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How Jalen Hurts' Injury Affects Eagles' Playoff Run

Jalen Hurts

The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record in the league and are vying for a No. 1 seed to secure a first-round bye. It’s safe to say they have aspirations beyond a top seed and their eyes set on the Super Bowl. Jalen Hurts, an MVP candidate, shoulders much of the responsibility for the Eagles' success, and now his shoulder is hurt. To complicate matters more, it's his throwing shoulder.

The Eagles ruled out Hurts for their upcoming matchup against the Cowboys. Hurts was absent from practice on Wednesday while recovering from his sprained right shoulder, but both he and head coach Nick Sirianni initially said there was a chance he could play this Saturday. Although Hurts will be absent this weekend, he will undoubtedly return to the lineup for the Eagles' playoff push.

The bigger question isn’t when Hurts will return but how effective he will be when he is back on the field. Since we have the capabilities at SIS to quickly filter through the data, we’ll shed some light on how quarterbacks with similar injuries fared in the past.

Hurts is a versatile threat for the Eagles, as he can produce at a high level while passing and rushing. A consequence of rushing QBs is that they expose themselves to more hits. More hits in a violent game usually equate to an increased risk of injury. But another dual-threat QB suffered a similar injury earlier this season, and he’s doing just fine.

Justin Fields sprained his shoulder during Week 11 of this season, albeit to his left arm instead, but hasn’t shown any negative effects since his return. Fields missed one game because of his injury but rushed the ball six times his first game back and another fifteen this past weekend. This suggests that Hurts can return to his regular rushing usage, but how will he do throwing the ball?

A Historical Analysis of QB Shoulder Sprains

Since 2017, we found six starting QBs that sprained their throwing shoulder. We looked at their production before and after their injury, and that can be seen in the table below. Two of the QBs, Jameis Winston and Kyler Murray, injured their shoulder twice during the season, thus their pre-injury calculation is before their initial injury, and their post-injury numbers are after their second injury.

QB Season Week(s) Injured Games Missed Pre On-Tgt % Post On-Tgt% Pre ADoT Post ADoT Pre IQR* Post IQR*
Alex Smith 2017 2 0 90% 81.7% 6.8 8.0 137.4 109.8
Jameis Winston 2017 6, 9 0, 3 77.7% 81.9% 11.1 10.1 92.2 98.8
Mitch Trubisky 2018 11 2 74.8% 76.8% 9.3 7.2 98 87.4
Sam Darnold 2020 4 2 78.3% 75.4% 7.3 8.2 75.8 72.2
Kyler Murray 2020 9, 11 0, 0 80.6% 80.8% 8.3 7.4 108.8 89.2
Matt Ryan 2022 7 2 77.7% 77.6% 6 6.7 89.1 84.9

*IQR: Sports Info Solutions’ proprietary metric builds on the traditional Passer Rating formula by considering the value of a quarterback independent of results outside of his control, such as dropped passes, dropped interceptions, throwaways, etc.

As you can see, each quarterback's numbers remain relatively the same. Smith demonstrated the sharpest decline, but it's tough to match his four-touchdown performance during Week 1 of that season.

Three of the six QBs, Winston, Mitchell Trubisky and Murray, had a reduction in their ADoT after their injuries, but the On-Tgt% remained similar. Did the shoulder injury prevent those three from pushing the ball down the field? Maybe, as each of their post-injury values are either below or close to their lowest season ADoT as a starter.

The most interesting QB on this list is Murray. Murray is a dual-threat option, much like Hurts and Fields are. Although he didn’t miss a game, he did injure his shoulder again and saw a decline in his ADoT and IQR. Was the shoulder injury the culprit behind that reduction? That is difficult to say in a game where multiple variables impact outcomes on each play, but it should be considered.

The biggest takeaway from this investigation is that Hurts' rushing impact will likely be unaffected when he returns. I’d expect his On-Tgt% to remain the same as it has for each of the other QBs within the table. The biggest question may be whether his injury will affect his ability to push the ball down the field. He currently ranks eighth this season among QBs with greater than 300 attempts with an ADoT of 8.3. It will be worth monitoring once he returns.

Prepared by James Rodriguez PT, DPT, with contributions from James Weaver