The rise of Carson Wentz has been phenomenal this season. 25 touchdowns and 5 interceptions don’t do the future of the Philadelphia Eagles justice. Dancing around the pocket and slinging it downfield with confidence, the leap Wentz has taken from the trials of his rookie season until now has been ginormous. But across the field, watching his every move this week is a quarterback who will be looking to take the same leap in year two.
Mitchell Trubisky out of North Carolina was thrust into the firing perhaps a little prematurely, just as Wentz was one year ago. With the Bears fans calling for his name, the 6’3, 222 lbs rookie ran onto the field against Minnesota to replace Mike Glennon and has never looked back. 2-4 as a starter, Trubisky has already shown signs of improvement over the last few weeks.
Trubisky posted his best performance of the year in week 10, crushing the Green Bay Packers by throwing for 297 yards and completing 39 of a ridiculous 65 passing attempts for 2 touchdowns and 476 yards. One week later, Trubisky fought bravely against the Lions and completed another touchdown pass to go with 179 passing yards. The signs of promise are there, but traveling to Philadelphia to face a ruthless Eagles defense may be his ultimate test. For Doug Pederson, it’s a situation he knows all too well.
“Some of these young quarterbacks that are playing this year, I can relate as a coach and know what their coaches are going through, and trying to figure out how to win a football game, even through the struggles.” The Eagles Head Coach told reporters this week.”
“I think he’s a talented guy that you can’t fall asleep on him because he can hurt you with his legs, too. He’s very talented that way.” Pederson said of Trubisky. “They are fighting through it, working through it, but they have got a lot of confidence in him and that’s why he’s starting right now.”
It’s almost come full circle for the Eagles. In week 2 last year, it was their rookie quarterback traveling to Soldier Field to face a defense that held the Texans to 17 first downs in week one (their second lowest single game total allowed of the season) and 344 total yards. Wentz stormed into the matchup on Monday Night to throw for 190 yards and a touchdown to push the Birds past Chicago. But since that day, a lot has changed in the game of Carson Wentz.
Perhaps most notably is his confidence outside of the pocket. In the first eight games as a rookie, Wentz rushed for a total of 36 yards. In the final eight? Wentz rushed for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. In just 10 games this season, Wentz has already racked up 224 yards of rushing offense. While some of this will simply be down to extending crumbling plays, part of his new-found success is due to option plays and things implemented schematically to play to his strengths.
Experimenting has been a key part of Pederson’s offensive success this season. From the eyebrow-raising 2-point conversion attempt formations, to the sheer levels that every play seems to provide, the Eagles have an abundance of optionality and a quarterback who is chomping at the bit to digest all of it.
It feels like so long ago that Wentz was taking his first steps as an NFL quarterback. In the space of 12 months, Wentz has transformed into one of the most productive, consistent and exciting quarterbacks in the league. Leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl voting, the emergence of Carson Wentz has been one of meteoric proportions. Chicago will be hoping that Trubisky will follow in the footsteps of the pride of North Dakota State. While the situations may be different, some of those raw strengths and traits are comparable.
Trubisky has 163 rushing yards in his six starts as quarterback of the Chicago Bears. As the read-options pick up for the Bears to try and take advantage of their rushing attack that has decimated defenses across the board. Jordan Howard leads the NFC and is third in the NFL with 841 rushing yards and TDs. He is averaging 84.1 yards per game on the ground and has seven rushes of 20+ yards this season, including three 50+ yarders. Just as the Eagles have found sustenance with their committee effort that has elevated the game of Carson Wentz, the Bears have been able to find the same.
“He’s mobile. I think that’s probably the big thing.” Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said of the rookie QB. “They’re running the ball, and they also do enough stuff with read option and some gadget plays to take a little bit of the pressure off of them. They’re a good screen team, and he’s developing as a quarterback. I’m sure there’s things he wants to work on. There’s things that we need to keep him from having success with. He’s been able to make a few plays with his legs, also, so that adds another dimension to him.”
The progress of Carson Wentz is something that often flies under the radar. Greatness has become the standard for the pride of North Dakota State and it’s easy to forget he’s a quarterback in just his second season. That’s put into perspective as Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears roll into town with hopes of earning their third in in the last seven games. The NFL is an ever-changing landscape…but Trubisky and Wentz may be two quarterbacks who will be a mainstay in this league for years to come.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports