Jalen Hurts

How Jalen Hurts can expose one of Patriots defense's biggest weaknesses

The Patriots have struggled quite a bit vs. dual-threat QBs in recent seasons.

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The New England Patriots defense was, at least from a statistical perspective, a very good unit during the 2022 NFL season. It did feast on subpar quarterbacks, but overall, the defense played well enough for the team to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the offense was too much of a disaster for the team to reach the postseason.

The defense needs to be even better in 2023 if the Patriots are going to secure a playoff berth. New England's schedule is the toughest of any team, per ESPN's Football Power Index.

The first test for Bill Belichick's defense is a difficult one. Perhaps the most challenging of the entire season.

The Philadelphia Eagles are absolutely loaded offensively. They ranked No. 3 in points scored, No. 3 in total yards and No. 5 in rushing yards last season. Philly's wide receiver corps is headlined by two stars in A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Dallas Goedert is an excellent tight end. D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell and Rashaad Penny are a fantastic running back trio.

But the real star of the show is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who was the league MVP favorite before missing a few games late last season due to injury.

Hurts is one of the most challenging players to defend. He's an excellent passer who had a 66.1 completion percentage, 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season.

But his biggest strength is an ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his legs.

Hurts is arguably the best dual-threat QB in football, and that's the kind of player the Patriots have had issues defending in recent seasons. He ran for 760 yards (4.6 per carry) and 13 touchdowns last season, which was one short of Cam Newton's single-season record for a QB with 14 (2011). Hurts also ran for 70 yards and three touchdowns in a Super Bowl LVII loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Whether it's escaping for a 25-yard gain or picking up a few yards at the goal line, Hurts consistently gets the job done on the ground.

When the Patriots allow opposing quarterbacks to make plays on the ground, it typically results in a loss, especially over the last three seasons.

Here's a look at some notable performances by dual-threat quarterbacks against the Patriots defense since 2017.

Last season was particularly challenging for the Patriots in regards to defending these mobile quarterbacks.

Lamar Jackson shredded the Patriots defense with five total touchdowns and over 300 yards of offense. The Patriots had no answer for him. His 9-yard touchdown run with 3:00 left sealed New England's fate.

Four weeks later, the Patriots hosted the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football." It was a coming out party for rookie QB Justin Fields. Belichick's defenses typically dominate rookie quarterbacks, but it couldn't contain Fields as the Bears scored 23 unanswered points in a 33-14 victory.

The Patriots are underdogs entering their Week 1 matchup against the Eagles. Philly isn't an unbeatable team, but if the Patriots don't slow down Hurts, it's going to be a very, very long afternoon/evening at Gillette Stadium.

There are more and more dual-threat quarterbacks entering the NFL each season. The amount of pure pocket passers is dwindling.

Teams must be able to successfully stop these players on defense if they're going to be successful. The Patriots have not shown an ability to consistently do that in recent years, and that trend must reverse if they want to become a true contender again.

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