His superb performances the last three weeks in wins over Miami, Washington, and Dallas, have him nipping at the heels of the man many consider the current frontrunner, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Playing with a bone bruise on his knee that restricted his running ability, Hurts had a 125.5 passer rating against the Dolphins, Commanders, and Cowboys, completing 75.0 percent of his passes, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt and throwing eight touchdown passes and just one interception.
Through nine games, Hurts is 10th in the NFL in passer rating (97.0), tied for fourth with Jackson in yards per attempt (7.7), fifth in passing yards (2,347), sixth in completion percentage (68.9), sixth in touchdown passes (15), sixth in completions of 20-plus yards (32) and second in total touchdowns by a quarterback (22).
Jackson is sixth in passer rating (100.8) and first in completion percentage (71.5), but 14th in passing yards (1,954) and tied for 20th in TD passes (9).
Jackson has rushed for 124 more yards than Hurts (440 to 316). But Hurts leads the league in rushing first downs with 39. Jackson is fourth with 32.
Hurts, who was the MVP runner-up to the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes last season, has improved dramatically in two key areas this season – third down and the red zone. His third-down passer rating has risen from 93.0 last year to 99.7. He’s second in third-down completion percentage (71.6, up from 62.6 in 2022) and second in yards per attempt on third down (8.8, same as last year). He’s already thrown for 31 first downs on third down. Last year, he had 39 the entire season.
In the last two games, he’s completed 16 of 21 passes on third down for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Opposing defenses doubled down on the run in the red zone against the Eagles this season and dared Hurts to beat them with the pass. He has answered the challenge. His red-zone passer rating has jumped from 88.7 last year to 103.2 through the first nine games this year. His red-zone completion percentage has improved from 50.0 to 55.6. Last year, he threw just nine red-zone TD passes in 48 attempts. He’s already thrown eight in 27 attempts in the first nine games this season.
The Eagles, who converted just eight of 19 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns in their first five games, are 12-for-17 in the last four games and have climbed up to 13th in red-zone touchdown percentage (55.5).
THE RPO GAME
The Eagles’ RPO (run-pass option) game hasn’t been quite as productive this season as it was last year. Their rush average on RPOs has dropped from 5.33 yards last year to 3.86 this year, per Sports Info Solutions. They were third in RPO rush the average last year behind New Orleans (5.83) and Buffalo (5.73). Through nine games this year, they’re 13th.
Their yards-per-attempt average on RPOs has dropped from 7.19 last year to 4.53 this year, according to SIS. They were second to the Dolphins (10.07) on RPO pass average last year. They’re fifth this year.
RPO production is down throughout the league this season. The overall RPO rush average has dropped from 4.52 yards last year to 4.20 this year. The RPO pass average has dropped from 5.73 to 4.99.
The Eagles had a league-high 258 RPO plays last season. Their 86 RPO pass attempts were the most in the league. Their 172 RPO rush attempts were the third most behind the Panthers’ 182 and the Chiefs’ 180.
In the first nine games, the Eagles have run 96 RPOs – 64 runs and 32 pass plays. That’s a 181 RPO pace over 17 games.
Interestingly, the drop in RPO production hasn’t impacted the Eagles’ overall offensive production much. They’re averaging 28.0 points per game, which is just .1 of a point less than last year. They’re third in total offense, averaging 376.8 yards per game. That’s just 12.3 yards per game less than 2022.
PASS DEFENSE PROBLEMS
Dak Prescott was the latest quarterback to carve up the Eagles’ defense Sunday, throwing for 374 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In the last two games, the Eagles have given up seven touchdown passes, 771 passing yards, and 39 passing first downs.
Over the last three games, 27 of the 91 pass completions against the defense, or 29.7 percent, have gained 15 or more yards. The Eagles have given up a league-high 65 pass plays of 15 yards or more this season, 95.4 percent of which have produced first downs.
The Eagles are 20th in the NFL in points allowed (21.4 per game), 25th in third-down defense (42.6), and 25th in red-zone defense (64.3 opponent touchdown percentage). They have the league’s fifth-highest opponent passer rating (99.4), have given up the second most touchdown passes (19), and have just four interceptions (only two in the last six games).
BY THE NUMBERS
–Five of the Eagles’ eight wins have been by seven points or less. Last year, six of the Eagles’ 14 wins were by seven points or less. In 2017, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, three of their first five wins that season were by five points or less.
–The Eagles only blitzed Dak Prescott on eight of 49 pass plays (16.3%) last week. They blitzed on five of the Cowboys’ first 18 pass plays, then blitzed just three more times on the next 31 pass plays. Prescott completed just one of seven passes for 20 yards and was sacked once on the Eagles’ eight blitzes.
–In the last three games, Jalen Hurts has completed 21 of 29 attempts for 436 yards and five TDs on passes that traveled 11 or more yards in the air. In the last six games, Hurts has completed an impressive 13 of 26 deep balls (throws that traveled 20 or more yards in the air). Five of those 13 deep-ball completions were for touchdowns.
–In four of the last six games, the Eagles’ opponents have scored multiple touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game.
–Opposing tight ends were targeted 20 times in the last two games and had 15 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. In nine games, the Eagles have given up 43 catches to tight ends for 438 yards and five touchdowns. Last year, the Eagles gave up three touchdown passes to tight ends the entire season.