John McMullen: The Eagles are a Jalen Hurts-first team

DETROIT – If Monty Hall invades your dreams as an Eagles fan, take Door No. 3.

The debate will continue to rage in the coming weeks with both sides of the fence hunkered down. The old-school “Philadelphia should be a run-first team” vs. the new-age y”ou gotta throw it crowd to be a consistent winner in the NFL” camp.

If the Eagles’ 38-35 season-opening win over the relentless but talent-deficient Detroit Lions in front of a raucous crowd at Ford Field taught you anything, it should be to take the detour on Waze to avoid all the pedestrian thinkers.

The Eagles are a Jalen Hurts-first team and while that might be unconventional, it produced 455 yards of total offense with 333 of that directly tied to the QB1, 243 yards passing, and another 90 on the ground.

“He’s very slick,” Lions rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez said of Hurts. “I played him in college when he was at OU (Oklahoma). He’s very slick and obviously, he’s progressed in the league.“

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was most impressed by Hurts’ command of the offense in a chaotic atmosphere.

“I thought he was in complete control of checking the plays, getting the different things, noticing – noting what the defense was doing,” Sirianni said of his QB. “He had complete control of what he was doing on out there today.”

The most impressive part of Hurts’ arsenal remains his legs whether it’s with off-schedule offense or the read-option looks that put edge defenders on skates.

“That turns into frustration when he keeps getting out and going, boom, and it’d turn into a big play that ended up being a scoring drive for us, and so his legs were huge,” Sirianni said. “What an unbelievable thing to be able to have as a coach. Oh, we called that, didn’t work? He made it right.”

Lions coach Dan Campbell quickly ascertained the difference in the game as well.

“We struggled with their quarterback,” Campbell said. “Hurts hurt us. So, he’s a good player, but we got to be able to respond to those things.”

On more than a few occasions the Detroit defenders believed they had Hurts bottled up only to be grabbing ghosts.

“We had a lot of I’m almost in position – I am – I got a hand on him and we just couldn’t close it out,” Campbell said. “Look, I think we will be better for that. You know, you face a guy like that and there was a number of guys out there. It’s the first game of the season, it’s a full game – now you’re in the real tempo, real NFL tempo against real dudes.”

Linebacker Alex Anzalone was one of those players facing the realest dude on the field Sunday.

“I think in the [conventional] run game, we did a good job against them,” said Anzalone. “It was more of the pass, drop back, scramble situations that we weren’t able to contain him.

“Obviously, that was a focus and a point of emphasis this week, so we’ve just got to figure out how to be disciplined and our rush lanes and where the help is in coverage situations and get it cleaned up.”

Hurts’ presence enabled Miles Sanders to run for 96 yards and his first touchdown since December 2020 at over 7.0 yards per clip, and A.J. Brown to explode with 10 receptions matching a career-high of 155 yards and setting an Eagles’ record when it comes to franchise debuts.

“It just creates more pressure on having someone watching Hurts and staying disciplined in the pass rush,” Anzalone admitted.

“Jalen Hurts, shoutout to him for putting the ball in good spots and his receiver A.J. Brown making good catches,” Lions DB Tracy Walker said. “So, sometimes you can have great coverage and at the end of the day, the quarterback and receiver make a better throw and catch.”

With all the accolades from the opposing locker room after 31 points from his offense and well over 400 total yards, Hurts still noted the standard wasn’t met.

“I think for us we walk away from this game, and you talk about the standard for ourselves and the standard, it only rises,” Hurts said. “We know we didn’t play to the standard that we wanted to play to consistently all this afternoon. We know we didn’t meet our standard.

“But it’s a great feeling knowing you didn’t meet the standard, but you still were resilient enough, had enough dog in you to find a way to win.”

John McMullen is a contributor to and covers the Eagles and the NFL for Sports Illustrated and JAKIB Sports. He’s also the co-host of “Birds 365,” a daily streaming show covering the Eagles and the NFL, and the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at Follow John on Twitter here.

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