Jalen Hurts Watch 2022: Eagles QB connects with A.J. Brown early and often

The Eagles made a huge investment in A.J. Brown this offseason, trading a first- and third-round pick for the Pro Bowl wideout and handing him a new contract worth up to $100 million. If Saturday’s training camp practice is any indication, the Birds are going to be getting their money’s worth with Brown, as Jalen Hurts consistently connected with the receiver in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills down at the NovaCare Complex in South Philly.

In terms of Hurts specifically, it was another uneven practice for the team’s QB1, which has been a common occurrence in camp, but there was more good than bad on Saturday. I’ve charted all of Hurts’ first-team reps during the training camp practices I’ve attended and continued to do so on Saturday. Brown is Hurts’ BFF off the field and that chemistry is carrying over to the field. Hurts never looks better than when he’s targeting the star WR. 

Here’s a play-by-play breakdown of what I saw from Hurts:

Things began with 11-on-11s from the 50-yard line…

• Play 1: Hurts sails a pass out of bounds to Brown on a comeback route. Does this contradict the opening of my story? Yes, but better plays are coming.

• Play 2: The Birds run a screen pass to the left to Miles Sanders, but new linebacker Kyzir White promptly sniffs it out and wraps up the running back for what would’ve been a loss of yards in a real game setting. The Eagles have been getting a lot from their LBs in camp with White and T.J. Edwards being particular standouts. 

• Play 3: Brown motions in a couple of yards from the left side of the line and then runs a hitch route in the second level of the defense for a 10-ish yard pickup on the pitch and catch from Hurts. It’s been my biggest refrain during Hurts’ practices: just throw the ball on slants and quick over the middle routes to Brown. The team has a star receiver. Put the ball in his hands. 

• Play 4: Hurts goes over the middle to Dallas Goedert, but the pass is broken up by White. It was a bit of a forced throw. Goedert wasn’t open and Hurts didn’t “throw him open.” 

• Play 5: The Eagles were once again working without left tackles Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard, both out with concussions. The offensive line play was better than it was on Thursday, but there are still warts showing when they’re missing key guys out there. The pocket collapses pretty easily on this once. Hurts tries to maneuver around and get outside to throw on the run, but it was a “sack” by second-year defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, who’s flashed at times this summer (obviously, players can’t really tackle the QB in practice). 

• Play 6: The best throw of the day for QB1. The Eagles are stacked left with Zach Pascal and Quez Watkins, but Hurts looks right and lofts a ball 40 yards downfield to Brown, who somehow doesn’t come down with the near-perfect pass. Darius Slay was on him in coverage. This one should’ve been “touchdown.” It’s frustrating for fans to read about Hurts at times with his inconsistency, but when you see him make throws like this, you get the feeling that he just needs to get into a rhythm for once and he can be markedly better than he was in 2021. 

When the first-team offense retakes the field, the Eagles are doing 11-on-11 work from their own 25-yard line…

• Play 7: Hurts targets Brown running a slant across the middle from the left, but Fletcher Cox deflected the ball at the line of scrimmage. Hurts certainly isn’t Kyler Murray out there, but he’s on the shorter side for pro QBs at 6’1″ and seriously needs to avoid those dangerous plays. 

• Play 8: It’s a run-pass option look for the Eagles, as Hurts finds Goedert on a comeback route to his right for a gain of eight-ish yards. 

• Play 9: Another big play for QB1. Hurts hits Goedert about 25 yards down the seam in stride. I wouldn’t call it a “touchdown” but Goedert is a big run-after-the-catch tight end and I could’ve seen him breaking this one against a smaller safety in Marcus Epps for a huge gain in a real game setting.

• Play 10: Hurts hands it off to Kenny Gainwell, who goes up the gut for a gain of six-ish yards. 

• Play 11: The Birds go play action and Hurts finds Brown on a slant route 20-ish yards down the field in stride. Hurts didn’t have his most consistent practice of the summer, but this one may have featured his best throws. A high-ceiling/low-floor day for the third-year quarterback. 

7-on-7 time from the team’s own 35…

• Play 12: A little underneath throw to the left to Brown for five-ish yards.

• Play 13: Hurts chucks it deep, but it’s underthrown to Quez Watkins. Slay is in coverage and picks it off. Contrast this play with his “touchdown” to Brown from earlier and that’s the type of variance Hurts has been playing with in camp. 

• Play 14: None of Hurts’ reads appear to be there and he tucks the ball and runs. I’ve written this previously when it’s happened, but you just can’t run the ball in 7-on-7s. It’s a passing drill inherently structured for the offense to perform well. Can’t happen!

• Play 15: It’s a gain of about seven yards to Goedert as Hurts throws to his left. He needs to target that area of the field more this year and he’s done so this summer, but with mixed results. I will say, however, that Hurts looked much improved throwing over the middle compared to 2021. 

• Play 16: Basically the same deal as Play 15.

• Play 17: Hurts finds Jalen Reagor on a crossing route running right. There was a lot of open field in front of Reagor and it could’ve been a nice YAC opportunity if it was a real game. 

Hurts’ next time out on the field, the Eagles go back to 11-on-11s from their own 45-yard line… 

• Play 18: Hurts hands it off to Sanders, but he fumbles the ball at the line of scrimmage.

• Play 19: Watkins runs a quick little bubble route to Hurts on his left, as the QB finds Watkins for a marginal gain. I wouldn’t call this a bubble screen given the offensive line scheme, but Watkins appeared to be Hurts’ first read. 

• Play 20: Hurts hits Goedert 10 yards downfield. Looked good! 

• Play 21: Hurts hands it off to Sanders, who takes it up the middle for a decent gain. 

• Play 22: It’s a run-pass option look here. Hurts throws to Reagor to his left. Poorly thrown ball that’s a bit of a 50-50 opportunity for Reagor and undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Josh Jobe. Reagor nearly comes down with it, but can’t hold on with Jobe’s physical coverage. I would not count this as a drop for Reagor. Tough, tough play. He wasn’t open to begin with. 

• Play 23: The offensive line gets totally blown up on this one. It’s a “sack” for SAM linebacker Patrick Johnson, who’s in his second year with the team after being a seventh-round pick out of Tulane in 2021. 

11-on-11 red zone session to finish up the day… 

• Play 24: Hurts keeps it on a read-option run up the middle. Small gain.

• Play 25: Hurts checks it down right to Sanders for a gain of five-or-so yards. 

• Play 26: The Birds are inching closer to the end zone here and are around the 10 going in. Hurts hits his first read, Watkins out in the flat to his left. Short gain on this one and no “touchdown.”

• Play 27: Sanders punches one in after a handoff from Hurts to end the first team’s reps with a “touchdown.” 

Like I said, it was an uneven day for Hurts, but I thought it was more bad than good. Just throw the ball to Brown when the games start for real. It’s easy! The guy gets open on his own and is in a league of his own physically. The easiest way for the Birds to manufacture nice passing gains is to force-feed Brown. It’s the whole reason they traded for him and gave him that big extension. 

Hurts’ “statline” on the day: 13/19, one “should’ve been touchdown” and one interception. 

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