Howard “The Burger King” Eskin checking in:

Howard:

Obviously scrambles are avoiding pressure in the pocket and not rushing plays. And kneel downs and sneaks are not running plays. So that’s only 65 of the 165 that are actual running plays for Jalen Hurts. Hopefully this helps all the worried rocket scientists. #dopes

This stems from a banal WIP summer discussion about whether or not Jalen Hurts runs too much. We ask this question every time the Eagles have any kind of dual threat QB under center. Same discussion with early career Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and now Jalen Hurts. We even talked about whether or not Carson Wentz was doing enough to shield himself in the open field.

That said, Howard’s numbers mean very little if you don’t have a breakdown of option plays in which Hurts 1) pulled the ball and threw it or 2) pulled the ball and ran it or 3) saw the defensive end staying put and gave it to Miles Sanders instead. Those RPO and zone read plays were a significant part of the Birds’ offense last season, and they really alter the discussion regarding called passes vs. called runs because they ultimately are neither. They can result in several different outcomes based on the read the quarterback is making, which is why you have to put an asterisk on everything the Eagles do offensively. If D’Andre Swift gets 11 carries in the 2023 season opener, we need to determine how many were designed hand offs vs. read plays in which Hurts decided whether or not to give it to him.

There are layers to this.

Of course, whenever we have this discussion, we’re generally talking about whether or not the QB is doing enough to protect himself. Should Hurts throw the ball away more? Should he learn how to slide? Are teams playing the option to get him on the move and line up some clean shots on him? That was one of the theories when he was injured in the Chicago game. When you look at how much Hurts improved in the passing game in 2022, it’s plausible to suggest that he doesn’t need to run as much, because he’s throwing to a pair of elite receivers and a borderline elite tight end. But then you position that thought against the success of scrambles that went for first downs or the double cheek push plays, which moved the chains over and over again, and can make a similarly strong argument that Hurts’ legs are his biggest weapon.

But again, not all running is the same. And the recipient of the ball might not be the only option on that play. Howard’s data is a start, but you need to go a lot deeper to attack this topic because analyzing NFL offense requires so much more nuance and complexity in 2023.