PHILADELPHIA — It sounds cliche, but sometimes hard work really does pay off. The "quarterbacks" of the Philadelphia Eagles' offense and defense have proven this to be true.
Through three weeks, Jalen Hurts and T.J. Edwards have been among the best at their positions, leading the Eagles to their first 3-0 start since the 2016 season.
Hurts won NFC Player of the Month for September, and appears to be an early favorite to win MVP. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Hurts is the highest graded passer through three weeks.
Edwards has dominated in his own right on the other side of the ball. PFF has Edwards graded as the second best linebacker this year, coming off perhaps a career best performance in D.C., where he finished with 10 tackles, including two for a loss, two hits on the quarterback, and a sack.
Since joining the Eagles, Hurts and Edwards have always been among the most reliable players on the roster. Everyone knew there was a certain floor of production because of their unrelenting drive and work ethic.
While that may be true, for us to say we expected Hurts and Edwards to reach this kind of star potential, even with that drive and motor, seems like a reach. Maybe you will say speak for yourself, but even the Eagles didn’t prepare for this!
A knock on Hurts has always been that he has questionable upside as a passer, with average arm strength, inconsistent accuracy, and suspect decision making. He always had elite mobility, but these passing limitations would likely hold him back from being a top 10 quarterback.
Edwards was a great run defender, but he didn’t seem to have the lateral quickness or fluidity to be a good enough coverage linebacker that stays on the field for all three downs.
General manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles front office loved their reliability, but they envisioned smaller roles for both players because of these limitations.
Hurts was drafted to be a long term, top tier backup to Carson Wentz, and even when Wentz was traded after 2020, Roseman still sniffed around for other replacements for Hurts. Some of the players the team was rumored to have interest in were those with a higher ceiling as a passer like Zach Wilson, Russell Wilson, and DeShaun Watson.
When the Eagles didn’t land those quarterbacks, they made sure to cover themselves with a Plan B, trading for an extra first round pick in back-to-back drafts.
As for Edwards, he was an undrafted free agent that was seen as a long term special teams player. While he was very good in that role, the Eagles never prepared for him to be a starter on defense, let alone the every down player he has become.
L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Jatavis Brown, Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton, even Davion Taylor: year after year, Philadelphia brought in players to start over Edwards.
Every year Hurts and Edwards have been on this team, the Eagles have prepared for others to step up in front of them. Yet, every year they are on this team, they continue to prove the front office wrong.
This isn’t to say Hurts and Edwards don’t have talent, and their rise into stardom came from pure will power. This isn’t to say it doesn’t matter how talented a player is or that anyone who works hard can become the best of the best.
That isn’t true.
It is hard not to roll your eyes when an analyst starts with motor as the main strength of a prospect. I always respond by saying, what physical limitations are you hiding by featuring working hard as their best trait?
However, this powerful desire to be great, this Kobe Bryant-like work ethic on the field, in the film room, the weight room, everywhere: it's value shouldn’t be tossed out.
It has allowed two of the most important players on the Eagles to overcome many limitations; limitations that have held back player after player from reaching the heights Hurts and Edwards have now reached.