The Eagles have a Super Bowl caliber roster. Bar for Jalen Hurts is nothing short of
Here’s a fun little thought experiment that should let you know exactly where the expectations for Jalen Hurts should lie. Look at the Eagles roster and start replacing quarterbacks other than Hurts. Each time, ask yourself: is this a Super Bowl contender? Don’t limit yourself to obvious winners like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Don’t even limit yourself to guys who look like they’re going to be those guys: Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, etc. Do it with Derek Carr, with Matthew Stafford, with Dak Prescott, with Josh Allen, with Matt Ryan, with Ryan Tannehill, with Lamar Jackson. Do it with Kirk Cousins and Mac Jones.
The most instructive case study might actually be that of Carson Wentz. Put this Eagles list around Wentz in his second season as a starter or third season in the NFL. What are you waiting for?
Be honest with yourself and you should realize there’s only one way for Hurts to show he’s a quarterback who can one day lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl. He can do it this year. Because the Eagles have a Super Bowl-caliber roster. The only question is Hurts.
Don’t worry if it sounds silly when you read it. It was absurd to write it. But the more you look at the facelift Howie Roseman has given this roster, the harder it is to deny the reality of his talent. Start with the offensive side of the ball. In AJ Brown, they have their best wide receiver since Terrell Owens. In DeVonta Smith, they might have their second best. They have an offensive line that was already one of the best in the league and is now even deeper. The running back is the running back.
Defensively, there are a few potential weaknesses. But not as much as last year. The bigger question is whether they have the knack for rushing to constantly pressure quarterbacks. But they have a big potential answer in free agent signing Haason Reddick, who has 23.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Elsewhere, they have all the pieces a defense needs to be functional. The final piece arrived earlier this week in the form of James Bradberry. He doesn’t need to be the Pro Bowl cornerback he was two years ago for the Giants. He just needs to be something other than Steven Nelson.
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Perhaps the best way to assess this list is to compare it to the one that won the Super Bowl. Again, go position by position. Offensive line? Same. Maybe a slight advantage over Brandon Brooks in 2017. Again, maybe a slight advantage over Jordan Maialata in 2022. Wide receiver? No question, 2022. Running back? Call it the same. Cornerback? 2022, no doubt. Defensive tackle? This year’s team doesn’t have a single player as disruptive as Fletcher Cox was that year. But he probably has more talent overall with Cox, Javon Hargrave and first-round pick Jordan Davis. Linebacker? Same. The only obvious talent gaps between 2017 and 2022 are at safety and on the edge. In attack, however, there is no question.
Except for Hurts.
And therein lies the point. The big question isn’t whether Hurts is good enough to keep the Eagles competitive. It’s about whether he can do the things a quarterback needs to do to maximize the talent around him. Considering he has more offensive talent around him than any Eagles quarterback since Donovan McNabb in 2004, it’s pretty clear where the bar is. No, Hurts doesn’t need to win a Super Bowl this season. But he has to make the Eagles look like a team that can win one. Because they are. The only question is him.
That might sound like a lot of pressure for a 24-year-old sophomore starter. Well, hard. The Chiefs won a Super Bowl in Mahomes’ sophomore year. The Seahawks won a Super Bowl in Wilson’s sophomore year. The Eagles won Wentz’s second year. The Steelers won a Super Bowl in Ben Roethlisberger’s sophomore year.
The story is what it is. Anyone entering 2022 expecting marginal improvement is mistaken. The thing is, the easiest money in the country right now is the Eagles on 8.5 wins. Open the schedule, read it line by line, and give me a hoot or a shout every time you see a team that leaves you feeling a little quarterbacking. You know what I mean: that feeling you get when you look at an opponent and think, “Man, I wish we had a guy like that. In other words, count the number of times the Eagles will play a game in 2022 against a quarterback who is definitely better than the one they will play there.
Not week 1 (Jared Goff), or week 8 (Kenny Pickett or Mitch Trubisky), or week 9 (Davis Mills), or week 14 (Daniel Jones), or week 15 (Justin Fields), or Week 17 (Jameis Winston), or Week 18 (Jones again). It’s been seven games. And those are just the weeks where Hurts has a solid case as the best quarterback on the field. Is Kirk Cousins really giving the Vikings an edge at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 2? What about Wentz in weeks 3 and 10? You can definitely project the Cardinals and Jaguars to have an advantage over Kyler Murray and Trevor Lawrence. But aside from a brutal three-week streak after Thanksgiving where they face Matt Ryan and the Colts, Rodgers and the Packers, Ryan Tannehill and the Titans, there aren’t many games where you watch the game and think, “Welp , it is a loss.
Compare that to the Cowboys, who face Brady (Week 1), Burrow (Week 2), Stafford (Week 3), Rodgers (Week 10), Matt Ryan (Week 13).
10-7 is not a successful season. A joker victory is not a successful season. The only reason the Eagles aren’t mentioned among a small handful of Super Bowl favorites is the quarterback. The NFL is a bottom line business, and the bottom line is how Hurts should be judged. If you think he has what it takes to one day lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl, then you think the Eagles have what it takes to challenge for a Super Bowl this year. The teams that get stuck in quarterback purgatory are often the ones that don’t set the proper expectations. The talent on this list clearly indicates where the expectations should lie for Hurts and the Eagles.