With NFL training camps set to open across the NFL over the next ten days, it’s time for bold or in Bill Barnwell’s case, against the grain predictions.
Using historical evidence and roster improvement, ESPN took a look at six against the grain predictions for the 2021 NFL season. Eagles’ second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts made the list and Barnwell believe he’ll improve tremendously as a passer.
What happens next is up in the air, but my suspicion is that the Eagles won’t be as injured in 2021, particularly along the offensive line. Many of the players jettisoned were perennially dealing with injury problems and/or at the tail end of their careers. Some of the players left have injury histories, too, but Philadelphia has a much better shot of fielding an above-average offensive line in 2021. Given that it ranked toward the bottom of the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate (31st), a healthier line could do wonders for Jalen Hurts’ efficiency as a passer in Year 2.
Andre Dillard or Jordan Mailata will start at left tackle, while Seumalo will get the nod at left guard, as Landon Dickerson lurks in the background. Jason Kelce is the pillar at the center, while a healthy Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson will play the biggest roles in Hurts’ progression as a dual-threat option.
As Reuben Frank pointed out earlier this week on NBC Sports Philadelphia, Hurts can only improve as a passer entering his second season and some of the NFL’s top passers all hovered in the 54 to 55 percent range of accuracy during their rookie seasons.
A lot of quarterbacks who relied heavily on their running ability in college struggle with their accuracy early in their NFL careers as they begin to acclimate to the pro passing game. Randall Cunningham completed 42 percent of his passes as a rookie but completed 55 percent of his passes the rest of his Eagles career (the league average was 55.8 percent during that span). Donovan McNabb was at 49 percent as a rookie but up to 58 percent by Year 2. Look around the league. Josh Allen was just under 53 percent as a rookie, then 59 percent in Year 2, and over 69 percent last year. Even pocket passers like Matt Stafford (53 percent as a rookie, 63 percent since) and Andrew Luck (54 percent as a rookie, 62 percent the rest of his career) made huge strides in accuracy in Year 2. Experience is a valuable tool
Hurts will reap the benefits from having DeVonta Smith as his No. 1 wideout, along with a renewed commitment to the running game behind Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen.