Kyle Shanahan had a firsthand look at Jalen Hurts in his early days as a starting quarterback, immediately noticing the difference between this year's version of Hurts and the one that squared off against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 of last season.
That was only Hurts' sixth career start in the NFL, as he went 12 of 23 for (52.2%) for 190 yards and no touchdowns with 10 carries for 82 yards and a rushing touchdown. Hurts was more of a runner than a passer that early in his career -- and it showed when he faced a good defense like the one DeMeco Ryans had in San Francisco.
With two full seasons and a deep playoff run under his belt, this isn't the same Hurts who Shanahan saw back in September of the 2021 season. The 49ers coach knows Hurts is a much better player, not the raw quarterback he coached against the first time he saw him in the NFL.
"He's just gotten more consistent," Shanahan said Wednesday. "You can see in that game, the ability that he has and what he was close to doing a number of times. He made some big throws in that game and we contained him fairly well.
"But I think we're up 17-3, with five minutes to go and then he started getting going again and they brought it right into a one-score game so you could see the ability that he had real early on and I know toward the end of that year he started getting on a roll and that's when why they ended up making the playoffs last year because of how good he got after that.
"We could see signs of it in that game and now just watching him this year hearing about it, he is borderline NFL MVP and then turning the film on these last two days, he's just like how he was with potential and now he's doing it down in and down out."
Hurts has been spectacular in his 16 starts this season (including playoffs), completing 66.5% of his passes for 3,855 yards with 24 touchdowns to just six interceptions for a 102.1 passer rating. Add in the 794 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns and Hurts has 4,649 total yards and 38 total touchdowns to just six turnovers.
Philadelphia is 15-1 when Hurts plays, showcasing the difference-maker he is when he takes the field. In a matchup against an excellent 49ers team, Hurts' presence gives the Eagles the edge.
"It's a huge challenge for these guys," Shanahan said. "We are expecting this quarterback to run it. We are expecting him to lower his shoulder, so we always have to come out and treat him like a running back until he gives himself up, which is sliding or being in that pocket and when he does, our guys are good enough athletes to have to deal with it."