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Jalen Hurts’ biggest Week 14 challenge: dealing with the Giants’ blitz


Photo Credit by Philadelphia Eagles

Stateside Front Logo Simple 1200x1200Like every quarterback who’s ever played, Jalen Hurts throws the ball better when he doesn’t have a rabid pass-rusher in his face.

The MVP candidate has completed 76.1% of his passes this season when he hasn’t been under duress, but only 43.8% when the heat’s been on him. While he’s fifth in the league in overall completion percentage (68.1), his completion percentage under pressure is the third lowest in the league, better than only the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (40.9) and the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray (40.5).

The good news is the Eagles’ outstanding offensive line, along with Hurts’ quick decision-making, has helped keep the under-pressure situations to a minimum. The Eagles quarterback has been under duress on just 31.8% of his dropbacks this season. According to Pro Football Focus, only six other QBs – Jimmy Garoppolo (29.3), Kenny Pickett (30.3), Dak Prescott (30.7), Jared Goff (31.3), Mac Jones (31.5) and Matthew Stafford (31.7) — have been under pressure less often.

That impressive pressure percentage will be challenged Sunday when the Eagles travel to the Meadowlands to take on the blitz-happy Giants.

Under defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, the Giants have the highest blitz percentage (40.8) in the league this season, according to Pro Football Reference. By comparison, the Eagles have blitzed about half that much (21.6%).

Consider: Giants linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks have blitzed 258 times this season. Eagles ‘backers and DBs have blitzed a grand total of 61 times. Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has sent more than five rushers after the quarterback just 12 times the entire season. Martindale uses six- and seven-man blitzes the way former Eagles coach Ray Rhodes used to go through antacid tablets.

Despite their heavy blitz frequency, the Giants are only 22nd in the league in sacks with 25 and have intercepted only four passes, which is the second-fewest in the league.

They are 20th in 20-plus yard pass plays allowed (39), but even with a slew of injuries in their secondary, they still are seventh in touchdown passes allowed (14), fourth in opponent completion percentage (60.3) and 13th in opponent yards per attempt average (7.0).

Hurts has done a good job against the blitz this season. He’s completed 62.6% of his throws when defenses have sent extra rushers against him. The disparity in his completion percentage against the blitz and his completion percentage when he’s been under pressure speaks to the offensive line’s ability to handle blitzes, as well as Hurts’ much-improved ability to recognize blitzes and get the ball out.

Seven of Hurts’ 20 touchdown passes and just one of his three interceptions have been against the blitz. Last year, he had a 55.0 completion percentage, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions against the blitz.

Hurts and the deep ball

–It wasn’t all that long ago – can you say last year? – that the so-called experts were suggesting that one of the big things that was going to prevent Jalen Hurts from becoming a very good NFL quarterback was his inability to throw the deep ball.

Well, no one is saying that anymore. Ten of Hurts’ 20 touchdown passes this season and just one of his three interceptions have come on deep-ball throws (20 or more yards in the air), including nine in the last six games. Only the Seahawks’ Geno Smith has more deep-ball TD passes this season (12) than Hurts. Last year, Hurts had just three deep-ball TD passes.

Hurts is tied for fifth in yards per attempt on deep balls (16.4). He’s 10th in deep-ball completion percentage (45.7). All three of his touchdown passes in Sunday’s 35-10 win over Tennessee came on deep throws.

–Hurts is tied for third in the league in rushing first downs with 53. Only Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (77) and Bears quarterback Justin Fields (57) have more.

–Hurts only ran the ball five times for 12 yards against Tennessee, a week after his 17-carry, 157-yard, 10-rushing first down performance against Indianapolis.  How much might he run Sunday against the Giants? Hard to say. A heavy-blitzing team like the Giants can be susceptible to a mobile quarterback. In Week 4, Fields ran for 52 yards on seven carries against them. In Week 6, the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson rushed for 77 yards on seven carries.

–The Giants haven’t been very good against the run. They’re 26th in run defense, allowing 141.1 rushing yards per game. They’re 0-2-1 in their last three games and have given up 494 rushing yards in those three games, including 165 in last week’s 20-20 tie with Washington.

–Hurts has a 112.8 passer rating this season with 11-personnel, including a 122.3 passer rating with the three-wide receiver personnel grouping in the last six games. In those six games, he’s completed 73.7% of his passes, averaged 8.6 yards per attempt and thrown 11 TD passes and one interception with 11P.

–Fifty-seven of A.J. Brown’s 61 receptions and seven of his nine touchdown catches have been with 11P. Fifty-two of DeVonta Smith’s 61 catches and three of his four TDs have been with 11P. Tight end Dallas Goedert has the most receptions in personnel groupings other than 11P (12).

Third-down defense

–The Eagles jumped from 15th to 11th in third-down defense (38.2%) this week after allowing the Titans to convert just four of their 14 third-down opportunities Sunday.

Opponents have a 32.0 third-down success rate against the Eagles’ defense in the last six games (25-for-78). Opponents have converted just two of 33 third downs of seven yards or more (6.0%) in those six games. In the first six games, opponents converted nine of 34 third downs of seven or more yards (26.5%) against the Eagles.

–The Eagles sacked Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times last week. Five of them were on third down. The Eagles lead the league in third-down sacks with 22. They’re second overall with 42. The Cowboys have 48. Eight of the Eagles’ league-high 15 interceptions also have been on third down. That’s the most third-down picks in the league.

–The Giants are 21st in third-down offense (38.9). Daniel Jones is 19th in third-down passing (83.1 rating). He’s been sacked 37 times this season, the second most in the league. Thirteen of them have been on third down.

Jones is an excellent runner but hasn’t done a lot of it on third down. Just 115 of his 534 rushing yards and 12 of his 42 rushing first downs have come on third down. By comparison, 259 of Hurts’ 609 rushing yards and 22 of his 53 rushing first downs have come on third down.


–The Eagles committed seven false starts Sunday against the Titans. In their first 11 games, they had just eight. Their 12 total penalties Sunday were their most this season. Since committing 10 penalties in Week 1 against the Lions, the Eagles had been averaging just five penalties per game. Their 72 penalties are tied for the league’s 17th fewest.

–The Eagles have been flagged just four times this season for defensive pass interference. That’s tied for the sixth-fewest in the league. They had nine last season in 17 games. They haven’t drawn a flag for defensive pass interference since Week 9 when linebacker Kyzir White was called for one. White has two of the four DPIs. Cornerback James Bradberry and safety CJ Gardner-Johnson have the other two.

–The Eagles’ 22 offensive holding penalties are the third most in the league. Left guard Landon Dickerson has been flagged for a team-high six of them.

More numbers that matter

–The Eagles have allowed points on just 31.2% of their opponents’ drives. That’s the sixth-best drives-against percentage in the league. The 49ers are first (25.6), followed by the Bucs (29.6), Jets (30.6), Bills (30.8), and Patriots (31.1).

–Daniel Jones hasn’t thrown an interception in eight of his team’s last nine games. Hurts hasn’t thrown any in seven of the Eagles’ last eight games.

–The Giants are last in the league in pass plays of 20 yards or more (20). The Eagles’ defense has allowed the third-fewest 20-yard pass plays (28).

–Since rushing for 152 yards against Houston in Week 10, the Giants’ Saquon Barkley has rushed for just 124 yards on 44 carries in losses to the Lions and Cowboys and a tie with Washington. That’s 2.8 yards per carry. He hasn’t contributed much to the passing game lately either. In the Giants’ last seven games, he has averaged just 4.4 yards per reception.

–In the last four games, just 27 of the Eagles’ 227 offensive plays (10.6%) have been run from under center.

–The Eagles have allowed just three first-possession scores this season (Lions, Texans, Colts). They’ve scored on their first possession in seven of their first 12 games, including five of the last six.

–Thirty kickers have more field goal attempts this season than Jake Elliott. He has just 11, only three in the last six games.

–Elliott is 10th in the league in touchback percentage on kickoffs (68.2). That’s the highest percentage of his career.

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