Carson Wentz, Jared Goff set to face off in battle of 2016 NFL draft top picks

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Carson Wentz, Jared Goff set to face off in battle of 2016 NFL draft top picks

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Chocolate and vanilla ice cream will finally battle it out this weekend at the LA Coliseum. 

That was the way Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman compared Jared Goff and Carson Wentz just before the 2016 draft. The Eagles had just traded up to the No. 2 pick and Roseman said the Eagles would be happy with either quarterback. 

That, of course, was hogwash. 

The Eagles wanted Wentz all along and when they traded up to that second spot, they knew the Rams were using their pick on Goff. 

Things have worked out pretty well for both. As Wentz and Goff prepare to face off this weekend in Los Angeles, both have their teams at the top of the standings of their respective NFC divisions. 

While the young QBs are trying to stay focused on facing good defenses this week, they understand why the first game between the top two picks of the 2016 draft is such a big storyline. 

"I think it's exciting," Wentz said from Angel Stadium on Wednesday afternoon (Get an inside look at the baseball diamond turned football field). "I think it's exciting any time two quarterbacks like this face off. Offense is playing their defense and vice versa, but I think it's definitely exciting for the league. Jared and I are both excited about it."

Wentz and Goff actually know each other pretty well. They share the same agency (Rep1 Sports) and worked out together during the 2016 pre-draft process. Wentz thought the natural competition before the draft helped both prospects. 

Goff did meet with the Eagles leading up to the draft a year ago and was actually with them when the Rams traded up to the No. 1 spot. He said he enjoyed the coaching staff. 

Wentz and Goff became friends over those few months in the spring of 2016 and have kept in touch since. During the season, both are busy so communication is limited, but they have texted a few times. 

"I'm very happy for [Wentz] and everything he's accomplished so far this year and through his career, including last year," Goff said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Wednesday. "Everything he's done, it's all been earned. He's worked really hard to get where he's at, just from my brief experience with him." 

Wentz said he will always follow Goff's career, but not because they'll be forever linked. He said he'll follow his career because the two are friends. 

It's been pretty easy for them to follow one another this season. Their two teams have already faced six common opponents, so while watching game tape of opposing defenses, Wentz and Goff have been able to see the other plenty. 

"I think the biggest thing is he's accurate," Wentz said. "He makes some throws that are impressive and he's accurate and he's pretty decisive. It's fun to see how far he's come in this year and to kind of see him develop."

The two have been great so far this season: 

Goff: 9-3 record, 62.2 completion percentage, 3,184 yards, 20, TDs, 6 INTs. 

Wentz: 10-2 record, 60.7 completion percentage, 3,005 yards, 29 TDs, 6 INTs.  

While their numbers have been similar this year, Wentz got off to a much hotter start in his career in 2016. The big reason for that was probably his surroundings. Wentz landed in a spot with nearly unlimited resources to help a quarterback. Goff didn't. He had a defensive head coach and a former tight ends coach as his offensive coordinator. 

New head coach Sean McVay, along with an infusion of talent, has done wonders for Goff's career. 

"Very similar to what makes Carson so special, Jared had those traits, those characteristics," McVay said. "They just needed to pull them out." 

Eagles rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins shares the same agency as Goff and Wentz. While he knows Wentz really well, he has met Goff and thinks he's a really nice guy. 

Hollins knows both of them well enough to understand that neither will get swept up in the No. 1 pick vs. No. 2 hoopla this week. 

"I think it's a really fun storyline for you guys," Goff said. "For us internally, we're focused on trying to win the game and do everything we can this week to best prepare ourselves to beat the Eagles." 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."

Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

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Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

I know you're feeling conflicted right now. The Eagles are 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. They've already clinched the NFC East. Home-field advantage and a playoff bye are a very real possibility. But the Carson Wentz injury is an equalizer and then some.

On the bright side, the Flyers steadied their sinking ship in Western Canada by winning three straight. But the Sixers have dropped four in a row. Maybe the Phils will land Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado? Dare to dream. You're up, you're down. Welcome to Philadelphia sports. So what better time to provide some nice, healthy Rob's Rants? Letting things out can be therapeutic and after the Wentz news, I need to vent a little.    

It's hard to find fault with Doug Pederson this season. He's done an excellent job game planning and having his team prepared week in and week out, and his most impressive work has been his ability to overcome injuries. The Eagles have lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, just to name a few. All of the above represent major core pieces and Pederson's team is 11-2. Losing Wentz trumps them all and presents the head coach's biggest challenge. So look at this not so much as a rant but a plea to Doug P. moving forward.     

Nick Foles entered the Rams game late in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing 35-31. Certainly a difficult spot for any backup. He hadn't taken a meaningful snap all season. Logic would dictate emphasizing the run to let him get his feet wet. This was not the late fourth quarter, no timeouts, need to move down the field quickly type of circumstances. Further, the Eagles have three very capable running backs.

Pederson elected to throw the ball five straight times and called pass plays on eight of nine in the possession. The Birds did wind up getting a field goal on the drive and Foles completed three passes, but you wonder if it's the wisest move to drop Foles back that much, that quickly. I know Doug has been aggressive all season and that in part has helped the Eagles get where they are, and I'm also well aware of the heat he took by many (including me) for being too passive in the Seattle loss. But with Foles' lack of mobility in the pocket and the left side of the Eagles' offensive line struggling mightily against the pass rush, a bigger dose of the run could have made his transition back to starter a little smoother. But beyond the Rams game, balance and a commitment to the run will be Foles' best friend, along with a strong defense.    

Sixers struggles
It's one thing to lose in Cleveland and New Orleans, especially without Joel Embiid for both games and Robert Covington vs. the Pelicans. It's another to drop home games to the likes of the Suns and the Lakers prior to those defeats. For that, there is no excuse. The Sixers have lost four in a row and stand at 13-13. They continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and of late have not come to play to start games, particularly at home. Some of this can be chalked up to youth. Some not so much.

They are losing far too many 50-50 balls. Too many offensive rebounds and second chances allowed. That's just hustle and want. They also need veterans like Jerryd Bayless to be better, especially in the absence of T.J. McConnell. I've pointed this out before in this space but the Sixers are beyond losing to the NBA's dregs. It would also be nice to get the No. 1 overall pick from this past draft on the floor at some point.    

Let's close out this Rob's Rants on two positives. First, the 118th edition of Army-Navy football was played Saturday right here in Philadelphia. It is everything that is right about sports and our country. The men doing battle on that field at the Linc put sports into the context it deserves. Battle hard on the field, win or lose, respect to your opponent, represent our service men and women and country. Then it's on to further protecting and serving. They are truly unique individuals. And to have it played in the snow in such a cool setting was awesome.

DJ and the Kernal
Lastly, Dick Jerardi and Mike Kern both recently announced their retirements from the Philadelphia Daily News. They were as good of writers as this city has ever seen. They were even better people. I grew up reading them and had the opportunity as an adult to work with them professionally as a producer, then as a host and the pleasure was all mine. They knew of what they wrote, you learned something every time you read them, and they provided a sense of humor while doing it. Nothing beat our yearly Daily News Live Christmas Eve shows with Hall of Famer John Chaney. Their bylines will be missed.