The Philadelphia Eagles had a season to remember last year. They turned their Wild Card round loss to the defending Super Bowl champions in 2021 into the number one seed in the NFC in 2022. New additions like AJ Brown, Hasson Reddick & James Bradberry helped them to a 14-3 record.
Although their biggest help came from one of last year's leading MVP candidates, quarterback Jalen Hurts. He had a career year, finishing with 3,701 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Hurts did most of his damage with his legs, finishing with 760 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He had five more rushing touchdowns than the next quarterback, but can he repeat this recent success?
Last Season's Rushing Production
Hurts finished the 2022 season with 165 rush attempts, which is good for second in NFL history only behind 2019 Lamar Jackson (who had 176). Twenty of those rush attempts came within the five-yard line. Of those 20, he found the end zone nine times, resulting in a 48.8% touchdown rate. He ranked second in rush attempts inside the five and 11th in touchdown rate amongst players with 10+ attempts.
Hurts and the Eagles perfected the "QB Sneak" last year. They aligned multiple players behind him whose only job was to push him into the end zone. This play was so successful for him as they scored six touchdowns and converted 29 of 32 3rd/4th down attempts during the season. Not only did he have help from behind him, but in front of him was the number one-ranked offensive line, according to PFF. The Eagles will hopefully have a healthy season out of Lane Johnson, who hasn't allowed a sack since 2020. Coming into the 2023 season, the Eagles still rank as the number one offensive line, but what has changed?
The most significant change for the Eagles this season will be their new coordinators. Last year's offensive and defensive coordinators have moved on to head coaching jobs for other teams. The offense suffered minimal changes, the most significant being the running back room. The Eagles moved on from four-year starter Miles Sanders and brought in two cost-efficient, injury-prone backs, D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny.
With new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, it will be interesting to see how he plans to use the new backs along with his mobile quarterback. In his two most recent offensive coordinator jobs, he tends to have a 60/40 split backfield while giving an average of 67 rush attempts to the quarterback. I'll be it, none with the rushing prowess of Jalen Hurts.
The Eagles were beneficiaries of the league's third-easiest schedule last season, which may have led to the top seed in the NFC. This year, they didn't get as lucky as they are up against the hardest strength of schedule based on opponents' win percentage from last season. The Eagles were blowing teams out by halftime and would chew the clock away in the second half to an easy victory. With this year's hardest schedule, the Eagles will have to rely on Hurts' arm much more than his legs. That reminds me.
What We're Fading...
The pick is in. We are taking Jalen Hurts to score under 11.5 rushing touchdowns at (-125)
Don't get me wrong, I am not doubting Jalen Hurts and his ability. But I do believe there will be some growing pains for the Eagles this season. There's a complete overhaul of their running back room. One of the two could emerge as the goal-line back, affecting Hurts and his rushing attempts. New offensive coordinator Brian Johnson tends to use a running back-by-committee approach. We've only ever seen him do it at the collegiate level. It would be strange to see him stray away from his norm.
Jalen Hurts notched himself in the record books last year, finishing second in rush attempts for a quarterback in a single season. While this looks impressive, of the top 25 single-season quarterback rush attempt leaders, last season's Jalen Hurts ranks dead last in yards per carry since the 1939 season. Some guy named Tuffy Leemans, ever heard of him? No, me neither. Despite the second-most rush attempts in NFL history, Hurts recorded the 17th-most rush yards and 42nd in yards per carry. With Hurts being this inefficient as a runner comparable to the field, it seems he heavily benefited from those one-yard touchdown pushes from his teammates.
In Hurts' three years as a starter, he's only eclipsed this touchdown number once, finishing with 13, 10 and three rushing touchdowns. Only four times in NFL history has a quarterback hit this over, Hurts' being one last season. Fourteen of their 17 upcoming opponents allowed three or fewer rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks all season.
When betting on NFL futures, betting the under on a player is much more profitable than betting the over. There are many flukes and unforeseeable outcomes that arise over an 18-week season. One injury, whether it's season-ending or two weeks, could be the difference between a bet hitting the over or the under.
Look, do I think Hurts is going to be bad next year? No. I believe in the Eagles to run it back and compete for the number one seed in the NFC again. However, we are betting against history. We're betting that Jalen Hurts will not have a top 5 rushing quarterback season in NFL history. Now let's all watch Jalen Hurts show off his arm talent and make DeVonta Smith the top WR on the Eagles... But I'll save that take for another article.
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