Jalen Hurts showed Sunday just how complete the Eagles are on offense
Entering play on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles remained atop the NFC standings, with a 10-1 record. But there were still questions facing the team, on both sides of the football. Defensively, many wondered if Philadelphia would solidify their run defense, an issue that had hampered them in previous weeks.
On the offensive side of the ball, the big question was their passing game.
In the weeks leading up to this point, Philadelphia had crafted a diverse, and effective, running game. A run game that led to some historic outputs, as noted by our own JP Acosta last week when he broke down their run schemes after Philadelphia’s win over the Green Bay Packers. A mix of trap, zone, counter, and counter-bash concepts made the Eagles rushing attack extremely difficult to stop.
Yet, there were concerns about the passing game.
After all, in the three games prior to Sunday, Hurts had not cracked 200 yards passing in any of them, including their loss to the Washington Commanders. Was this an issue of Nick Siriani and Shane Steichen not trusting Hurts? Was there a problem with their passing game? Would this be an issue for the team down the stretch?
Perhaps Sunday put those concerns to rest.
Because Hurts put together perhaps his most complete game as a passer this season, completing 29 of 39 passes for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns, without an interception. Beyond the numbers was how Hurts crafted this performance, as the Eagles were explosive in the vertical passing game, with Hurts making a number of impressive reads and throws from the pocket.
Also notable? How their success in the air, after last week’s success on the ground, is a window into how dangerous they are as a team.
More on that later, but first, the film.
That success started early in the game. On Philadelphia’s opening drive, they faced a 3rd and 8 after a Jason Kelce false start, one of the Eagles’ presnap miscues from this game. But they were able to move the chains as Hurts connected with DeVonta Smith on this out route along the right side of the field:
Philadelphia draws up a mesh concept underneath, between tight end Jack Stoll and wide receiver Quez Watkins. On the right side of the field, Smith runs his deep out route while A.J. Brown goes vertical. With the Titans in man coverage, Smith runs a fantastic route, and Hurts lets this pass go just as Smith comes out of the break. The route, plus the timing from Hurts, add up to a big gain for Philadelphia.
The Eagles finished the drive with a touchdown, with Hurts hitting Smith on a deep post route. Here is the route concept:
This is a beautiful design from the Eagles. The first element is the presnap motion from running back Miles Sanders, who goes in motion towards the right just before the play begins. This makes him a “fast 4,” giving Philadelphia a 4×1 alignment just before the snap, and is a good example of motion for impact.
Now let’s talk about the route concept, starting on the left side of the field. Smith is the isolated receiver in this 4×1 alignment, and he runs a post route. On the right side, Watkins and tight end Tyree Jackson — a converted quarterback — run a drive concept. Watkins runs the shallow while Jackson runs the dig over the top of Watkins’ shallow. Brown runs the deeper dig working from the outside, while Sanders releases to the flat.
The Titans drop into Cover 4 on this play, and as you watch this unfold, pay attention to this safety:
If Hurts wants to throw the post route to Smith deep downfield, he has to make sure that the safety highlighted drives downhill on the dig route from Jackson. If that safety gets depth, then Hurts will work the dual dig routes from Jackson and Brown.
But if that safety squats on the dig, he’ll attack over the top.
The safety squats:
As soon as Hurts sees that safety plant his left foot to come downhill on the dig, he loads up to throw the post route over his head. The ball is slightly underthrown, but Smith makes a great adjustment, and finishes the play for six.
In the third quarter, the Titans decide to bring some pressure after Hurts. But the quarterback punishes them for that decision, with a big assist from his offensive line:
Tennessee tries to disguise this blitz, by showing Hurts a number of zone coverage indicators presnap. The Titans show two deep safeties, and the cornerbacks are playing off, signs that zone coverage might be at play.
Instead, they spin to Cover 0, sending six after Hurts and playing straight man coverage across the board. But their presnap alignment, and attempt to disguise their true intentions, hurts them. By blitzing from depth, they cannot get to Hurts in time. The offensive line holds up, and as we know, if you go zero blitz and do not get home, the band is going to play.
Cue the band.
Beyond the explosive plays downfield, perhaps this throw from Hurts stands out the most:
Philadelphia faces a 3rd and 9 late in the game, and are looking to salt away the victory. The Eagles dial up a mirrored hitch/seam combination, with hitch routes along each sideline and seam routes from the inside receivers.
What stands out about this play is the timing, and anticipation, from the quarterback. Hurts gets this ball out at the absolute perfect moment, so Zach Pascal can make this catch and move the chains. Also, when you watch the end zone angle, pay attention to Hurts’ eyes. This is a sign of a confident quarterback. He confirms the coverage and knows exactly where, and when, he needs to go with the football. No hesitation, and great anticipation, leads to a first down.
Hurts’ production Sunday against the Titans does require a bit of context. Entering Sunday, the Titans had one of the best run defenses in the league, but their pass defense was around league average:
To make the point a bit clearer, here are the defensive efficiency numbers heading into last week, when the Eagles played the Packers:
Prior to their meeting, the Packers were one of the least efficient run defenses in the league, while sitting around league average in terms of defending the pass.
So what did the Eagles do? They leaned into the run game, and put up huge numbers.
Then yesterday, against a team that was one of the top run defenses in the league, they leaned into the passing game. After running it 49 times against the Packers, with just 28 passing attempts, the Eagles completely flipped the script the following week. Philadelphia attempted just 24 running plays on Sunday against the Titans, while Hurts and Gardner Minshew combined for 41 passing attempts.
In the conclusion to his great piece on the Eagles’ run game, JP Acosta said this about the Philadelphia offense: “The Eagles don’t try and force things philosophically on offense. If the run game is working, they’ll run it. If they can throw it well, they’ll throw. That’s what makes the Eagles so dangerous. You can’t take away everything.”
Philadelphia is a complete team on offense.
And a dangerous one.