I’m not sure people truly understand the potential Carson Wentz has, so I wanted to sort of put into words what to expect from him in his sophomore season in the NFL. Wentz’ rookie season was very up and down. A week before the season, Sam Bradford was traded, Chase Daniel was demoted, and boom, a rookie from North Dakota State University was now the starter of the Philadelphia Eagles. I know it’s discussed heavily, but the amount of pressure on Wentz to not only expect to start, but play at a high level at arguably the toughest position in all of sports is asking a lot.
As we know, the season started out hot for Wentz and the Eagles, getting off to a 3-0 start and a huge win over the Pittsburg Steelers. Wentz inevitably hit his rookie wall and had moments where fans would scratch their head and cuss at TV screens in disappointment and anger. Fact is, the Eagles offense, outside of their offensive line wasn’t very good. You can make an argument that the Eagles had the worst set of skill position players in the entire league. Nelson Agholor, the Eagles’ current slot receiver was playing the “X” position, Dorial Green Beckham, who is currently not even on an NFL roster, was the Eagles second outside option. Those two combined for 72 catches, 757 receiving yards, and 8 drops. Yuck.
The Eagles’ recognized their weakness at the wide receiver position and addressed them in free agency. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were both signed in free agency and will start outside, Jordan Matthews was traded to the Bills and Nelson Agholor will take over the slot role, which gives the Eagles much needed speed in the middle of the field. Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson were drafted and will look to make an impact when an opportunity arises. The biggest thing for Wentz is he now has a target to rely on in Alshon Jeffery. Having a guy to depend on in crucial moments goes a long way. Wentz and Jeffery will be a fun duo to watch grow as the year goes by. Wentz has a huge arm, and Jeffery has an enormous catch radius. Buckle up. An underrated addition to the Eagles offense is speed. Torrey Smith isn’t going to exactly light up the box score, but his ability to stretch the field will go a long way in opening the middle of the field for Ertz, Agholor and Jeffery.
The game slows down:
Carson Wentz went through his fair share of struggles in his rookie season. On paper, his statistics don’t look flattering. 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions. When evaluating the quarterback position, numbers only go so far. When you watch Carson Wentz play the position, you just see he has “it.” His ability to extend plays in and out of the pocket, or his willingness to stand in the pocket for a half second longer, take a big hit, and be able to deliver a throw downfield. Many of the “special” traits Wentz has can’t be taught. He has a big body, a huge arm, and a work ethic you want in your franchise QB.
Despite the growing pains in year one, Wentz came out of the season healthy and is looking to grow on his first year’s success with a stellar sophomore season. In year two, there will be less mental mistakes. You’ll see a more confident player in Wentz. His grasp of the playbook will be much better, he’ll know when to check it down if his first, second or third read isn’t there. Year two is always when you see quarterbacks slow down and let the game come to them. Look for a much, much more poised Carson Wentz in year two.
Doug Pederson is no longer a rookie:
We all saw Carson Wentz go through his struggles in his rookie season, but we also saw Doug Pederson, the Head Coach and the offensive play-caller battle through being a rookie. Doug Pederson’s offense is eerily similar to Andy Reid’s, who Pederson learned pretty much everything he knows about coaching from. Pederson, like Reid, often gets away from running the ball and puts a ton of pressure on his quarterback. For reference, Carson Wentz threw the football 607 times in his rookie season, which was an NFL record for a rookie. Those 607 attempts ranked 5th highest in 2016, which is bizarre when you factor in who Wentz was throwing to, and him being a rookie. Throwing the football 38 times a game isn’t bad if you have Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees behind center, but asking your rookie QB to do so and do it with success is a tall order
Doug Pederson’s play-calling was very suspect in year 1. Not just how often he threw the ball but how he did. Carson Wentz had a 6.2 Yards Per Attempt in 2016. Among 30 QBs, that ranked 29th, only ahead of Brock Osweiler. Yes, some of that had to do with Wentz’ inexperience, but I think it had more to do with Doug Pederson rarely dialing up deep pass concepts, and when he did it was so, so, so, so predictable. Heavy set, play action, no one got open, etc, etc, etc. I expect Pederson to be much better in year 2. The talent added on the outside, and Wentz being more comfortable in year 2, I expect Doug to be much more diverse with his play-calling and much more aggressive.
Look, Carson Wentz will still deal with struggles. It’s the nature of the position he plays. All the pressure will be on him to take the Eagles to the next level, which is year-in and year-out making the playoffs and competing for conference titles. Wentz is in a really good situation. His receiver group has a chance to take a huge step forward, his offensive line, on paper, is a top-5 unit, and most importantly, he is surrounded by an incredible coaching staff in John DeFilippo, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and Head Coach Doug Pederson. Pederson catches copious amounts of slack, but him having played the position, gives him a firm understanding of what Wentz likes, and doesn’t. Because of his situation, his work ethic, and quite simply what he has shown, I expect Carson Wentz to be in the “top 10 quarterback” talk season’s end. Get ready, Eagles fans, your franchise quarterback is about to blow up in 2017.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports