With all the hype surrounding Carson Wentz in Philadelphia and around the NFL, you might think the Eagles QB has played in the league for as long as Aaron Rodgers or Ben Rothlisberger. Few players make an indelible impression on their city as quickly as the former North Dakota State star.
But the truth is Wentz is gearing up for just his fourth NFL season. What’s even more shocking is that he’s only previously played a single season from start to finish – his rookie campaign in 2016.
Let that sink in.
For a guy heralded as one of the NFL’s elite QBs, Wentz has appeared in all 16 regular season games and finished out the regular season on the active roster one time. One stinkin’, solitary complete season of football.
This is no criticism against Wentz’s skills as a field general. The Birds obviously have a supernatural talent helming the offence. After all, Wentz made a huge splash in 2016. The first round, second overall draft pick wasted no time giving the Eagles a brilliant return on their investment. Wentz started all 16 games and set a NFL record for most pass completions for a rookie, with 379. He was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for Weeks 1, 3, and 5. Dallas QB, Dak Prescott may have won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, but fans in Philadelphia couldn’t have been happier with their new franchise QB. He had done everything asked of him and more.
Still, the Eagles struggled to find a winning rhythm in Wentz’s first year. The team closed out the regular season with a 7-9 record and failed to make the playoffs under then first-year head coach Doug Pederson.
Number 11 put up even more impressive numbers in 2017, leading Philadelphia to a brilliant 11-2 start on the year, before sustaining a season-ending knee injury during a Week 14 game against the Los Angeles Rams. In his place, Nick Foles entered as QB, famously steering the Eagles through the postseason before finishing with a 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII.
Wentz’s prolonged recovery from ACL surgery kept him from starting Philadelphia’s first two contests in 2018. He returned in Week 3 against Indianapolis, posting 255 yards with one touchdown and one interception as the Eagles defeated the Colts 20-16. Wentz went ten more games for the defending Super Bowl champs in 2018, before Pederson and the Eagles medical staff decided to shut him down for the season at Week 15 due to a back stress fracture. Wentz had been on the injury report with a sore back during Weeks 7 and 8, but played against Carolina and Jacksonville those weeks. The stress fracture diagnosis didn’t arrive until December 9. The Eagles went 5-6 in Wentz’s starts, a ho-hum campaign that failed to meet high expectations in the City of Brotherly Love.
Foles was once again on the hook to round out the season, which he did in fine fashion by leading the Birds through three wins in Weeks 15-17, and a Wild Card playoff victory over Chicago. Philadelphia eventually sputtered, losing to New Orleans in the NFC Divisional Round on January 13.
Wentz has never appeared in an NFL playoff game. He’s an unproven commodity in truly clutch situations when the entire season is on the line.
Elite level production is there when he’s healthy, but the steely resolve shown by QBs who pick up their teams when it’s needed most remains a question mark until tested in battle. Foles demonstrated he could answer the postseason call. He’s forever the unassuming guy that delivered the first championship in franchise history, the iconic shot caller of the Philly Special.
Wentz’s draft-era contemporaries – Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, and Patrick Mahomes – all have playoff time under their belts. The question on everyone’s mind entering the 2019 season is simple: can Wentz go the distance while propelling the Eagles to the playoffs? Is he a big game player?
There’s no sound argument stating he can’t or won’t. The 26-year-old just needs to stay healthy.
The Eagles, who have a relatively recent history of bailing on QBs who fail to deliver quickly (Kevin Kolb, Sam Bradford, Foles 1.0) are steadfast behind their franchise guy. In June, Philadelphia and Wentz inked a four-year, $128 million contract extension, keeping the QB in a Birds uniform through the 2024 season. The Foles safety net left town for Jacksonville, where he landed a deserved starting job in March.
By all accounts, Wentz is now healthy as the Eagles gear up to enter training camp on August 4. He’s made adjustments to his diet and training regimen. He’s also a year NFL-wiser, which is significant for a young QB. However, the pressure is on even before the first practice snap of the preseason, thanks to an insatiable army of NFL analysts and talking heads.
Wentz is already a top odds contender for 2019-20 MVP. ESPN pegs the over/under on his passing yardage at 3,520 yards. Eagles beat reporter Tim McManus believes that’s a low mark. He could easily be right. Wentz was on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his injury-shortened seasons. He posted 3,782 passing yards as a rookie, twelve QBs surpassed 4,000 yards in 2018.
Fortunately for Wentz, Philadelphia is going long on talented receivers. A trio of the QB’s favorite targets is back in WRs: Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor and TE Zach Ertz. Former Eagle and three-time Pro Bowler WR DeSean Jackson returns to the Birds for a much-anticipated homecoming. Rookie wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside joins the corps fresh from an outstanding college career at Stanford.
Wentz has the pedigree, the past numbers, and the supporting cast to put on a heck of a show in 2019. With his knee and back injuries well behind him, the face of the franchise pulls in with no lingering limitations. Broad Street in Philadelphia could see its second Super Bowl parade in three years, if Wentz stays healthy and proves he can navigate through the playoffs.
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