PHILADELPHIA -- Jalen Hurts' time as the Philadelphia Eagles' third-string quarterback lasted all of one game. He was elevated to the No. 2 slot this week after being inactive for the opener against the Washington Football Team, and Hurts got his first taste of NFL action in a 37-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
His cameo, however brief, bore some fruit, which should only entice the Eagles' coaching staff to integrate him further into an offense that could use a little spicing up, though doing so is not without potential consequence.
Hurts played three snaps and was used exclusively as a decoy. He first trotted onto the field midway through the second quarter and lined up in the backfield with Miles Sanders. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz faked a screen pass to Sanders and then Hurts, opening up the middle of the field for tight end Dallas Goedert, who netted a 10-yard completion. Hurts lined up out wide on a Sanders run later in the drive, and he came in motion for a fake jet sweep handoff at the end of the first half on another Sanders carry.
The two-QB look averaged six yards per play -- the highest average per play of the various formations the Eagles used Sunday, per NFL Next Gen Stats, though the minimal amount of plays surely helped that. It's a small sample size, to be sure, but Hurts' presence gave the Rams' defense a little extra to think about and helped in the execution of those plays.
"We felt this week with him up, it could give us an opportunity to possibly use him in those situations that we did, and obviously he went in, executed them well," said Eagles coach Doug Pederson, "and it's a starting point as something we'll evaluate each week."
The natural next step is to get the ball in his hands. Hurts, the Eagles' second-round pick in April's draft, threw for 32 touchdowns last season for Oklahoma and rushed for another 20 TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He showed some of that dual-threat ability at training camp. His effectiveness was most felt in goal-line situations, particularly on zone read looks.
One sequence in particular stands out from camp, when he met the running back at the mesh point and then sprinted to the right, drawing the defense's attention. But he had already handed the ball off to the back, who darted up the middle untouched. His legs can loosen a defense up, which could be useful in short-yardage situations.
Pederson has referenced Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints and Lamar Jackson when he was No. 2 to Joe Flacco as a rookie in Baltimore when talking about two-QB usage that the Eagles were "going to explore" heading into the season. Jackson averaged 9.5 snaps over the Ravens' first nine games while in a backup role, throwing the ball 11 times total in nine games while rushing three times per game on average.
There is some risk involved in expanding Hurts' role. Besides the chance of an on-field miscue from the rookie, success could also be tricky. Wentz has had a rough start to the 2020 season, and if that continues and Hurts provides a boost to the offense, it will start a conversation in Philly that the organization can only hope would not seep into the NovaCare facility walls.
But the Eagles knew the market and understood the dynamics when they drafted Hurts, and they did so with the intention of working him into the offense in Year 1. The experiment is underway and should only pick up from here.