Kellen Moore is officially the new offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles as the team eyes a more dynamic and efficient scoring touch than it had in 2023.
What does that mean for quarterback Jalen Hurts? He can bounce back from a rather underwhelming campaign to his top-tier standards.
But what is it that sets him apart from other quarterbacks? Was his regression more so due to pitiful play-calling, or was he mostly to blame?
As it turns out, Hurts is much of the same — a new scheme should help polish his game to help him evolve specifically as a passer. His multiple strengths in the air are mainly his intermediate and deep-throwing ability. Yet, this season, the latter was not as present as it was during his 2022 season, and that helps explain a bit of his regression.
According to Next Gen Stats, Hurts had a completion percentage of 36.4 percent, 939 yards (52.2 per start), and a beautiful touchdown to interception ratio of 11-2 when looking deep in 2022 in 18 games. In 2023? That went down to a 34.9 completion percentage, 823 yards (48.4 per start), and an ugly 8-7 touchdown to interception ratio in 17 full games. That portion of his game was pretty forced, even though it wasn’t there from the get-go — it hurt the Eagles badly.
The great thing with Hurts is that, no, he doesn’t solely rely on his deep-shot ability to win all his games — it’s just a bonus.
In 2023, Hurts led the Eagles to 11 wins without having a defining contest where he led the way with deep balls other than, really, in Week 4 against the Washington Commanders. One of the bigger parts of his game disappeared at times, yet a playoff berth was clinched in the middle of December — that’s a luxury if you didn’t know.
So, if Hurts can regain a more well-balanced passing attack, he should be fine. With a new play-caller at the helm? The prospects of that seem pretty likely. While some of his inefficiencies fall on him, like a forced deep ball in the dying seconds of a pivotal Week 15 clash with the Seattle Seahawks, a new, creative system should get a new spark out of him. Instead of it being to his demise, those big plays should be something he can comfortably lean on more like he did in 2022.
Funny enough, Hurts increased his average intended air yards (IAY) from 8.3 to 8.8 last season, meaning he had the right idea, but he simply never had a truly game-changing performance where he displayed his superstar ability to beat teams deep. Again, the Eagles went 11-6 regardless.
Defenses have certainly forced Hurts’ hand into having more sustained drives instead of instantly putting the Eagles in field-goal range or the end zone, as that’s what a whole offseason of learning what made a team successful does. Still, an offensive scheme that refused to evolve as the losses piled on was arguably his detriment — they were fine until late in the season. Now, his coaching should enable him to flourish rather than aid in his downfall.
Looking at the Receivers
In terms of average separation for receivers, the Eagles also regressed a tad. Among receivers with 45 or more targets, the highest among those was Dallas Goedert, who had 2.9 yards of separation for his routes on average. In 2022 alone, three receivers were at or higher than that, with Goedert and Quez Watkins at 3.7 and 3.6, respectively. Yet, their target rate at certain areas on the field remained virtually the same — the plays that were called didn’t create this drastic difference.
This sort of regression isn’t all that bad, but it does show that Hurts had to be that much more accurate on his throws. Would it come as a surprise that three receivers on the San Francisco 49ers with that minimum number of targets were also at or above 2.9 yards of separation? While it doesn’t sink a quarterback, it can still affect them.
In addition, yards after catch above expected declined for the Birds from 2022 to 2023. Again, unsurprisingly, the 49ers were one of the best teams at this. Those extra yards are pivotal for a team — whether it was the play-calling (more likely) or the receivers regressing (less likely) — it’s important to get closer to their 2022 status. There’s a reason why the Eagles’ offense seemed less potent last season than it was when they went to the Super Bowl — that’s because it was, and that’s not entirely on Hurts.
Despite being in a worse situation, Hurts was still a very solid passer. Ideally, his 15 interceptions and 19 total turnovers will be improved, but other than that, he had a decent season. His 3,858 passing yards, 38 total touchdowns, 89.1 passer rating, and 4.1 completion percentage above expected show not all was bad.
Sure, it wasn’t as good as his 2022 statistics and efficiencies, but he had flashes despite a tougher situation. The coaching will get better, and so will he.
Hurts still has the talent, but now he will have to show that he is, legitimately, a superstar quarterback.
His poise and skillset have not vanished, but he will have to regain what made him great. If he can? The Eagles could see a return to The Big Game sooner than later.