The Saints are currently 1.5-point underdogs to the Eagles, according to DraftKings sportsbook, and a key reason is the mobility of Jalen Hurts.
Last time these two teams faced off in 2020, Hurts ran all over the Saints, who had a tough time keeping him from getting out of the pocket and extending plays.
Hurts rushed for 106 yards on 14 carries in a victory for Philly. But what made his numbers more impressive was the diversity in which he acquired them.
His rush tallies were almost split in half between designed runs and scrambles. Of his total rush yards, 56 came off of designed runs and 50 came from scrambles.
This is indicative of the constant threat he poses as a dual threat QB. He not only possesses the ability to stretch the defense vertically as a thrower, but also horizontally as a runner, in addition to being an RPO threat.
But it’s his competence as a passer that really makes him tough to defend. You can’t just stack the box and dare him to throw because he’s more than capable.
His 74.6 PFF passing grade ranks 14th among 37 qualifying QBs and his 19 Big Time Throws (which generally means accurate throws 20+ yards downfield) are tied for fifth-most.
The Saints haven’t really faced many teams with dual threat QBs thus far into the season, but it’s typically been the type of player they struggle with.
It will be imperative to keep him contained in the pocket and use the speed they have at linebacker to limit the effectiveness of his legs.
After all, a ton of his big plays produced in the passing game come after he extends a play outside of the pocket. If you can force him to play from a condensed pocket, he’s capable of it, but it’s not what he wants to do.
It will be interesting to see if Dennis Allen deploys more QB spies and zone coverage to prevent big plays from happening through scrambles.
The NOLA defense has the playmakers to stop Hurts and the Eagles offense, but it will not be an easy task.
If they don’t make a better attempt than they did last season, the Saints could be sitting at .500 by Sunday afternoon.
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