The Washington Commanders' defense faced a drastic step up in quarterback play last week with Josh Allen coming to FedExField. They'll face another difficult test this week.
After allowing Allen to put up 264 total yards and two touchdowns, the Commanders will go up against a similar quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who has the Philadelphia Eagles at 3-0 for the second straight season.
"Every part of his game has continued to grow and blossom," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "He's a good football player. He's improving as a passer, and he's dangerous with his legs and a very good leader."
That about sums up who Hurts has been for the Eagles since he took over the starting role for them permanently in 2021. In that span, Hurts has completed 65% of his passes for 7,485 yards with 41 touchdowns compared to just 18 interceptions. It's a drastic improvement from his rookie season, when he was considered more of a long-term project that needed to develop as a passer before even being considered a possibility as a starter.
Running the ball is still a key part of Hurts' skill set; since he was drafted, he's amassed 1,998 yards with 29 scores. But since he's been the full-time starter, Hurts has found a way to balance both attributes and use them to elevate the entire offense.
"They adapted their offensive scheme to fit him," head coach Ron Rivera said of the Eagles. "I thought that was a brilliant move by [Eagles Head] Coach Nick [Sirianni]. I think it really kind of highlighted his abilities and then the confidence in which he came back last season and played that was even more impressive."
Hurts put up MVP-caliber numbers in 2022 as the team rushed out to a 10-0 start before ultimately finishing with a 14-3 record with 3,701 passing yards, 760 yards on the ground and 35 total touchdowns.
Part of that comes with the Eagles adjusting to a new offensive coordinator. With Shane Steichen now the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, former quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson was promoted to take over as the play-caller. The adjustment has had a slight effect on the Eagles and Hurts' production to start the season.
At this time last year, the Eagles were tied for the second most yards per play (6.4). This year, however, the Eagles are 11th at 5.4 yards per play. It's a small, but noticeable difference for an offense that averaged 389 yards per game in 2022.
It can be seen in Hurts' play as well. Through three games, Hurts is 14th in yards per attempt (6.9) and 22nd in yards per completion (10.2). Last year: third in yards per attempt (8.0) and tied for third in yards per completion (12.1).
Not that it's necessarily stopped the Eagles from putting up points. They're still a top 10 unit in points per game (7th) and yards per game (6th). Hurts also looked more like himself during their 25-11 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, throwing for 277 yards on a completion rate of 62%.
"This year, you see the same steady guy," Rivera said.
Hurts also added 28 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against the Buccaneers, which is another wrinkle the Commanders will need to prepare for with Hurts. Washington had issues with that last week against Allen, who had three carries for 46 yards. It will be important for the defense to shore up any issues they had with rush discipline from a week ago.
"There's a frustration that comes with it too when you feel like you should be making a sack, you should be making a play. It gets to guys, it does," Rivera said.