It’s been a crazy week for the Philadelphia Eagles. In the space of a few days, the entire complexion of the 2016 season has changed completely. Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft has been named the starting quarterback after the Eagles shockingly traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. Some are quick to stick the “rebuild” label on a team that have made a series of moves that seem to jeopardize the present in favor of the future, but the team aren’t rebuilding, they’re establishing continuity.
While the headline stealing the spotlight is rightly the appointment of Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback, the “continuity” theme is now one that runs deep into the Eagles roster, especially the Offense.
Obviously one of the huge perks of starting Wentz this early in his career, (so early in fact that he becomes the first Eagles rookie QB to start the season opener since 1939) is that he has a chance to familiarize himself with the Offense, the players and develop with both..a process that if started next year, could potentially set the Eagles back to an extent.
By bringing that process and allowing Wentz to jump in the deep end and learn to swim, 2017 will be much less of a drawn out transition, and instead a year in which the cohesion amongst the skill players leaves them primed for the year that Bradford was set to enjoy prior to the trade.
This offseason has seen the Eagles get drastically younger..and on Offense, that trend holds a lot of weight now that Wentz has taken the reins. Without even looking at the free agency additions, the direction was cemented in the Draft, with the Eagles spending their first five picks on Offense..and building from the ball, out.
R1 Carson Wentz
R3 Isaac Seumalo
R5 Wendell Smallwod
R5 Halapoulivaati Vaitai
Two versatile linemen who will both have key rotational roles to play in the depths of 2016 and a dual-threat running back who can contribute heavily in the Eagles committee effort are just a few examples of the players that Wentz won’t just be playing with..but developing with hands on, learning with and growing with.
The Eagles added three wide receivers during free agency, all of whom were later released. Although the decision to cut Reuben Randle was surprising to many, the move was met head on with the arrival of Dorial Green-Beckham and more recently, Bryce Treggs.
The “Low-risk, high-reward” mentality that has blanketed the team is most prominent at Wide receiver..but for good reason. With such a young corps that’s bursting with potential, a near fresh start was always going to be questionable..but by turning the page and starting the future of the franchise, a new page has been turned.
Jordan Matthews has done nothing but praise the growth of Carson Wentz and looks primed to finally have the 1,000 yard season he is always on the cusp of having. Josh Huff is being used on the Jet sweeps that he seemed like an idealistic fit for under Chip Kelly and Nelson Agholor has a new attacking mentality to put a troubled rookie season and offseason behind him. The arrival of DGB gives the Eagles an extra red-zone weapon and a receiver who averaged 17.2 yards per reception last year and Bryce Treggs fills the void that Chris Givens was supposed to, but never quite emerged in.
The receiver corps is young. The oldest receiver is 24 and the unit combined has just ten years of experience. However, the unit is raw and has such a variety in skill sets and strengths that it almost becomes a blank canvas for the quarterback who stands out academically and will take control of the Offense with an ability to call audibles and help build the future.
The receivers have a chance to build the base of something special with Wentz at the helm. The long-term future at quarterback is certain, the motivation to carry that trend over to the WR position will be strong and giving Wentz a season to establish himself as a leader and build the trust in his players will mean the team head into 2017 more prepared than they could have ever hoped to be with Bradford at the helm.
The developmental aspect doesn’t end there. The entire ten-man practice squad is made up of undrafted rookie free agents, two of whom played with Carson Wentz at NDSU. Why is this important? The Eagles aren’t just getting younger to attain more upside or potential, they aren’t doing it for trade value..they’re building a team that will develop with Carson Wentz..that will grow with Carson Wentz and that as a result, will succeed with Carson Wentz.
Inserting a rookie quarterback into a team of mixed direction would have always been a bad move. With such a deep pool of players entering their final contracted years, it was also a vey real possibility. But the Eagles have done well to instead replace that possibility with one of hope and potential.
A vastly overlooked aspect is the work completed Howie Roseman before the draft. Signing Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek (again, building from the ball outwards) solidifies areas that will be crucial to the development of the Offense, Wentz and Doug Pederson, who has three very important players signed for the duration of his tenure.
It may not have been the original plan to trade Sam Bradford, but the consequence has been a transition of start-stop success, to an ease of continuity. The Eagles may not go 12-4 this year, they may suffer some tough losses and they will be tested. But with the pressure taken off of the shoulders of a quarterback drafted as a project and a Defense that is poised for dominance, acting as an Offensive cushion, Wentz is left to develop with a core group of players that could well be there for the duration of his rookie contract..and even if they’re not, the chemistry established now will only help the unit build and cross the bridge that would have still been under construction had Bradford stayed.
If Wentz has an entire 2016 season to become at one with the Offense and build the relationships with his teammates, learning their strengths and weaknesses while simultaneously improving his own game..it puts the Offense in a much better stead for the 2017 season..averting a rebuild and establishing continuity..something that has been missing from this team since the days of Donovan McNabb.
Mandatory Photo credit: Mitchell Leff- Getty Images