Jalen Hurts has received public support from his bosses on multiple instances this offseason. During the NFL’s scouting combine, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and general manager Howie Roseman exuded their confidence in Hurts as the team’s starting quarterback. Owner Jeffrey Lurie reiterated that point several weeks later at the league meetings, when he described Hurts as “dedicated” and an “excellent leader of men, who gets better every year.”
Asked Wednesday afternoon if he feels he’s received that message, Hurts offered a pointed reply.
“It’s understood,” he said. “It’s my opportunity. It’s my team. It’s pretty much what it is.
“This is my team, so I’m ready to go.”
Hurts, a 2020 second-round pick, positioned himself to maintain his role as the starter after he helped lead the Eagles to a 9-8 record with an appearance in the NFC’s wild-card round. Hurts, 23, completed 61.3% of his passes for 3,144 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also finished as the team’s leading rusher with 784 yards and a franchise-best 10 rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. Hurts was hobbled late in the season by a high-ankle sprain, which required offseason surgery.
“I’m good now; that’s all that matters,” Hurts said regarding the injury.
Despite Hurts’ climb in his first year as the full-time starter, the team conducted due diligence in regard to outside upgrades at the position, especially when considering it possessed three first-round picks at the conclusion of the season. The Inquirer confirmed the Eagles reached out to Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson’s respective former teams, but those talks never progressed as Wilson and Watson landed in Denver and Cleveland, respectively, while Philadelphia moved forward with Hurts.
Hurts insists he doesn’t listen to any “rat poison” or outside noise. But team captain Brandon Graham acknowledged Hurts is at least aware of what’s being said about him outside of the team-controlled environment at NovaCare Complex.
“I’ve seen him grow a whole lot,” Graham said of Hurts. “Especially through all the adversity he’s gone through -- he doesn’t know if he’s going to be the guy. There’s so much talk like ‘They’re giving Jalen help, this will be his only year to do it because we have a first round next year.’ But all the crazy stuff he went through, he’s kept a level head. I’m proud of him because all he does is work.”
Hurts likely will need to continue to embrace those challenges.
The team’s acquisition of star receiver A.J. Brown – Hurts downplayed his efforts, but he surely played a pivotal role in the Eagles’ pursuit of Brown considering the strong relationship between the two players – is an indication the Eagles are hoping to compete at a high level sooner rather than later. If Hurts regresses in Year 3, the Eagles could pivot next offseason as they possess two first-round picks in a draft class seemingly loaded at quarterback.
“It does feel good [for Hurts] going into the offseason for at least one more year,” Graham said. “I believe he’s going to maximize everything he needs too, especially with the new additions. ... He’s mature enough to handle it ... because he hasn’t showed me he’s worried about anything other than proving people wrong.”
Hurts will have a chance to accomplish just that with the help of Brown, who is expected to be a dynamic addition to the team’s passing offense. During his three seasons with Tennessee, Brown had 24 receiving touchdowns. Hurts and Brown have maintained a close relationship dating to their high school days.
“He’s always been an excellent player since I’ve known him [before] college,” Hurts said of Brown. “He’s always had the ability to make plays with the ball in his hand, use his body, box out defenders, break tackles. He’s a great addition to a great receiver room we have now, and I’m excited.”
Hurts has maintained a relatively quiet profile this offseason. Besides appearing at a Sixers game, he hasn’t posted much on his social media accounts. Hurts acknowledged he’s been training in Southern California, although he declined to delve further. He said his biggest area of concentration was fine-tuning his schedule and approach.
“My young career, I’ve always been trying to find out what’s my [best] way of doing things in the offseason,” Hurts said. “It’s a holistic approach of taking the next step as a quarterback, whether it be running the offense, taking true command in the weight room and what I’m eating, how much film I’m watching – just practicing great discipline with what I do.
“I had a very unique plan. I tried to challenge myself to do things I’ve never done. Whether it be watching things on the defense or certain things on tape, working on flexibility. When you play the quarterback position, it’s not all about physical ability. It’s about mental ability and being able to manage those different situations and lead a team. There’s so much that goes into it. I just tried to challenge myself to do that this offseason.”