Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Jalen Hurts Gets Attention from NFL Managers and Evaluators: ‘He Has No Choice’

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Welcome to Heavy In The Trenches, a weekly Wednesday column from Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo, bringing you insight into the latest storylines and gossip surrounding the league. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattLombardoNFL.

On Monday night in Philadelphia, the Eagles became Jalen Hurts’ Eagles.

Hurts played his second game of a season-long audition to be the future Eagles and franchise quarterback, announcing his arrival to the nation.

Three-year veteran Hurts put on a performance against a prolific Minnesota Vikings team that recalls some of Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham’s signature moments in the city of brotherly love.

Hurts looked vastly improved in the bag and more patient when he was done 83.9 Percent of his passes for 333 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. And more mobile than ever before. Hurts picked his spots when running against the Vikings, rushing for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a 26-yard dash into the end zone that made Lamar Jackson’s injuries seem imperceptible.

On the national stage, with the likes of Bradley Cooper, James Harden and Bryce Harper in the seats at Lincoln Financial Field, Hurts throws his coming-out party.

“He has all the confidence you could want in this position,” an NFC human resources director told Heavy. “They gave him more weapons. The team got better, he got better and maybe most importantly, it’s another year in the same system.”

That confidence was particularly evident in a brilliant first half in which Hurts completed 17 of 20 passes for 251 yards and 1 touchdown while scoring 2 more points.

Since walking off the field in the Eagles’ humiliating NFC wildcard loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hurts has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of his patience in the bag as he progresses, improved his accuracy and things like really maximized AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins in Philadelphia’s revamped reception corps.

“The thing with Jalen and these other young quarterbacks,” the manager emphasized. “It’s about staying in the same system for another year, building trust and then adding players around you. He has no choice but to be pretty good.”

Hurts was better than good.

In two games, the three-year veteran completed 69.8% of his passes for 576 yards with 1 touchdown, 1 interception and averaged 5.3 yards per rush with 3 rushing touchdowns.

“Jalen is a guy I wouldn’t bet against.” Jim Nagy, the executive director of Reese’s Senior Bowl, where Hurts performed in 2020, to Heavy. “When you have a guy who is that determined and has that kind of work ethic, I don’t want to bet against guys like him.

“You hear a lot of people talk about how Jalen has gotten better every year since his freshman year in Alabama, that’s the truth. He got better over the week here in Mobile [at the Senior Bowl], and then I went to the NFL combine and I was on the field and I watched him throw at this practice and he threw the ball better there than here and this guy just keeps jumping. If you have the leadership and the intangibles that he has and consider his work ethic in what he’s doing now, I wouldn’t bet against him.”

If Hurts keeps up this blistering pace, not only will the Eagles undoubtedly push for the catbird seat of a wide-open NFC, but the biggest question facing the franchise will be answered: Can general manager Howie Roseman pair in the first round 2023 using NFL draft picks to build them up around hurts instead of using them creatively to spin and deal another round of the quarterback roulette wheel?

For now, at least, Hurts is making it very clear that this is his team.

Aside from a statistically productive start to the season, Hurts has all of the intangible leadership qualities that teammates are drawn to and will run through a wall for it. He’s also made to survive and thrive in the Philadelphia pressure cooker.

“What I like most about Jalen Hurts is that he’s a very mature guy, especially for his age,” the manager said. “He’s been through a lot and dealt with it properly. Physically he is built for success. He has all the tools you need.”

Joe Lombardi isn’t just the Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive line coordinator, he’s the artist who gets to bring a blank canvas to life each week.

Lombardi’s palates include franchise quarterback Justin Herbert, All-Pro wideout Keenan Allen, Pro Bowl running back Austin Ekeler, and rookie fullback Zander Horvath, who has two touchdowns in his first two NFL games.

Horvath knows a thing or two about artwork, in a way that reflects Lombardi’s creativity and imaginative play calls and schedules each week.

The Purdue rookie is an accomplished artist who has done everything from commissioned photos of homes and landscapes to sketches of his teammates and coaches on request.

The 23-year-old has been drawing since childhood and owes the Chargers star’s love of art from an early age to his mother, who has done several commissioned works over the years.

“I’ve been in the arts my whole life,” Horvath Heavy said over the phone. “It’s the kind of stuff I’ve always been very good at, but I didn’t really start again until that first COVID break. I’ve just had a lot of free time around the house, thought I’d make up for it.”

Horvath’s sketch of a car, which he later posted to Facebook, resonated with family and friends, which not only inspired a lucrative business of drawing commissioned pieces, but also ignited a passion outside of the field.

“I even took some portraits of my teammates and my coach,” Horvath said.

Just as Horvath’s artistry requires meticulous patience; As he explains, first sketching a concept in pencil before adding detail with crayon and finally marking to make the finished product shine, so does his craft on the Gridiron in the Chargers backfield.

“Both definitely require patience,” explains Horvath. “Whether you’re studying, watching movies, or concentrating on the script, you’re not going to get it easily. You have to look at it for a long time, it needs repetition.

“Repetition is what will make you really perfect at something. When I started, my drawings were decent, but the more I made, the better they got. The more you study film and get to know your team, the better you become on the field.

Those reps are already paying dividends.

For now, at least, Hurts is making it very clear that this is his team.

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