Philadelphia Eagles fans got to experience something new this past Sunday. And no, unfortunately, it wasn’t a win.
ACTIVATED AND ELEVATED TO THE NO. 2 SLOT
Gaining attention at the University of Oklahoma after transferring from Alabama, Jalen Hurts produced a 38-4 record as a starter. He finished with 5,149 yards in his senior year and ranked second in offensive touchdowns and passer efficiency rating. He finished as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
With a promising future, Hurts was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Beginning his professional career, Hurts joined the Eagles as the third-string quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld. Hurts was inactive in the season opener against the Washington Football Team. In Week 2, however, he and Sudfeld switched roles.
Hurts was activated and elevated to the No. 2 slot. Sudfeld was announced inactive.
Hurts made his debut in the backfield during the first half of the game for two separate plays. The Eagles use him exclusively as a decoy, but his appearance did not go unnoticed.
His first play was a distraction for the Rams’ defense. During the second play, Wentz faked a toss to Hurts and completed the throw to tight-end Dallas Goedert for a 10-yard completion. The two-quarterback performance averaged six yards per play.
Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson stated, “We felt this week with him up, it could give us an opportunity to possibly use him in those situations that we did, and obviously he went in, executed them well, and it’s a starting point as something we’ll evaluate each week.”
THE TWO-QUARTERBACK TREND
These plays may have seemed out-of-place for many who watched this past Sunday, but it isn’t new to the Eagles. The two-quarterback package was actually put into play during the “Philly Special” in Super Bowl LII. Trey Burton, a recruited college quarterback, threw a touchdown pass during the trick play to former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
The “Philly Special” may not be the most legit example since Burton was contracted as an Eagles’ tight-end; however, the New Orleans Saints have implemented this quite well.
Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees and Taysom Hill were the first to experiment with this trick-play system. It seemed to work so well last season that head coach Sean Payton tried to get Hill on the field as much as possible. Hill averaged 13 offensive snaps per game, with a total of 182 offensive snaps in the regular 2019 season.
The Saints even took it a step further and introduced three quarterbacks onto the field — Brees, Hill and Teddy Bridgewater. That plan didn’t seem to stick past one game.
Drew Brees states, “It’s kind of a learning process, you know. … We’re still just kind of scratching the surface.”
The Baltimore Ravens have also dipped their toes into similar gameplay with Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson. Jackson averaged 9.5 snaps, had 11 total throws and rushed an average of three times per game over nine weeks.
ARE TWO-QUARTERBACK PLAYS HERE TO STAY?
Going into Week 3, it’s very possible that two-quarterback plays will be used again. Carson Wentz has had a rough start to the season so far, but it’s unlikely the Eagles will make moves to fill his position this early. After all, the losses the Eagles have incurred are not entirely his fault.
The pro: Utilizing two quarterbacks would be useful in short-yardage plays, and short-yardage plays could lead to more touchdowns. An Eagles win would restore confidence in the team, the city of Philadelphia and ultimately in Carson Wentz. A confident quarterback plays better, which could offer a short-term solution.
The con: Playing both quarterbacks is a considerable risk. With the history of Wentz’s prior injuries and the current coronavirus pandemic, it would be essential to keep backups as healthy as possible.
As we know — there is no reward without risk. The Philadelphia Eagles had the intention of working Jalen Hurts into the offense upon drafting him. Creating defensive diversion while allowing for both quarterbacks to make plays could generate huge opportunities for the offense.
For now, only time will tell where the results of this experiment end up.