PHILADELPHIA -- Jalen Hurts' first pass of Thursday’s practice was an eye-opener.
During 7-on-7s he dropped back, quickly scanned and fired a dart across the middle that zipped through traffic and hit receiver Quez Watkins in stride some 20 yards downfield, drawing the praise of several teammates. It was a throw that required anticipation, timing and command -- traits that have stood out to the newcomers on defense during the Philadelphia Eagles' organized team activities.
"Man, he's super smart," said former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, who signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia in March. "You can just tell the way he can diagnose a play, what he's looking at, what kind of keys he's trying to check for, and he's trying to eye control the safety so they can get you off leverage and everything. He's as advertised and he goes out there every day with that hard hat on."
Linebacker Nicholas Morrow, formerly with the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders, pointed to another play from a day earlier where Hurts threw it before his receiver was out of his break and placed it perfectly to beat tight coverage.
"He's also getting the ball out pretty fast," Morrow said. "Setting up and breaking, you've really got to be on your P's and Q's if you're in some kind of vision-break defense to understand where he is in his intentions."
Hurts took a major leap as a passer in 2022, climbing from 19th (54.6) to fourth (66.4) in QBR and 26th (61.3%) to 11th (66.5%) in completion percentage. He dropped his average time before throw from 3.12 seconds (31st) to 2.76 seconds (16th) on average.
The Eagles believe there's further room for growth, as evidenced by the five-year, $255 million contract extension they signed him to in April. His fourth year as a pro, and third in coach Nick Sirianni's offense, is off to an encouraging start. Two items to note: it looks like he added some muscle mass and definition in his arms/upper body this offseason, and the ball appears to be jumping out of his hand more noticeably than in years past.
Nakobe Dean gets the green dot
That opens the door for Dean, the 2021 Butkus Award winner and heartbeat of the historic Georgia defense that year. He was relegated to primarily a special teams role as a rookie but has been running with the first-team defense this offseason along with Morrow. Dean has been wearing the "green dot" helmet, Morrow said, meaning he is the player who receives communication from the coaching staff and is responsible for relaying it to the rest of the defense on the field.
"He's a world-class communicator when it comes to [working with the] D-line and stuff like that," said former Georgia and current Eagles teammate Jordan Davis. "Just having Nakobe get his shot, it's great. I just love seeing him have his opportunity."
Dean acknowledged he felt ready to play regularly on defense last year but with the team "rolling" he committed himself to starring in his role. He finished tied for third on the team with seven special teams tackles while drawing regular praise from special teams coach Michael Clay. He made the most of his defensive opportunities as well, registering 13 tackles on 34 snaps. Now, he gets a chance to be in the center of the action.
"Ever since the Super Bowl, I haven't been doing nothing but working and getting better," Dean said. "I do feel like I am a better player in all aspects of my game."
New faces on offense
Sirianni spent a good portion of Thursday's session with the quarterback/running back group and offered plenty of instruction following running and pass-catching reps. Both Swift and Penny are likely to climb the depth chart, but it was holdovers Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell leading the drills as the newcomers got acclimated.
Jurgens, a second-round pick out of Nebraska in 2022, is a center by trade but is trying his hand at guard with veteran Jason Kelce returning for a 13th season.
"I reached out [to Kelce] and I just said, 'Hey, congrats. You had a hell of a year. I'm so pumped you're coming back. I can't wait to play with you again, whether I'm learning behind you or playing next to you again.' Jason is such a great guy," Jurgens said. "He's just like, 'Yeah, I'm sorry I'm coming back for another year.' I'm like, 'Dude, you owe me nothing.' He's done so much for me already and I'm pumped he's back."
Jurgens currently weighs around 305 pounds, he said, adding that he would like to come into training camp in the 310-315 pound range to be ready for the rigors of his new position.