As the quarterback for the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team, Jalen Hurts can expect the pressure only to increase as the Philadelphia Eagles try to deliver on the promise of their strong start with a championship season.
Except the former Alabama standout doesn’t recognize pressure.
“I think I’ve been through a ton of different things and a ton of different experiences,” Hurts said on Tuesday. “I’ve always felt like I was born for it, born for the storm and built to overcome anything in front of me. That’s the mentality that I have. I always preach never getting too high, never getting too low and just keeping the main thing the main thing.
“I had a little bit of a reflection the other day because I’m thinking about when you tell someone to be patient. You tell someone to be patient, it’s coming. Be patient, your play is coming, or be patient, whatever. I’m a living testimony of that, so I just keep the main thing the main thing, don’t ride waves, control the things that I can, attack every day.”
The main thing for the Eagles this week is the NFL’s Thursday night game. Philadelphia kicks off Week 9 of the 2022 season against the Houston Texans at 7:15 p.m. CDT Thursday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The contest will be a homecoming game for Hurts, who dreamed of playing on what was then Reliant Stadium as a youngster. While that wish didn’t come true – until Thursday night — Hurts spent an every-boy’s-dream amount of time around the Texans when his godfather Sean Washington worked as the team’s director of player development.
“Going back to Houston, it should be fun,” Hurts said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play in NRG/Reliant Stadium. I’ve spent a lot of time in that city – my childhood, growing up in Houston, going to watch the Texans play, being in the Texans facility as a kid, going to watch high school playoff games in that stadium and not having the opportunity to ever play in it, so I have the opportunity this week, and I’m looking forward to playing back home. It’ll be fun.”
But the homecoming is about a game, not fun and games for Hurts.
“It is exciting to be able to go back home and play in front of the home crowd, where I’m from,” Hurts said. “I think that’s exciting. While it is exciting, my process doesn’t change, my mentality doesn’t change. Every week is a business trip. That’s how I’m treating this week. Nothing changes.”
Texans coach Lovie Smith wants to take the fun out of it for Hurts.
“I definitely think guys are really excited about it, to have a chance to come back, hometown, close to home,” Smith said on Tuesday. “That’s always special. Every player that you talk to would say that.
“We’re not into homecoming, so we don’t want him to have a great homecoming coming back.”
Smith acknowledged that was easier said than done.
Hurts has completed 142-of-212 passes for 1,799 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions and run for 303 yards and six touchdowns on 79 carries in 2022.
“It’s hard,” Smith said about containing Hurts. “He’s maybe the most improved ball player in the league this year. What he can do, there’s a lot of good quarterbacks that can throw it, but he brings so many more things to the table. Keeping him in the pocket, I think for us, it’s better keeping him in the pocket. In the past that’s what we’ve all said. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. Just know right now, he’s been pretty accurate in and out of the pocket. Yes, if he gets on the perimeter, that’s a tougher duty. He’s been tough with what they’ve been doing. I think their offensive scheme is tailored to him also, similar things he was able to do in college. The RPO game with him running it has been pretty special.”
Because of their open date, the Eagles had 13 days between their 26-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 16 and their 35-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Against the Texans, Philadelphia will play its second game in five days.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Hurts said of the crush of getting ready to play on Thursday night. “You have a shorter week as a whole. You have a shorter time to think about things. You have a shorter time to recover. You have all these different things, but it’s a so-what, now-what mentality. It is what it is. I’m going to go out there and play ball.”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.