2020 second-round pick led the Eagles to the playoffs, but continued his trend of struggling against quality defenses in the Eagles’ wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, throwing two interceptions and completing just 53% of his passes.
Since Hurts was drafted, there have been questions about whether he can make enough progress as a passer to be among the league’s elite quarterbacks. He struggled with accuracy and decision-making most of his college career and some of those problems have persisted. He has also shown a reluctance to target receivers over the middle of the field and has missed open receivers downfield on multiple occasions last season.
“We’ve got to do whatever we can to continue to help him develop,” Roseman said. “How do we do that? By surrounding him with really good players. Players continue to grow. That’s a huge part of developing, they grow. How they are in their second year is not how they’re going to be in year four, five, six, and seven. They’re also a product of the people around them, so that’s on us to continue to build this team.”
In examining his words, Roseman has a track record in these settings. After last season, he said players such as Carson Wentz are “like fingers on your hand. You can’t even imagine they’re not a part of you.” A few months later, he traded the quarterback to the Indianapolis Colts for a conditional pick that conveyed as a first-rounder.
Roseman addressed the “fingers” comment Wednesday, acknowledging that things can change quickly in the offseason.
“Opportunities come about in this league, and I’m certainly not talking about [just] the quarterback position, where you have to make decisions about what’s best for the franchise,” he said. “I think last year with Carson, we had to figure out, going forward, what really made the most sense when we got the offer that we did. Certainly that changed there, I understand that. But for us, right now, we’re in this mode of trying to build this team.”
Roseman didn’t dismiss the possibility of trading for a quarterback this offseason, either. The Eagles have three first-round picks (No. 15, 16, and 19) in the upcoming draft, which would give them an advantage in bidding wars for veteran quarterbacks on the market.
The Houston Texans have taken offers on Deshaun Watson, who was accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 women and sat out last season after requesting a trade. There has been speculation surrounding the potential availability of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but nothing appears imminent.
When asked if the three first-rounders this offseason create urgency to find an elite quarterback if one becomes available, Roseman didn’t rule anything out.
“Those assets that you talked about allow us to continue to build,” Roseman said. “It really helps us add good players to this team. Our job is to look at everything, to evaluate every position, every player. We do that, not only for right now in this moment, but we also do it so we have information when players become available at any position.”
Still, Roseman and coach Nick Sirianni said Hurts is their starter next season, something they said was communicated to him in the last few days.
“Jalen knows where he stands with us,” Sirianni said. “He knows he’s our quarterback. How do you know where you stand with a coaching staff? Because you communicate and you talk over and over and over again. Jalen knows where he stands with us, I thought he did a great job of getting better throughout the year. There’s no secrets there. He knows he’s our guy.”
Hurts dealt with a left ankle injury during the latter half of the season and wore a walking boot to his post-game news conference after the loss to the Bucs last weekend. He said earlier this week that he felt like he’d done enough to earn the starting job in 2022 and pointed to the team’s success even when the injury limited his running ability as part of the rationale.
Hurts did a better job avoiding turnovers in his second season. In his four-game stretch at the starter during his rookie season, he fumbled six times, losing one, and threw three interceptions. This season, in a much bigger sample size, he threw nine picks and had nine fumbles.
“I am pleased with the way he developed as a passer, as a quarterback,” Sirianni said. “We have seen so many things he got better at and that goes into, first and foremost Jalen and the football character he has, the desire and want to for how much wants to be an elite, elite, elite player in this league.”