Here's how Jalen Hurts makes the Eagles' offense go when he's on the field with Carson Wentz
Giants coach Joe Judge has a pretty good understanding of what his team will face when the Eagles have both quarterbacks Carson Wentz and rookie Jalen Hurts on the field.
The Giants' first-year coach has connections at Alabama having been an assistant there before Hurts arrived in 2016.
That understanding was reinforced this week when Judge watched video of Hurts and Wentz on the field together while trying to devise a way to stop the duo Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
"He definitely has the ability to run," Judge said about Hurts. "But I wouldn’t fall asleep at all on this guy throwing the ball. He’s thrown for a lot of yards, to a lot of really good players (in college at Alabama and Oklahoma).
"I think the way they’re using him is obviously very inventive."
Or, as Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week: "They can run the quote, unquote quarterback-driven plays with both quarterbacks. And I’m sure they’re going to continue to expand about that."
The Eagles haven't made Hurts, their second-round draft pick last spring, available to the media since July 28, when rookies were first allowed into the practice facility after passing through COVID-19 testing.
Training camp practices in pads began Aug. 17, and the Eagles have since played six regular-season games, going 1-4-1. No doubt, the Eagles want to be as secretive as possible about how they're going to use Hurts, especially heading into their NFC East matchup against the 1-5 Giants.
When Hurts was last interviewed, he was asked if he expects to have a role in the offense, even if he's not the starting quarterback.
As a senior at Oklahoma, Hurts ran for 1,298 yards while throwing for 3,851 in leading the Sooners to the college football playoffs. He had 53 touchdowns throwing and passing, second only to LSU's Joe Burrow, the No. 1 pick in the draft, who had 65 total touchdowns.
"I don’t worry about those things," Hurts said. "I’m worried about just getting better as a quarterback every day. That’s what I’m worried about."
He was then asked about how comfortable he would feel doing other things in the offense besides playing quarterback.
"I don’t want to get into the semantics of those things," Hurts said. "I’m just worried about improving... I’m trying to be the best quarterback I can be every day for this team."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson has made sure to emphasize that the team considers Hurts to be a quarterback, even though he has lined up as a quarterback, running back and wide receiver, both on the outside and in the slot.
"It does give us the ability to run the football with him, so he's like another ..." Pederson said, catching himself. "I don't want to say he's another running back, but he's a quarterback that can run the zone-read plays from the quarterback position."
So far, Hurts has seen his role increase gradually.
Hurts played a total of 19 snaps over five games (he wasn't on the game-day roster for the season-opener). That includes a season-high seven snaps in the 30-28 loss to the Ravens on Sunday.
It's likely that Hurts will play even more against the Giants, especially with running back Miles Sanders and tight end Zach Ertz missing the game with knee and ankle injuries, respectively.
It's also possible that wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery will sit out, along with right tackle Lane Johnson.
Hurts has so far thrown just one pass, an 18-yard completion to Richard Rodgers on Oct. 11 against the Steelers. He has run 7 times for 49 yards and he has 1 reception for 3 yards.
But there's more as to how the Eagles use Hurts, as Judge explained.
"You have to be very aware of how they get him on the field," Judge said. "A lot of times, they like to sneak him on there late. You’ve already made your defensive call, and now all of a sudden you have two mobile quarterbacks out there."
"(Opponents have to be aware) not just what personnel group is on the field at the time, but specifically who’s in that personnel group?" Judge said. "Is it 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers)? Is it 11 personnel with Hurts at quarterback? What kind of personnel group is it? They present a lot of different things."
In many ways, Hurts' presence on the field also takes the pressure off Wentz, who was sacked six times and hit 16 times against the Ravens. For the season, Wentz has been sacked an NFL-high 25 times.
Wentz, who admitted that he was sore after the game, was not sacked when Hurts was in the game.
"You play a lot of snaps in a game, then you turn around on a Thursday night, it can be a challenge," Wentz said. "I’ll be just fine Thursday night. I’ll take of myself and be just fine."
At running back, the Eagles plan to use Boston Scott and Corey Clement in a rotation, and possibly rookie Jason Huntley and/or Adrian Killins if he's promoted from the practice squad.
Scott and Clement have a combined 97 yards rushing this season, averaging 3.0 yards per carry. So it's possible that Hurts can get some carries in read-option looks where the quarterback reads the defense after getting the snap before deciding whether to hand off, keep the ball and run, or throw.
"Whenever you have two people on the field that can throw the ball, it’s kind of a different look for the defense," Rodgers said. "Carson’s not someone you can't just leave alone on the field (if he's lined up as a receiver) ... They’re both dynamic athletes. I think it gives a different look for the defense and it helps us a little bit keeping them off balance.
"But Jalen’s been great. He’s been a huge addition. He gave us a big spark last game and hopefully he can keep getting in his spot."
Consider that Wentz and center Jason Kelce are the only two projected starters who were healthy enough to finish the game against the Ravens. That means Wentz has had to get accustomed to new running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.
That includes rookie wide receivers like Travis Fulgham, who has 18 receptions for 284 yards in just three games after getting promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 3, and John Hightower, who caught a 50-yard pass against the Ravens after dropping one that could have gone for an 88-yard touchdown.
And it includes Hurts, who slowly has done a little bit of everything, with the likelihood of more to come.
"Obviously, it’s a challenge to play with people that you haven’t played with or haven’t gotten many reps with," Rodgers said. "But if you just turn on the film, you can see how badly (Wentz) wants to win."
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.