PHILADELPHIA − A year ago at this time, who saw Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence as the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL?
Yet here they are, ranked among the best QBs in the NFL as Hurts and the Eagles face Lawrence and the Jaguars on Sunday.
Hurts was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month as the Eagles started 3-0. Hurts ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 106.5, having thrown four TD passes against just one interception while completing 67.3% of his passes. He's third in yards passing with 916.
In addition, Hurts has run for 167 yards, second among NFL quarterbacks, and three more TDs.
Lawrence, named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, is right behind Hurts in passer rating at 103.1. He has thrown for 772 yards with six TDs and just one INT.
Sure, each team was hoping for such improvement. After all, Lawrence was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Hurts was picked in the second round in 2020.
But this quickly?
At this point last season, Hurts had started seven games, including four at the end of the 2020 season. He had completed 57.8% of his passes, threw for 10 TDs and five INTs, and had a passer rating of 86.5.
Lawrence, through his first three NFL games last season, completed 54.2% of his passes with five TDs and seven INTs, with a rating of 60.3.
And yet, both quarterbacks said they have a long way to go.
Hurts: "It’s an ongoing journey. … If you think one day that you’ve arrived, you won’t because there is no arrival; there’s only the journey."
Lawrence to reporters who cover the Jaguars: "Obviously, I'm happy with the way I played, but I know there are things I can do better. There are things that this offense can do better, so we're going to focus on the things we need to improve on."
Jaguars coach Doug Pederson, who was the Eagles coach in 2020 when Hurts was drafted, said the key for both is natural growth in Year Two. Both teams added weapons around the quarterback. The Eagles traded for A.J. Brown last spring after drafting DeVonta Smith in the first round in 2021.
Brown is fourth in receiving yards with 309, while Smith is 11th with 249 (all in the last two games after getting shut out in the opener).
The Jaguars signed free agent receivers Christian Kirk (eighth with 267 yards) and Zay Jones (173).
For all of that to work, though, the quarterback has to command respect. Hurts has done that. Pederson said Lawrence is doing that as well.
"Embrace who Trevor is as an athlete, as a quarterback in this league and make him the best he can be," Pederson said. "How he can best use his talent on game day. Show him how to be a leader. Show him how to be a guy in the locker room that people want to go to and respect. Those are all things that come with the territory as a quarterback."
Lawrence showed that he had those skills at Clemson. That's why Eagles safety K'Von Wallace, who was Lawrence's teammate there, said he's not surprised by Lawrence's rapid improvement.
"This is the Trevor Lawrence that I know," Wallace said. "He went No. 1 overall, so he’s literally one person trying to change the whole organization ... It was just like his freshman year at college. He wasn’t the starter right away. He had to earn his way. He had to get better and better. I feel like that’s the same thing that’s happening here."
3 questions with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
The Eagles traded for safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on Aug. 29, just minutes after they waived starting safety Anthony Harris. Yet Gardner-Johnson, who was actually a nickel corner in New Orleans, was ready to play Week One against Detroit. He has played all but four snaps this season.
Question: How have you picked up the defense so quickly?
Answer: I’m a professional. Not to be disrespectful or anything, but they brought me in to do certain things. So I’m going to have fun. Call the defense, call the shots. (Safety) is a whole new position for me. I think I’m filling in well. I think the guys brought me in, helped me learn. When you’re a professional, you just dive in to what you need to focus on.
You and Brandon Graham, both big trash-talkers, have a handshake?
I’m the most energetic guy on the team. That’s what they brought me here for, to play defense and win football games. That’s what I’ve been doing, making sure I gel with everybody, not just the back-end guys. It’s all across the board, from offense to defense to special teams for me.
You have family in Florida. What was this week like with the hurricane going through?
They're fine. I’m praying for all the families in Florida, not just mine. A Category 5 from north to south, then east to west, that’s very scary. I’m from Cocoa (on the east coast). But I also got family in the central (part) and the south. I'm making sure everybody is taken care of. It’s been a long week trying to focus with football and the hurricane. It’s a lot right now.
The Eagles are the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL, while the Jaguars are a Carson Wentz-led fourth-quarter comeback from joining them. Both have top-10 offenses (the Eagles are No. 1) and top-10 defenses (the Jaguars are No. 1 against the run).
The Jaguars allow just 55 yards rushing per game. They're led by linebacker Devin Lloyd, No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker, and a strong interior defensive line.
That will be a big test for the Eagles, who average 150.3 yards per game on the ground. On defense, nickel corner Avonte Maddox was ruled out with an ankle injury. He'll be missed against Kirk, who lines up in the slot.
Still, the Eagles are the better team. They'll find a way to keep Lawrence in check and spoil Pederson's return to Lincoln Financial Field.
Stat to know: The Eagles have allowed eight points or fewer in two straight games for the first time since the 2004 season.
Score: Eagles 26, Jaguars 19.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles' preview: How Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence became top QBs