Former Eagles receiver Jason Avant spent the 2020 season coaching with the Eagles and got to see Jalen Hurts work every day.
The one thing that really stood out: Hurts never acted like a backup.
Avant recently spoke with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark about a multitude of topics, including what he saw from Hurts during last season, the awkward situation between Hurts and Carson Wentz and plenty more.
“The thing that I loved about Jalen during this process is that Jalen never has a backup mentality,” Avant said to Clark in the 1-on-1.
“And some guys can be offended by that. You never know. Because if the backup thinks he’s better than you, then that’s OK too. You just have to have strong enough skin to be able to deal in that environment as a coach, as an organization and as the starter. You have to be able to deal with that.
“And that’s the one thing that I’ll say about Jalen, is that Jalen has always thought that he was the best quarterback in the room. And he has never said that. He’s never come out and said that. But his disposition says that. And if that made Carson uncomfortable, no one knows.”
Hurts saw the field in limited action the first 11 games of the season but took over as the Eagles’ starting quarterback in the second half against the Packers on Dec. 6. Wentz never played another snap for the Eagles. Hurts went on to start the next four weeks and showed some good signs but overall came back with mixed results.
While many think that the Hurts pick is what eventually helped lead to the downfall of Wentz, which resulted in the trade last week, that wasn’t Hurts’ fault. In fact, Avant said he really liked the confidence that Hurts showed from Day 1.
Everyone saw the same things.
“He’s the most confident guy in the room so he doesn’t believe that anyone’s better than him,” said Avant, who joined the Eagles this past summer as part of the league’s Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Fellowship and then stayed on during the season. “He believes that he’s the best. And I love that about him.”
Everything we’ve heard about Hurts over the last 10-11 months has been pretty consistent: He’s mature, confident and a natural leader. Were there ups and downs during his rookie season? Sure. But those intangible qualities showed up too.
Heck, they showed up before his rookie season when he began working out with some of his new receivers. Even before Wentz was traded, Hurts planned on meeting up with his receivers again this offseason. Hurts’ teammates, especially the younger receivers on the roster, seemed to naturally gravitate toward Hurts.
While Avant made it clear that Wentz was a professional and remained a good teammate during last year, Avant also admitted there were some awkward moments.
“Was it awkward? Yeah, there’s some awkward times,” he said. “But there’s awkward times in every business when there’s a shift happening. And there were a lot of shifts this year. I’m sure that it could have been awkward for Carson or awkward for the offensive coordinator or the head coach, but certain personality types gravitate toward other personality types and I thought Jalen has a very, very robust personality and people just gravitate to him and he’s just more charismatic. That’s the truth.”
Avant said there are certain things from Hurts’ rookie season that will carry over into Year 2. He’s gotten a taste of the game at the NFL level, he’s learned the speed of the game and what throws he can/can’t make.
But Avant also pointed out that entering a season with a new coaching staff and new scheme is like hitting “reset” for a player, especially a young quarterback.
“Do I think he’s going to be better? Yes, I think he’s going to be better because he’s gotten the timing down, all those things,” Avant said. “But hearing new terminology over and over again is never good for anybody on offense. So it’s a reset for the Eagles this year.”
Still, it’s exciting to think about what Hurts might be able to do with a full offseason, something he didn’t have before 2020.
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