Following the firing of head coach Doug Pederson and the trade of quarterback Carson Wentz, it was evident that the Philadelphia Eagles were in line for a rebuild. A rebuild unlike the most recent that saw the team make one the greatest ‘worst to first’ jumps in the history of the NFL, as Philadelphia rode a massive wave of momentum to the first Super Bowl in franchise history. This rebuild however, is expected to be much different; much more patient, much more calculated, and most importantly much more collaborative. The selection of the coaching staff seemed to be quite methodical as the team interviewed ten head coaching candidates over the span of ten days, until Roseman and Lurie landed on what they project to be the best candidate. The candidate that they believe will lead Philadelphia back to the promise land and many years of success. Where few fans and media outlets will immediately point to the unconventional enthusiasm Sirianni brings to the job, proclaiming how ‘this excitement better translate to immediate success, of else.’ That narrative is best kept for your most recent social media outburst or 94.wip phone call.
Instead the Eagles brass has come to the conclusion of my favorite quote of all time; “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In fact, it took approximately 1,010,450 days in order to build the legendary phenomenon it has become today. During the time of the rise of the Roman Empire there was one particular name that would soon begin to ring bells for possibly an eternity. One, Gaius Julius Cesar was born on either July 12 or 13, 100 B.C. as the son of Roman regional governor Gaius and mother Aurelia Cesar, who were part of the patrician class of the Roman Republic. Influenced by his uncle Gaius Marius who was a legendary Roman general and politician who became famous for many of his war victories and charismatic personality. Not to long following the death of his father after Cesar married, he chose to join the army fighting along his Roman comrades in Turkey and received what is known as the civic crown; a garland of oak leaves granted by the Senate to someone whom they considered saved lives of fellow Roman citizens in battle. Though in 78 B.C. when Cesar returned to his homeland of Rome, he discovered that his family property and much of his inheritance had been confiscated by the Sulla government (former rival of his uncle upset about his marriage to his daughter, who died suddenly recently). So in order to rebuild his family name Cesar used his prominent voice and oratory skills to pursue a career in politics himself. At this time he temporarily relocated to Rhodes to study philosophy, however at some point during his voyage while he was traveling through the Aegean Sea his ship was attacked by a group of pirate. During the attack many were killed and those from wealthy families were extorted for large sums of money. Once the attackers attempted to assault Cesar and demand ransom from his family, the legendary figure being the prideful man he was, boasted that they should demand even more money for his life because when he was set free he would just find them and make them pay for their actions. Which is exactly what he did once he was released, recruiting a group of sailors and warriors forming a modified naval alliance that dominated the seas en route to further enhancing his vastly growing status.
However, it was here were the argument can be made that Cesar’s want for dominance was born. Following another successful army stint, Cesar spent some time in Spain as a high ranking Roman official where he saw a statue of Alexander the Great. This soon became his great influence to say the least to the point where he thought it would be good to make a run as the Pontifex Maximus (Roman’s highest ranking priest). With his influence was quickly growing in Rome, Cesar chose to align himself with the some of the best assets Rome had to offer including the richest man in Rome; Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey Magnus, another powerful and feared political leader. This allowing himself all the funds and influence needed to obtain multiple high ranking roles, this including the Consul which basically gave him full immunity for Roman rules. When alliances started to becoming unsure of the in placed deals, Cesar ever helped orchestrate what became known as the First Triumvirate — which was a triangular partnership that saw Crassus help establish trade routes, Pompey supply soldiers, and Cesar commanding the military units out at war. A deal that saw the three most powerful men in Rome working together, all put together by the savvy, and collective Roman.
Of course there is so much more to this story but listening to Julius Cesar and his role and helping build the Roman Empire sounds like a certain somebody dawning the midnight green. A figure who arguably over achieved for most of his rise to fame. Took the time to use his motivation as his lasting drive, and use the resources around himself to help propel to prominence. You marvel, until you sit back and realize that you’re dealing with a prospect who is 38-4 in his career and has slowly but surely built himself into a force to be reckoned with based on his alliances and self development. Lets just view Crassus as Nick Saban; the man with arguably the most power and influence in the country with an endless supply of funds (recruits) to keep the business flowing and Pompey as Lincoln Riley; the man who’s success at a young age helped launch him to dominance and bring respect to his name. Both of which who played a major role in how both Jalen Hurts and Julius Cesar rose to power. Of course if we’re going to discuss Jalen Hurts and his rise to prominence, its worth discussing if that will be enough for him to be the future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. As we known if there is a historical reference to be made that means that QB1 in our hearts and in our minds is somewhere near. So our own Mar’Quell Fripp-Owens of the PHL Eagles Nation team had the chance to catch up with Mark Schofield, and talk a bit about the Eagles quarterback situation.
Mar’Quell Fripp-Owens: “Based on your knowledge, what’s your guess on what a Nick Sirianni scheme will look like and how will Jalen Hurts look in it?”
Mark Schofield: “I think that Coach Sirriani is going to put into place an offense that blends a lot of what he has coached in the past (West Coast concepts that also blend in some Air Raid designs) that will put Hurts on somewhat familiar ground. You can expect to see a heavy dose of quick game, with RPO designs folded in, as well as Air Raid concepts such as mesh/mesh-sit that Hurts was running in college. Smart offensive minds these days look at what young quarterbacks were running in college, and even high school, and work to get these concepts folded into the playbook.”
– As we mentioned before in one of our previous articles that details exactly what a Sirianni/Steichen led offense could look like, as the new Eagles head coach has stated the team will attack in multiple ways. We went into detail on concepts like the triangle read that allows the offense to put the underneath defender (in most cases the Mike) where he has to choose between the slot running the drag route underneath or the tight end running the deep crosser right behind him, likely resulting in a completion to which ever receiver isn’t selected. However, the most notable concept Coach Sirianni likes to run is the mesh concepts that Hurts saw success with during his time at Oklahoma as well as during a week 14 matchup were you could see head coach Doug Pederson draw up a concept
Here you can see both Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor running underneath drag patterns which is designed to be a bit of a rub route. If performed corrected like in the shot above, the receiver are able to give a bit of a ‘low five’ to each other signifying the proper spacing on routes ran. The Saints defense failed to correctly switch off assignments at the crossing point which created a blown assignment and nothing but open grass between Reagor and the next 20 yards. To say this will be a staple route for the Sirianni offense would probably be an understatement and would give the Eagles offense the much needed spacing that wasn’t supplied with last years route tree. This should allow players like Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins to take a step in development given this is much along the lines of their skill sets. It’s also something that first round pick DeVonta Smith excelled at during his time at Alabama which should allow a smooth transition to the next level for a player with an already advanced route tree.
Fripp-Owens: “Let’s date back to your initial evaluation on him. How does that compare to the guy we saw the last month of the season? More so, who exactly is Jalen Hurts the quarterback?”
Schofield: “I was pleasantly surprised with how Hurts played at the end of the season. Certainly his debut against the New Orleans Saints was worthy of attention, but there are also things that he needs to improve upon. He has to get faster with reads and decisions, but that is something that is true of almost any young quarterback. Even if you are known for your processing ability, the NFL game is just so much faster.
Hurts will also need to tighten up the mechanics somewhat. This is a process that was underway during his pre-draft days, as you could see his mechanics were much tighter at the Senior Bowl as well as the Combine. I very much believe that “mechanics do not matter until they matter.” Meaning that as long as the football is getting where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, then I do not care what the mechanics look like. But if the quarterback is failing to accomplish that task — and mechanics are the reason why — then we have an issue. At times Hurts is too loose and loopy with the throwing motion, and that leads to missed opportunities/late throws. He needs to continue cleaning that up.”
– Anyone who has listened to the QB Scho Show featuring Michael Kist and Michael Schofield knows that ‘mechanics don’t matter until they matter’ is a staple quote for the podcast. For a guy who’s as locked in on quarterbacks as Schofield is, that should be enough to prove the point right? However when you look into the history of the position and the quote you see an obvious connection. See most recently Carson Wentz, who has been under fire since the moment he stepped foot into the league for his (or lack of) mechanics. While it was a bit of a concern, surely no one complained during his almost MVP campaign in 2017, and while injuries may have played a role in his mechanical issue (see the 2018 back injury), the issues were always there and this year once the mental side of the game faltered along with the mechanical side, it was evident what the problems were involving Wentz. Which is the case for many quarterbacks, in the case of Hurts it isn’t like we have a Tim Tebow-esque type of issues involving mechanics. However, the ‘very slow, deliberate delivery’ as Chris Simms called it is a bit concerning.
“If you’re watching Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes or really any great thrower, the upper body and the lower body, they all work together to be a powerful thrower, a consistent thrower. If you do everything right with your body your arm will slot itself in the right spot. With Jalen Hurts, he kind of sits there, no movement with his body, and its kind of all just in the arm. There’s no shoulder movement, there’s nothing else like that.”
Though, its worth noting that since the season has ended Hurts has made a effort to improve his game. This includes gathering with teammates to work, as well as working with quarterback guru Quincy Avery where a video was posted that shows a Hurts with improved footwork and a quicker/smoother release.
— quincy_avery (@Quincy_Avery) March 23, 2021
Fripp-Owens: “Is Jalen Hurts worth legitimate franchise quarterback consideration?”
Schofield: “I think he is, after all he was a second-round selection for a reason. But Hurts will need to take a step forward this season to demonstrate that he can be the long-term answer at the position. Draft position/draft capital expenditure is something to keep in mind, and teams are willing to give first round picks a longer leash then later selections. Still, the economics of rookie contracts are making it easier for teams to move on from perceived mistakes at the position (see Trubisky, Mitchell and Rosen, Josh) so Hurts is going to show a step forward this year for the organization to continue to believe in him.”
– Do you believe that Jalen Hurts is worthy of franchise quarterback consideration? It sounds as if Mark does, personally many of the members here at Eagles Nation do. While it sounds as if there may be a split amongst the fans in this development, to be frank the only people who’s opinion matter are those inside of the Novacare Complex. And even then, for a while it seemed like even they hesitated to commit to Hurts heading into the 2021 off-season. There were a litany of rumors which we’ll touch on soon but it was clear once the team traded back from six to 12 in the NFL Draft, that they were playing the long game and Hurts was probably slated to head into the year as the unquestioned starter. Of course there has been all this talk of competition and the team bought Joe Flacco in presumably to be the backup, even though he supposedly isn’t under that same impression. However you view that situation, barring any unforeseen circumstances Hurts is scheduled to be QB1 in Philly this season. Which means he’s going to have a full off-season and a full 17 game schedule to change the narrative that some have tried to paint of him. It helps when you continuously see him putting in the work during the off-season and is a testament to the work ethic we hear some much about. Now all there is to see is if this translates to Sundays and improved quarterback play for the Eagles.
Fripp-Owens: “Where is Jalen Hurts at his best — where is he the most concerning.”
Schofield: “Hurts, like many young quarterbacks, is at his best when his pre-snap expectation of a given play is not clouded post-snap. Whether on RPO designs, mirrored and/or half-field reads, or on pure progression designs, if that pre-snap picture of a defense remains the same once the ball is snapped, Hurts can be effective. But if that picture changes, then things get more difficult. That is common for young quarterbacks, given that the defensive rotations and coverages are more complex and made faster. So he is at his best when things are relatively static pre-snap into post-snap, but he struggles when the picture changes on him.”
This makes much sense given the knowledge of Lincoln Riley’s spread system with air raid tendencies. When Riley arrived to Norman in 2015, the offense in place for the Sooners which was a generally power gap scheme offense with a dap of spread concepts inserted to keep the defense honest. The question was would he adjust to his personnel or would he try to bring his air raid concepts that once made the Sooners a potent passing attack back in the prime of Bob Stoops. Well, why not both? What started as mostly experimenting, soon saw Riley created an offensive juggernaut as he exposed the country to his genius. By 2016 when Riley had the Sooners offense really playing Big 12 football, averaging an incredible 47.7 points per game. The offense and the schemes behind it only became more and more dangerous as Riley got his hands on what would become consecutive Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks. But behind the scenes, what Riley was unintentionally doing was methodically building an offensive scheme that was a perfect fit for a quarterback that already had all of the intangibles.
“Some people thought I was even silly to do that [follow behind two Heisman Trophy winning QBs], but that was the least of my worries. I didn’t go there [Oklahoma] to hoist any individual trophy. To do anything else other than win ball games for the guys.” – Jalen Hurts
Yeah Riley had saw much success prior to the arrival of Jalen Hurts. But the mentality that Hurts bought to that building was the same thing many questioned could be upheld upon the departure of his two predecessors. The match of Riley and Hurts opened up parts of the Oklahoma scheme that the team did in flashes before, and made it into a RPO chess match that this duo seemed to have all the answers for. With Riley starting to bring in ‘his’ recruits the personnel was more of a similar build to his East Carolina teams, where the offensive line were smaller but more agile guys that are great in space. With his newly found emphasis on the running game and a quarterback who was viewed as more runner than passer, teams were shell shocked to see as Hurts marveled as a passer during his stint in Norman. The answer? RPOs. This isn’t to say that Jalen Hurts can’t read a defense, or go through progressions, the question asked where is Hurts at his best? Well when he understands what is being asked of him and is basically being asked to just make the right decision, it allows any young quarterback to process without thinking because these are some of the same concepts they have been running since high school. Not a surprise to see the NFL game stealing some of these concepts to help slow down the transition into the pros for these young quarterbacks, Hurts should be no different.
Fripp-Owens: “When it comes to the contextual analysis of quarterbacks you’re the man. Being a NE guy, you’ve seen a decade plus of legendary QB play and of course this season a not some good brand of football at the position. Where does Jalen Hurts lay on the QB spectrum?”
Schofield: “I think right now Hurts is in the category of “young quarterback that you can potentially win games with.” The goal for every quarterback is to get into the two tiers above that. I like to think about quarterback play in tiers. At the top you have the elite talents that you would trust with your life. Then you have quarterbacks you can win games because of, behind that you have quarterbacks that you win games with, next quarterbacks you could potentially win games with, and beyond that you have your lower-tier players that need ideal situations and lots of talent around them. I would put Hurts in that “potentially win games with” tier, but he certainly has room to grow and move up the food chain.”
– The quarterback spectrum is probably the most important grading scale the league has to offer. Everyone is either in need of a quarterback, is looking for a quarterback, or trying to determine if the one in the building is worth building around. And even when you have a quarterback the search continues in order to provide yourself with a suitable insurance policy in case of an emergency. In terms of Jalen Hurts it is general impossible to decide whether or not he is worthy of franchise quarterback consideration, given that he only has four starts in his career. Hurts showed a lot of promise during his four game stretch that through three weeks had the Eagles ranked second in the league in yards per game (437.3) and fourth in rushing yards per game (171.3) during that span. A drastic improvement from the stagnant offense Philadelphia put on display for much of the season. Hurts also offered a breath of fresh air for a unit that led the NFL in allowed sacks. While Hurts took his fair share of sacks (13), there were many other occasions where the young quarterback used his legs to gain yardage or extend a play. This should give the offense an added element where defenses won’t be allowed to be as aggressive, which has already been noted by some of Hurts’ peers around the league.
“I think it’s obvious his ability to run not only put stress on us as a defense in the run game but also in the pass game.” – Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins
Hurts showed the toughness and willingness to stand and deliver if he needed to take some hits as well, which is always a positive to see from young quarterbacks. Yet despite the good that Hurts showed, there was/will always be room left for improvement, for starters Hurts has to find a way to raise his completion percentage (52%). For some reference, the league average in 2020 was 65.2%, which places Hurts considerably below the league standard. Of course you can only make but so many judgements based on four games, and its fair to believe that the Sirianni-Hurts marriage should be good for both parties. Sirianni offers as system that should allow Hurts to get some easy completions and is predicated more on getting your athletes in space and letting them work with the football, instead of the long developing routes the previous coaching regime had in place. Hurts skillset should allow Sirianni to open up things a lot for the offense, in terms of play calling. Both Sirianni and Steichen have placed an emphasis on making the defense defend all 11 player on the field and Hurts allows them that opportunity.
Fripp-Owens: “Hurts has this quote that always sticks with me in an interview with Tom Rinaldi he says ‘There’s a thrill in not being satisfied. It keeps you going and I just want to continue to take steps every day, and be the best version of myself. There’s no ceiling on my game, there isn’t a cap. So just continue to take steps.’ Best/worst case scenario: As the Eagles prepare to embark on this rebuild, Jalen Hurts will be around for _____? “
Schofield: Best case scenario is this: Hurts shows enough this season to be rewarded with at least another year as the starter. I think cautious optimism is the right way to view him this season. Often times when asked to set expectations I try to move people away from production predictions. Like, I don’t think he needs to throw a certain number of touchdowns or hit a certain completion threshold to keep his job. Rather, I think he needs to show improvement with reads and decisions, improved accuracy and ball-placement, and better execution when the post-snap look does not match his pre-snap expectations on a given play.
Worst case scenario? Philadelphia is back in the quarterback market next spring.
– Zach Wilson? Justin Fields? Deshaun Watson? Russell Wilson? There was much speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles could be in the quarterback market this off-season. Especially after owner Jeffrey Lurie referred to both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts as ‘assets’ when asked about the position back in January. It seems as if the Eagles will give Jalen Hurts the chance to earn the job, according to general manager Howie Roseman.
“You’re judging him off of four NFL starts in a tough situation with all the injuries that we had. We wanna see him grab the job and kind of run with it, and see what you do over a period of time.”
The Eagles are in prime position to capitalize off this decision with a possibility of three first round picks next year, Philadelphia has the ammunition to go get their signal caller of the future if they feel like Hurts isn’t the guy. However, if any of the recent decisions have been an indication, it looks like the team is all in on supplying Hurts with the set of weapons and a 17 game schedule to prove if he is worth being the franchise quarterback of the Eagles. Though, as I said to Mark that Jalen Hurts quote from the interview with Tom Rinaldi always sticks with me because to an extent he’s right. We watch a prospect who was on almost undraftable levels as a passer develop into a quality quarterback that fell just short of both a National Championship and a Heisman trophy over the course of one off-season. This same prospect showed an extreme amount of promise as a passer in year one, despite a shallow group of skilled position players, and now that same player has a full off-season at his disposal to improve his game. Maybe Hurts really doesn’t have a cap on his game. The vast improvement over the span of two seasons shows a player willing to put in the work to become better. With his receiver, his quarterbacks coach, and a the front office seemingly investing into his growth. The sky is the limit for Jalen Hurts.
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