It’s a Jalen Hurts Problem, Not a Brian Johnson Problem

Unleashing Jalen Hurts will be key to the Eagles blowing out the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Unleashing Jalen Hurts will be key to the Eagles blowing out the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

You never want to be alarmist and make a big deal about a star player struggling after one game. That’s why the criticism of Jalen Hurts’ Week 1 performance against the New England Patriots got a pass.

Hurts was also getting a pass because fans were dropping a lot of the blame on new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. And you can understand why — when trying to figure out who’s to blame between your MVP candidate QB and your new OC, you’re going to assume it’s the new guy.

But that one-week hall pass for Hurts is gone, and it became clear early in Thursday night’s game that Brian Johnson is not the problem so far.

Jalen Hurts’ Struggles

Just look at the pick Hurts threw in the first half.

It’s not that he threw an interception — that happens to everyone. Sometimes defenders make great plays. Sometimes a receiver runs the wrong route. Sometimes a QB misreads a coverage, or the defense disguises it well. Sometimes it’s your offensive coordinator’s fault and he made a totally brutal play-call.

But it’s hard to come up with an explanation for that first-half interception that doesn’t land squarely on Hurts’ shoulders.

There were two defenders there, and if Theo Jackson didn’t pick him off, Camryn Bynum would have.

It looked like Hurts had no idea what the coverage was doing.

It was a pretty straightforward cover-3, with no real wrinkles and no DBs going rogue. But even if Hurts didn’t identify the defense properly, it’s not like that passing lane ever looked free. Jackson was there all the way — even if the safety stayed out on AJ Brown.

And sometimes those dots are too simplistic — and the on-field view didn’t make things so clear. Jackson dropped underneath Smith’s route and was there the whole time. Right in front of Hurts. You don’t make that throw if you’re reading the defense, and you don’t make the throw if you’re freewheeling it schoolyard style.

This is not a play Jalen Hurts makes. He is so much better than this. When you’re drawing up an offense, you don’t even think about “is Jalen Hurts going to make a completely boneheaded read” like this one. An offensive coordinator can’t be in his ear during a play.

And just look what happened on the Eagles’ first scoring drive. Johnson schemed up the kind of ground attack that you just don’t see in the modern NFL. A 16-play drive with 13 rushes, consistently gouging the Vikings defense, and having the right playcall every time.

And that incredible rushing attack continued all night.

Fans are upset with Johnson, but he’s been better than we’re giving him credit for. Receivers are getting open. Rushing lanes are there.

Hurts’ biggest play of the game? It was a throw plenty of QBs in the league could make. It’s nice that he made it, but just as much credit should go to Brian Johnson for getting the open look and DeVonta Smith for torching his defender.

I’m not saying we need to worry about Hurts. A slump doesn’t mean he’s broken. It doesn’t mean he won’t return to playing like the MVP candidate we know he should be.

But I am saying that we can’t just look at Hurts through rose-tinted glasses and pretend he’s playing great while it’s all Brian Johnson’s fault.

Being the star means you carry this team through the good and the bad. And right now, what we’re getting from Hurts is the bad.