When Jalen Hurts has 'complete control,' Philadelphia Eagles have shot at special season

Quarterback Jalen Hurts accounted for 73 percent of the Eagles' total offense in their Week 1 win, with 243 yards passing and 90 rushing. AP Photo/Lon Horwedel

PHILADELPHIA -- If Jalen Hurts' Week 1 performance against the Detroit Lions is a sign of things to come, there is no ceiling for the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles.

"He had complete control of what was going on out there [Sunday]," coach Nick Sirianni said of his quarterback. "He saw the field perfectly. He really did."

Having "complete control" in that environment was no easy feat. There was talk about this being the Lions' Super Bowl entering Week 1, and it kind of felt like it. Ford Field was turned up. Apparently amped up by their team's appearance on "Hard Knocks," fans sold the building out, causing the Lions to reportedly offer standing room tickets for the first time for a non-Thanksgiving Day game since 2017. Eagles players said they couldn't hear a thing on offense over the roar of the domed crowd.

Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn added to the frenzy by taking the kitchen sink approach, dialing up 15 blitzes. Only Patrick Mahomes (21 blitzes) faced more heat in Week 1. But Hurts scampered and slid and threw around the chaos, accounting for 73% of the Eagles' offense with 333 yards (243 passing, 90 rushing) and a touchdown en route to a 38-35 Philadelphia win.

"He bailed us out numerous times," said center Jason Kelce. "There are numerous blitz pickups that we need to get corrected. That's the benefit of having a guy with such versatility. If you have a team being as aggressive as [the Lions] were and all of a sudden we don't have it blocked just right, whatever happens, to have a guy like that to be able to go off schedule and make something happen, that was tremendous."

The off-schedule playmaking is nothing new. It was the rhythm throws that needed improvement in Hurts' second year as the full-time starter in order for the offense to reach its potential. Sirianni called Hurts' pocket play "really good" against Detroit. He averaged 2.55 seconds before the throw -- the 13th fastest time Week 1 -- compared to his 3.12 second average last season, which ranked last in the NFL. And his throws were typically on point, even if the stats didn't completely back that up -- his four throwaways to avoid sacks impacted his completion rate (56.3%). Hurts went 5-of-7 on passes that travelled 10-plus yards, tied for the third-best mark in Week 1 at 71.4%. He had no turnovers.

It helped having A.J. Brown, whom Hurts targeted 13 times, resulting in 10 completions for 155 yards. Hurts' dart down the right sideline to Brown late in the second quarter for a 54-yard completion was arguably his best pass as a pro.

"That was a dime," Brown said. "Fell out of the sky."

But there are caveats and concern to consider.

The caveats: It was against the Lions, who have had a habit of making opposing quarterbacks look good over the years. Last season, Detroit's pass defense ranked 24th (allowed 244.7 yards per game). And it was just one week. Hurts has proved over 20 starts that he is capable of standout play; it's the high level of consistency that's been elusive to this point.

The concern: He got hit a lot. Hurts absorbed 20 QB contacts, per ESPN Stats & Information, the most in the league. (Bengals QB Joe Burrow was second with 17.) Sirianni's answers postgame reflected the high-wire balancing act teams with mobile quarterbacks forever face, saying you always want to limit hits and that player safety is the top priority while noting that "If we have to run him 20 times to win a game, we'll do it." Aside from small bandages on his left forearm and hand as he stood at the podium late Sunday afternoon, Hurts seemed to come out of the game OK -- despite a late helmet-to-helmet hit from Detroit safety Tracy Walker III in the third quarter following a Hurts slide.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened, it’s probably not the last time it’s going to happen,” Hurts said. “It just comes with the game. Just get right back up and keep going on the next play.”

That play led to a Walker ejection after he seemingly took a swing in the direction of receiver Zach Pascal, who had confronted Walker along with tight end Dallas Goedert following the illegal play. Sirianni suggested the late hit could have been out of frustration after Hurts sliced up the defense with his legs all day.

"Everything he does frustrates defenses," Kelce said.

The framing of this season has largely been this: The Eagles have a strong enough roster to be legitimate NFC contenders, so long as Hurts makes the leap forward at quarterback -- or, looked at another way, so long as Hurts doesn't hold them back. On Sunday, in a game where his defense was flailing (giving up 386 yards) and Lions defenders were coming over the walls, he not only met that threshold, but largely carried the team.

The tests will get tougher starting Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), but if that level of play continues, the calculus on the Eagles' season changes.