The Eagles’ big bet on Kellen Moore fixing Jalen Hurts will define their season

Kellen Moore leaving the Los Angeles Chargers for the Philadelphia Eagles was among the biggest hires of the NFL offseason. Moore has always been an odd look at an NFL offensive coordinator. While in Dallas, he got all of the credit as a coordinator, but then when the Cowboys’ offense wasn’t doing well, he would get none of the blame. When he went to Los Angeles, the hope was that Moore would separate himself as one of the best coordinators in the league, yet something felt off.

The Cowboys’ and Chargers’ respective offenses felt the same in both their highs and lows. With Justin Herbert healthy, the Chargers were more explosive downfield (Herbert’s aDOT was higher than any year since he’s been the starter, per Sports Information Solutions). A complaint about the Cowboys’ offenses from when Moore was the coordinator was how static they were, but as the Chargers’ OC, Moore helped Los Angeles finish eighth in motion rate, per ESPN’s Seth Walder.

The run game also felt like it had more punch, mixing in duo with their inside zone runs (part of that was Rashawn Slater’s healthy return to form). Yet, the lows felt all too similar. Much of the offense was reliant on Herbert’s lightning quick processing and isolation routes on the outside, creating an offense that is extremely constrained. While this could be attributed to injuries across the board, Moore’s offense felt more like a collection of plays than anything more cohesive.

Now, Moore goes to Philadelphia, where the offense last year was constipated at best. An RPO-based quick game built around the QBs strengths as a runner only works when the QB is fully healthy, and Hurts just didn’t look that way at all over the last stretch of the season. From Week 10 of last season on, Hurts was the worst QB on designed QB run plays for any signal caller with over 10 carries, and that took an adverse effect on the offense. With Shane Steichen in Indianapolis, the passing game felt less dynamic, with less easy offense over the middle of the field, reliant on RPOs and bailout balls to WRs AJ Brown and Devonta Smith.

Moore comes in to try and save not only the Eagles’ long term offensive outlook, but perhaps the job of head coach Nick Sirianni, but I think right now I have more questions than answers.

Kellen Moore and Jalen Hurts is an odd QB/coach pairing

Stylistically, there couldn’t be a bigger difference between Jalen Hurts and the QBs Kellen Moore has had in his career. While Moore has been accustomed to insanely quick processors and robot QBs in the underneath passing game, Hurts is nothing of the sort. Most of Moore’s QBs in Dallas and Los Angeles were processing what the defense was showing them at an extremely quick clip, and able to get the ball underneath before the play went to chaos. Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert were able to run all of Moore’s seven-yard stop route offense because they were quick in their dropback and even quicker getting the ball out.

Hurts, on the other hand, is more of an RPO-based QB, and that’s been the exact same throughout his entire career. Since Hurts became the starter in 2021, there’s never been a season that he hasn’t finished below seventh in RPO attempts in the entire league, including two top finishes in the last two years. You can attribute this to the offense he ran, sure, but in the non-RPO quick game, Hurts isn’t as developed as a passer as Herbert and Prescott. In the quick game, he’s not as quick of a processor, making the RPO game the go-to for the Eagles’ offense.

Jalen Hurts and Kellen Moore: The Odd Couple

Player RPO Attempts (rank) Non-RPO Quick Game Attempts (rank) Short-yardage (<10 air yards) Positive Play Rate (min. 300 atts, 200 for Prescott ’22) Intermediate (11-20 Air Yards) Attempts
Player RPO Attempts (rank) Non-RPO Quick Game Attempts (rank) Short-yardage (<10 air yards) Positive Play Rate (min. 300 atts, 200 for Prescott ’22) Intermediate (11-20 Air Yards) Attempts
Jalen Hurts ’23 (17 games) 65 (1st) 422 (10th) 42.7% (13th) 76 (20th)
Justin Herbert ’23 (13 games) 33 (8th) 363 (13th) 44.7% (8th) 73 (21st)
Dak Prescott ’22 (12 games) 20 (17th) 256 (21st) 50.7% (2nd) 86 (14th)

Hurts leaves a bit of meat on the bone in the quick game, sometimes missing passes wide or not getting to the underneath route because he’s sensing pressure that isn’t fully there yet. Take this play for example. It’s 3rd and 6 against the Bills, who are in Cover 2. The tight end comes open underneath because the slot defender runs with Devonta Smith, but Hurts takes his eyes down because of pressure, choosing to run instead of hit his tight end for a chance to get yards after the catch. The Chargers under Moore finished sixth in the NFL in Yards After the Catch. the Eagles? 25th. That’s a major part of the offense that Hurts hasn’t really gotten to.

Last year’s Eagles offense was really weird in terms of both process and execution, but Hurts struggled again in the dropback passing game and under pressure. Where previous QBs under Moore like Prescott and Herbert are better under pressure, Hurts is a bit hit or miss. QBs can beat pressure with their arm, their brain, or their legs; Hurts chooses to do so with his legs, which is fine, but we’ve seen the Eagles’ offense fall apart under pressure and against the blitz. Moore is going to need to get Hurts to play better in the quick game and under pressure for this offense to work.

Not only is this a weird pairing due to Hurts’ drawbacks as a passer, but in Hurts’ entire career he has been a shotgun-based QB. Since Hurts was drafted, he’s only thrown the ball from under center more than 10 times once, in 2021. In the run game, the Eagles with Hurts as QB have taken less under center run snaps each year. Which makes sense because of how lethal Hurts is as a runner, but again, this doesn’t really mesh with the QBs Kellen Moore has designed an offense for.

Moore seems to be agreeable to whatever the head coach wants, but none of his offenses feel truly like “his”. What is a Kellen Moore offense? What are the calling cards? What does he even do? I wonder what Moore will bring to the Eagles’ offense, to solve the problems that plagued them last year. The one thing that we know Moore doesn’t really do is involve his QBs in the run game, but again, he’s never had a QB like Hurts. So what could the Eagles’ offense look like, in order to blend both what Hurts is good at and what Moore likes to run?

Loads Pistol with efficient intent

That’s right folks, get in we’re running the pistol offense. I’ve long been an advocate for the pistol offense in the modern NFL game, simply because it provides the best of both worlds. With NFL defenses preparing more and more for outside zone runs, pistol allows teams to get into gap scheme and run counter or duo from that alignment. It also allows for coordinators to keep their RPOs in the offense, because you’re still in gun.

Furthermore, if you have a running QB like the Eagles have in Hurts, you can truly get the benefits of a downhill run game, combined with the threat of the QBs legs, and the RPOs still built into the offense. Among teams that ran the pistol offense at least 20 times on the ground, the Eagles were seventh in EPA per rushing attempt and third in total EPA through the air. Where Moore can blend what his offense might be into what Philly already has with their QB is through the pistol offense, and helping expand Hurts’ game as a passer as well.

When Philadelphia dabbled in pistol offense in 2023, it was largely to take shots down field. The aDOT on all pistol passes was first in the NFL at 14.4 yards (min. 10 attempts). Philly would get into 12 personnel and run heavy play action and throw the ball downfield. This is a threat because of how good their run game is, it pulls those linebackers up, and the MOF area that has been elusive in Hurts’ career is now pried open.

This also allows the Eagles to diversify their run game. Philadelphia, like I said previously, is predominantly a gun run team. Even with Hurts being as dynamic of a runner as he is, you’re still limited in the stuff you can do in gun. Philly was largely an inside zone and outside zone running team, with former center Jason Kelce folding in. With the pistol, Philly can lean more into gap scheme and get their backs downhill quicker.

Saquon Barkley will help, but the Eagles will sink or swim with Jalen Hurts

One of the biggest off-season signings was when the Eagles signed Saquon Barkley, and it was a much needed signing for what the offense might need. Barkley is an explosive runner, yes, but he can also catch passes out the backfield and gives effort as a pass blocker. With Moore using his backs a lot in the passing game (see: Austin Ekeler fantasy points last year), Barkley can be another easy offense option in the passing game.

Yet, this offense will sink or swim based on Jalen Hurts. Hurts is unlike any QB Moore has had, but if both guys can work within each other’s strengths, there’s no reason for the Eagles to not bounce back in 2024.

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