We won’t know how much Jalen Hurts has actually improved for another four months, when the games count, and the Eagles quarterback is playing against opponents determined to stop him.
But we do know that Hurts is doing everything possible to make sure he does improve.
Hurts gave his first interview Wednesday since the season ended in January as the Eagles go through their second week of voluntary strength and conditioning work. Hurts had little patience for questions about whether he hears the talk questioning his future as the Eagles’ long-term quarterback.
“Everything’s good over here,” he said.
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And Hurts didn’t really delve into how much it meant to him to hear the Eagles’ hierarchy, from chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie to general manager Howie Roseman to head coach Nick Sirianni say that they believe in him as the quarterback.
“If that’s what they say, it’s understood,” Hurts said. “It’s my opportunity. It’s my team. It’s pretty much what it is. It’s my team, so I’m ready to go. The work has been put in to go out there an achieve what we want to achieve.”
This after rumors circulated that the Eagles were looking into trading for veteran quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. Neither, however, expressed a desire to play in Philadelphia. So it’s not known if the Eagles would have pursued such a deal if either QB was interested.
On the work aspect, Hurts was effusive.
He spent time in Southern California working out with various coaches. He was also working out in Houston, Dallas and in Florida. And of course, Hurts worked out recently with his best friend and new teammate in wide receiver A.J. Brown.
This workout was done before the Eagles traded for Brown last Thursday.
All of it had a purpose for Hurts.
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“From a training approach, my young career, I’ve always been trying to find out what my way of doing things is in the offseason,” he said. “Just the holistic approach of taking the next step as a quarterback, whether that be functioning in the offense, running the offense, taking true command of the offense on the field.
“(Also), in the weight room, what am I eating, how am I watching film, creating a schedule for myself and just practicing great discipline in what I do … I think it’s all been beneficial for me this offseason.”
The Eagles are counting on that.
Hurts is coming off his first full season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. And while he led the Eagles to a 9-8 record and playoff berth, critics were quick to point out his 61.3% completion percentage, or the open receivers that he missed.
Still, Hurts made plays with his running ability, leading the Eagles with 784 yards rushing. The Eagles switched to a run-based offense after a 2-5 start. The Eagles went 7-3 the rest of the way and made the playoffs.
But in the playoff game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stopped the run and forced Hurts to pass. That didn’t go well. The Eagles fell behind 31-0 in their 31-15 loss.
Through it all, Hurts impressed his teammates, including veterans like defensive end Brandon Graham, with his leadership, and his willingness to learn.
That has carried over into the offseason with Hurts’ workout program.
“I seen him grow a whole lot, especially through all the adversity he was going through,” Graham said. “He didn’t know if he was going to be the guy. There’s so much talk, even this year, ‘Oh man, if they get Jalen this (player), it will be his only year to do it because we have a (extra) first-round (pick) next year.’
“I just feel like all the crazy stuff he went through, he kept a level head. Man, I’m proud of him because all he did was work. He just kept working. Whatever he didn’t do last year, I feel like he’s going to do a lot more this year. He’s just going to keep getting better.”
The Eagles have given Hurts more help this year, specifically in trading for Brown, who has 2,995 yards receiving in his first three seasons. That should not only help Hurts, but DeVonta Smith, who’s going into his second year after setting a team rookie record for receiving yards last year with 916.
The Eagles also return star tight end Dallas Goedert and running back Miles Sanders, in addition to a strong and deep offensive line.
Smith, for one, said he’ll benefit from Brown’s presence.
“It gives the offense a different dynamic,” Smith said about the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown. “With him being a bigger guy, he’s going to be more physical. So you take things from him, like how he uses his hands. At the end of the day, I’m a smaller guy, but I still have to use my hands when I release. So you take things like that from a guy like him.”
Most importantly, Hurts said this is the first time he’ll have the same play-caller in back-to-back seasons since he was coached by his father in high school. That included his first two seasons with the Eagles – in 2020 under Doug Pederson and last season under Sirianni.
So Hurts knew what he had to accomplish during the offseason. We won’t know for sure if he accomplished them until the season starts. But it won’t be from a lack of trying.
“I had a very unique plan in planning my days,” Hurts said. “I tried to challenge myself to do things I’ve never done, whether it be reading something or watching this on a defense or watching certain things on tape.
“Working on flexibility, eating the right things, just different things. When you play the quarterback position, it’s not all about physical ability, it’s about mental ability, being able to manage different things, different situations, manage a team and lead a team.”
Follow Martin Frank on Twitter @Mfranknfl.