Before A-Day, the last time we saw Jalen Hurts playing was less-than-thrilling. His passing stats - 3-8 for 21 yards - were abysmal. His rushing line looked better - 6 carries for 47 yards, but 31 of those yards came on one play. Most importantly, the team had not scored.
Hurts was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa, who went on to lead the team to a comeback victory. This, naturally, led to endless speculation over which quarterback would be the team’s starter in 2018. Unfortunately for everyone, Tagovailoa’s hand injury at the beginning of spring practice threw a wrench into quarterback competition.
This gave Hurts sole possession of the first team offense in the spring game and a chance to make up for his last performance. Unfortunately, it probably didn’t go as well as he’d hoped.
3rd and 5: Hurts is in shotgun with trips left. He has a three step drop, but he’s already getting pressured. Hurts moves to his right a bit while keeping his eyes downfield. He spots Henry Ruggs (#11) on a little crossing route and rifles it to him. Hurts must not have seen Mack Wilson, however, because the pass goes almost right to him. Wilson leaps and bats it down but is unable to come up with the pick.
1st and 10: Hurts drops back and stands tall in the pocket. For a moment. Quinnen Williams is soon right in his face; and Hurts spins away to his left, running for an 8 yard gain. Now, these plays are hard to truly diagnose without All-22 footage. Were the receivers covered, leaving Hurts with nowhere to throw? Or did Hurts miss an open guy or a window he could’ve hit? I can’t say; but the end result was something we see an awful lot of: Hurts scrambling and running.
1st and 10: Hurts is in the gun with Najee Harris (#22) to his right. Hurts fakes the handoff and looks downfield. He doesn’t see anything and looks to checkdown to a wide open Harris in the flat. Isaiah Buggs (#49) is providing a little pressure, but Hurts has time and space to throw it. He throws it low; and while Harris should have still caught it, it should have been a better pass. Also, Irv Smith may have been breaking open on a corner or out route. He disappears from the screen, though; so it’s hard to tell.
2nd and 10: It’s the very next play, and Damien Harris is the running back now. Hurts gets the snap and looks to his right, giving time for the screen to develop. Then he quickly snaps back to the left and throws a well-placed ball over the defender. It only ends up as a small gain, but it was a good play for Hurts. And this is one of the most maddening things about Hurts to me. He shows he can do it, but the consistency just isn’t there.
3rd and 3: And, again, Hurts has shown he can do it. DeVonta Smith (#6) is the lone receiver on the left; and, on third and short, he just runs a quick hitch past the sticks. Hurts’ first read isn’t there, so he moves on. With defenders bearing down on him, he slings it - admittedly a little high - to Smith, who makes the catch and first down.
1st and 10: On the ensuing play, Hurts is lined up in the pistol with Najee Harris behind him. There are two receivers wide left with Irv Smith lined up next to the left tackle. Hurts fakes the handoff and looks to throw. Either his receivers are covered, or he makes a bad read. He moves to his right, avoiding the behemoth that is Raekwon Davis (#99); but he keeps his eyes downfield. This allows him to find Ruggs, and he makes a nice pass on the run for a first down.
1st and 10: This should be an easy pick-up on first down. The offense has trips left and a lone receiver on the right, and they run a levels concept. The #3 receiver (the very inside man on the left) TE Cam Stewart (#83, the 6’8 former minor league baseball player) runs a 10 yard in route. Ruggs, the slot receiver, runs a little drag route near the line of scrimmage. With LB Ben Davis giving a good 5 yard cushion, Ruggs is wide open. Hurts puts it just a little too far ahead of Ruggs, however; and it falls incomplete.