There are huge concerns in Philadelphia about Jalen Hurts because of the injured finger on his throwing hand. He hasn’t thrown much since he hurt it in the season finale. And he …..


There are huge concerns in Philadelphia about Jalen Hurts because of the injured finger on his throwing hand. He hasn’t thrown much since he hurt it in the season finale. And he admitted this week that “everything is a challenge when you have a finger out of place.”


The real worries about Hurts, though, pre-date the injury. And they go a lot deeper than that.

Hurts, quite simply, hasn’t looked Jalen Hurts all season long, and he’s looked even less like himself during the Eagles’ season-ending, six-game slump. He’s completed just 61.1 percent of his passes (110 of 180) for 1,161 yards in the last six games, with only five touchdowns and five interceptions. That’s a stunningly low passer rating of 77.6. And he’s only rushed for a total of 195 yards, too.

Given that, it’s no surprise that the Eagles (11-6) are on a 1-5 slide as they head into their wild-card showdown with the NFC South champion Buccaneers (9-8) in Tampa on Monday night. There are many other reasons for their struggles — like a porous defense, absent pass rush and inconsistent running game. But the biggest question for the Eagles might be the hardest one to answer:

What is wrong with Jalen Hurts?

“To be completely honest with you, I think the last couple of weeks Jalen has been playing some really, really clean football in terms of what he’s seeing, what he’s processing, how he’s looking at it,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. “We just have to continue to make the most of every possession and put ourselves in the situations where we’re not getting behind the sticks, where we’re not putting ourselves in some unfavorable situations.”

That is about as diplomatic as a coach can be, especially since the last thing the Eagles want to do is admit their $255 million quarterback is a problem, or even has regressed in any way. But the regression is really hard not to see. Hurts’ full-season numbers aren’t bad at all on the surface — a completion percentage of 65.4, 3,858 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, plus 605 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns.

But he’s also thrown a career-high 15 interceptions. Add in five lost fumbles and he’s had 20 turnovers on the season. That’s a huge reason why the Eagles’ offense has looked so out of sync.

“Obviously, these last couple of weeks have not been up to what we want to be able to do,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “We know we’re a top-10 offense. We know we have the people in this building to be that. We’ve got to get back to playing like we have for the most part of the year.”

Even when the Eagles were 10-1, though, the offense wasn’t exactly what it was a year ago when they steamrolled teams on their way to the top seed in the NFC and an appearance in the Super Bowl LVIII. The numbers are relatively similar and they’re still a top-10 offense. But it hasn’t been as consistent or effective. And that has cost them in the last six weeks.

For much of the season, the inconsistency with Hurts was attributed to his injured left knee. He was dealing with a bone bruise that required him to wear a brace. He kept playing through it without missing a game, but there has long been speculation that the injury is more serious than the Eagles have admitted.

Now he might be dealing with a bigger problem. In the first half of the Eagles’ humiliating, season-ending loss to the Giants, he smashed his right hand onto the helmet of Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke. He stayed in the game at first, but clearly was having trouble. The Eagles then pulled him out for the second half.

“Obviously, leaving that game and attempting to go back into that game probably wasn’t physically the best idea, not having much control over the things that I wanted to do,” Hurts said. “But time will tell with that, and I can assure you things are progressing in the right way.”

That was Thursday, before it was clear that he didn’t do much throwing at all in practice, a team source confirmed. He was listed as “limited” in that practice. Then on Friday, during the portion of practice open to the media, he was able to do more light throwing. A team source insisted that Hurts was on track to play in the playoff opener on Sunday.

What’s unclear is how much he’ll be bothered by the injured middle finger, and how effective he will be.

One thing is clear: The way things are going for the rest of the Eagles, they’re going to need Hurts to be good if they want to make any kind of playoff run. And that might not be easy considering how ineffective the Philly offensive line was against the Giants’ blitzing defense last Sunday – and how much more Todd Bowles’ Bucs are likely to blitz him on Monday night.

Hurts figures to be under pressure and on the run. He’ll need to make plenty of plays with his legs and his arms, pushing his battered body to the limits.

If the Eagles are going to return to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to win three straight games on the road and none of them figure to be easy. If they get the Hurts who was an MVP runner-up last year and was an MVP candidate during the first 11 games of this season, they’ll have a chance.

If they get the ineffective, turnover-prone Hurts of the last six weeks, they’re done.

“I know that he’s tough and he’ll do everything that he can do to play through it,” Sirianni said. “I just know how tough he is and how much he can fight through and how much pain he can withstand.

“Obviously, it will be a challenge. And I know that he can overcome because he’s overcame so many different things throughout his football journey. And that’s what makes him special.”

He hasn’t been very special over the last six games, though. The only way the Eagles can survive in the postseason is if Hurts becomes special again.


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