The Possibility of a QB Spy in the Upcoming Eagles Game

Dec 27, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Carson Wentz (11) and Jalen Hurts (2) talk with head coach Doug Pederson (C) during a timeout against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As the Vikings know, Jalen Hurts is very capable of doing damage as both a passer and a runner.

Last week, Philadelphia’s QB had some impressive stats. He threw for nearly 250 yards, and he also had 17 carries for 90 yards. He ran for 784 yards last year. He’s a uniquely-gifted player, someone who has surely caused some stress among Minnesota’s defensive coaches.

Ed Donatell should have some good familiarity with what the Philadelphia offense can do. Denver had a strong defense in 2021 with Donatell as the coordinator. However, they did have some struggles when they played Hurts and the Eagles. Can his Vikings defense do better?

Jalens Hurts, The Vikings, and a QB Spy

Hurts had some success against Donatell’s Broncos in 2021. Take a look at this play:

In this play, the Eagles benefit from having their RB and OL move to the left. Meanwhile, the Eagles get their QB moving toward the right sideline with a couple pass blockers out front. In so doing, it helps to create time for DeVonta Smith to fly down the field while helping protect Hurts from the pass rush. The young QB gives his receiver a chance to win his matchup; he was rewarded for doing so. Smith scored an excellent touchdown as the Eagles extended their lead.

As the above play demonstrates, the Eagles are more than capable of doing damage through the air. If the Vikings overcommit to the guarding the run, then Jalen Hurts can find his receiver for a sizeable gain.

What’s the solution?

Thankfully, Minnesota has some wonderful talent on the defensive side of the ball. To my mind, it’d make some sense to really lean on Eric Kendricks (or possibly Harrison Smith) to help corral Philly’s QB. In the above video, Donatell is asked about spying Hurts. Minnesota’s DC notes that his defense will need to employ multiple strategies to shut down Hurts, suggesting that a QB spy is an option for some moments in the game.

Envision a scenario where Minnesota wants to commit to limiting the damage Hurts can do with his legs. Kendricks might be tasked with acting as a QB spy in critical moments. This would mean that the veteran LB would be tasked with keeping an eye on the QB after the ball is snapped, following him wherever he goes. If Hurts starts to move toward the sideline, Kendricks will go with him. If Hurts tries to escape for a run, Kendricks does his best to make the tackle promptly. And so on.

Kendricks is now 30-years-old, so it’s possible he’s a bit slower than he used to be (he ran a 4.6 forty). Even still, he can regularly make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He only had 4 tackles last week, though he did add on a pass defended. As the season continues, I expect to see Kendricks getting better and better as he settles into Donatell’s defense.

Kendricks is a smart player, someone who must put a lot of work into studying film. My thinking is simply that it’s hard to make the game look so instinctive without spending some time studying. Partnering hard work & intelligence & speed means the Vikings may have a LB capable of spying Hurts.

Looking Ahead

In reality, the Vikings will need their full defense to slow down Jalen Hurts. Exclusively relying on one player to contain the young QB is probably a misguided plan. And, for whatever it’s worth, there is some doubt that a QB spy would have been successful for Detroit:

Defensively, it’ll take a great effort from several players to limit the damage Philly can do. Miles Sanders, A.J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith will be partnering with an elite OL and gifted QB. Finding a way to limit what they’re able to do is crucial. It’s difficult to completely shutdown everything an offense does well. Identifying an area or two to really make challenging is often a far better approach.

If Minnesota is able to contain Hurts in the running game, perhaps the Eagles won’t be able to replicate their excellent Week 1 performance.