Carson Wentz

Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Eagles Preview: Back to the gauntlet

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Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Eagles Preview: Back to the gauntlet

Coming into this five-game gauntlet of competent opponents, I figured Philly was as good a challenge as any. They’d won two in a row, ran the ball with competence, have had success against the Patriots - winning their past two meetings - so they know New England’s not invincible. Still, the closer we get, the more dinged up the Eagles have gotten so that now – even though they’re on the road – I feel like the Patriots are going to have their most impressive win of the year.

Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate a couple of quarterbacks' long-term futures, the Eagles' Carson Wentz vs. the Ravens' Lamar Jackson

Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Here's why taking Lamar Jackson here makes sense. 

First, he's as dynamic a threat as we've seen at the position in a long time. And he's better than we expected him to be. "We" meaning me, you, the 31 NFL teams who didn't draft him and the Ravens. 

Remember, Baltimore loved him so much that they passed on the opportunity to draft Jackson THREE TIMES before selecting him at the end of the first round last year. They traded down twice and then took Hayden Hurst at No. 25 before finally taking their quarterback of the future at No. 32. 

ESPN producer Paul Hembekides pointed out on Twitter that through 16 games, Jackson has more wins (13) than Patrick Mahomes did in his first 16 (12), more rush yards (1,258) than LaDainian Tomlinson (1,236), more yards per pass attempt (7.6) than Aaron Rodgers (7.5), a better completion percentage (63 percent) than Drew Brees (61 percent) and a better passer rating (94.4) than Tom Brady (90.1). So there's that. 

Second, Jackson is on an inexpensive rookie contract that could carry him through 2022. That allows me (since I'm running this team through 2025) to load up my roster with proven, more expensive pieces to try to get to a Super Bowl for each of the next several seasons. By comparison, Carson Wentz's contract has the fifth-highest average annual value in the NFL. 

It can be hard to maintain a talented roster with a $32 million quarterback on the payroll. (Just ask the Eagles.) Give me a little more financial room for error with the guy I don't have to pay until the last three years of this make-believe scenario. 

The drawbacks to taking Jackson here are obvious: a) He's a running quarterback who might have a hard time making it to 2025 unscathed and b) my team might have to run a unique offense with unique personnel for Jackson's skills to be accentuated. The first part I'm a little worried about. 

Odds are that at some point he'll get hurt, though he hasn't missed a game as a pro and he played 38 games in three years at Louisville. The second part doesn't bother me. I'll hire Greg Roman to be my offensive coordinator, continuously draft offensive linemen in the first round, and surround Jackson with blocking tight ends and fast receivers who track deep balls well. Easy. 

Jackson might not get to 2025 as one of the best in the game, but for a few years, I'll have an incredibly dynamic threat on a cheap rookie deal and multiple realistic shots at the Super Bowl. And I'll be built to exploit every defense that's been designed to stop high-powered passing games. 

With Wentz, you have to hope he's one of the best quarterbacks in football and able to elevate the talent around him to make them a championship contender. I'm not sure that's who he is, even though that's how he's being paid. And he comes with injury concerns of his own. 

Remind me again which of the two quarterbacks we're discussing has missed games because he got hurt while scrambling? Jackson's the choice. 

“Hi, what’s on special today? Ohhhh, Lamar Jackson? Exciting! Sounds different! I’ll take one.”

And that’s where we are as we enter the 11th week of the 2019 NFL season. Lamar Jackson is the man who will revolutionize the quarterback position. He’s the wave of the future (I swear to baby Jesus, I thought No Look Patty Mahomes was the wave of the future but … things move fast). Jackson’s going to run for miles and miles, dead-legging, spinning and jump-cutting through defenses and come out just fine. Never mind that he’s built like Flat Stanley.

He’s going to throw for a billion. The man with a thousand release points might smash one off the back of a teammate’s helmet, a down marker or Marcia Brady’s nose at any given moment but it’s those really pretty rainbows he throws that nestle gently against the cuddling receiver arms like a sweet, sweet newborn that keeps you coming back for more.

Have you seen his stats through 16 games? Yes. Yes I have. Phil related them and others have as well. Impressive. But do you know what you’ll miss if you don’t read the fine print? Those are the cumulative stats from Jackson’s 16 regular-season starts. Missing? The most important game Jackson’s ever played in. His lone playoff game. That was against the Chargers, where Jackson went 2 for 8 for 17 yards in the first half. The Ravens couldn’t move the ball, fell behind 12-0 by the break (then 23-3) and Jackson wound up taking seven sacks and finishing the day 14 for 29 for 194.

Even though Jackson is my No. 2 for MVP right now and is the wind beneath the wings of the entire Ravens team and has poise out the wazoo and has none of the rabbit-eared diva traits Baker Mayfield has shown, I just don’t think his act is sustainable at this level.

For my team through 2025, I’ll take Carson Wentz’ top-tier arm talent and better-than-decent legs over Jackson’s hot-right-now throwing and almost unprecedented ability as a runner.

Wentz was in 2017 where Jackson is right now: MVP candidate in his second year, at the head of the class among the next wave of quarterbacks. After starting every game as a rookie (he didn’t get the apprenticeship Jackson did with the Ravens), Went led the Eagles to an 11-2 start throwing 33 touchdowns and seven picks before blowing his ACL.

Last season, coming off the ACL and going back in as the starter in Week 3, Wentz was again very good even if the Eagles defense was not (this is where I ignore the fact he didn’t finish 2018 healthy either).

Into this year, the simple stats say Wentz has been “meh.” The stats lie as our buddy Steve Palazzolo from Pro Football Focus pointed out after Wentz's performance over the first four games. Wentz was the best passer in the NFL. However, he was tethered to receivers who, brilliant as they were on a February day in Minnesota back in 2018, couldn’t catch a cold.

Wentz’ game has changed. Defenses adapted to him a bit, as ESPN’s Tim McManus wrote this week.

"There's usually a spy, someone that's kind of keying the quarterback," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said this week. "The type of blitzes that teams [are using]. He's a right-handed quarterback, so a lot of times they don't want to let you escape to your hand side or your right, they might pressure you to the back side. There are all kind of ways that they can affect your quarterback and particularly Carson, but one of the things he's great at and has done a really good job this year of is just getting the ball out, understanding our offense better, spreading the ball around."

In short, what the 26-year-old Wentz is going through now — and has gone through — is what awaits Jackson. Will Jackson be able to zag when defenses fully devote themselves to eliminating his zig?

I have my reservations. Wentz isn’t as much fun as Jackson. But he’s more sustainable.

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Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy Football Beat: Add Eagles' Carson Wentz to Bill Belichick's list of baffled young quarterbacks?

Fantasy football players seem to get smarter every year. The leagues get deeper. The competition gets better. That's partially because of the sheer amount of information available to fantasy geeks willing to put the time in.

But it's not always easy to find sound fantasy advice on players making up the back ends of fantasy depth charts. That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps by providing you with information we've gleaned by being on the Patriots beat.

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Carson Wentz vs. Bill Belichick
With the way the Eagles offense and Patriots defense are constructed right now, there's no way you can play Carson Wentz this weekend. Even in two-quarterback leagues, he feels like a borderline play. The Eagles simply have no explosive element to their offense at the moment. And that was when Alshon Jeffery was in the lineup. Jeffery could be out due to a calf injury, and there is no one else at the receiver position who will scare the Patriots defense. As a group, Philly receivers have 933 yards receiving this year, putting them on pace for almost 1,700 yards total. Michael Thomas of the Saints is on pace to break that mark all by himself. In their last six games, Philly receivers don't have a touchdown catch longer than six yards. It's not good for Wentz. And his favorite target, Zach Ertz, will certainly be getting extra attention from Belichick's defense. Yes, Wentz may find matchups he likes in Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders (more on them later), and he has the ability to scramble for fantasy points. But you simply can't depend on Wentz, against a very good Patriots pass defense, as anything more than a borderline top-20 option this week. I'd start Matthew Stafford replacement Jeff Driskel over him. 

POPPERS

Julian Edelman
According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles are allowing a league-low 7.6 fantasy points per game to opposing slot receivers, but Julian Edelman still needs to be in your starting lineup. The Patriots will want to get the football out quickly against Philly's pass-rush -- led by the still-ridiculous Fletcher Cox -- and Edelman will be a big-time beneficiary. It's worth noting that Edelman is off of the injury report for the first time since Week 3. 

Mohamed Sanu
One more week in the system. One more week to gain the trust of Tom Brady. There's a reason why both Sanu and Brady have said they're "gonna have some fun" when they get on the same page. Sanu, who played outside against the Ravens but could eventually see more time in the slot, is coming off a 10-catch game in Baltimore and should see plenty more targets this weekend. Even if he plays outside for another week, that'd be a good thing against the Eagles, who allow 29.6 fantasy points per game to opposing outside receivers -- most in the NFL. 

James White
Philly has had some success against pass-catching backs this year. They rank second in success rate allowed to backs, per Sharp Football Stats, but this feels like a game where the Patriots will rely on their excellent receiving back. The Eagles have linebackers who've struggled in coverage at times, and if the Patriots can get a 'backer -- particularly linebackers Nigel Bradham or Nate Gerry -- aligned across from White, they'll have it made. The screen game, which could slow down the Eagles pass-rush, could also be key this weekend. If it's deployed, White is likely to be the beneficiary. Rex Burkhead is someone we have to see contribute regularly -- and stay healthy -- before we could consider starting him. 

Jordan Howard
The Patriots are 26th against the run this season, allowing 4.7 yards per carry through nine games. Couple that with the fact that the Eagles passing game could be stuck in neutral -- explained above -- and Howard could be looking at a nice little fantasy day. He has 42 attempts combined in his last two games and should be used early and often again this week. 

Dallas Goedert
OK so "popping" is a relative term here on the Fantasy Beat. Will Goedert have as many fantasy points as Ertz (mentioned below)? I don't think so. But I expect him to out-perform his expectations, if that makes sense. He's considered to be in Vance McDonald/Darren Fells territory this week by some experts. I'd have him ranked higher. I'd have him ahead of Noah Fant in Denver and ahead of Mike Gesicki in Miami. The reason? I expect him to play quite a bit, since the Eagles have been using more and more two tight end sets -- and since Jeffery is looking like he'll be out or really limited. Plus, the Patriots have had a helluva time trying to stop two tight end looks. We went into detail on the "how" and "why" of things here, but it wouldn't surprise me if Goedert ended up with a top-12 fantasy day at tight end against New England. 

Tom Brady
It looked like the Patriots found something in Baltimore. Their hurry-up offense was productive and allowed Brady and his teammates to get into a rhythm we haven't seen much from them in 2019. They could use it again in Philly to help slow down players like Cox or Derek Barnett or Brandon Graham. If that's the case, Brady will be chucking it all over the lot. He'll need time -- the numbers suggest he's as good from a clean pocket as he's ever been, but he's as bad when facing pressure as he's ever been -- and if he gets it, he'll be a top-10 play this week. The Eagles secondary is flawed and their middle-of-the-field players -- their linebackers and safeties -- have been so aggressive coming downhill that I'd expect Brady and Josh McDaniels to try to toy with them early with play action. 

DROPPERS

N'Keal Harry
Going hurry-up might help Brady's numbers. I'm not sure it'll do wonders for Harry's. The rookie first-rounder was kept on the sidelines in Baltimore as Brady orchestrated a fast-paced offense in a hostile environment. Will one more week of prep have Harry ready to go if the game plan is similar in Philly? It sure sounds like Harry is going to play this weekend, but until we see what kind of role he'll have, you could only play him in the deepest of leagues as you hope for a red-zone target. (That is the type of thing Harry could help them with so it's not completely out of the realm of possibility.)

Zach Ertz
I think there's a decent chance we see Stephon Gilmore take Ertz the way we saw Aqib Talib take Jimmy Graham back in 2013.b

Miles Sanders
I wouldn't hate Sanders as a FLEX play in deep leagues, but if you're doing that, you're doing it in the hopes that as Wentz and the Eagles get away from receivers in the passing game, they start to move targets towards someone like Sanders. Still, he's had just three targets in each of Philadelphia's last four games. He could hit them for a few long ones, as he did in Minnesota in Week 6, but so far the Patriots have been pretty effective against backs in the passing game. They're fifth in the NFL, allowing just 5.0 yards per target to opposing backs. If they come at Wentz with zero-blitz pressure, that might be an effective way to neutralize Sanders in the passing game since it would likely require him to stay in the backfield to help as part of the pass-protection scheme. Wentz is smarter than most of the passers the Patriots have seen this season, but all the Patriots have to do to generate pressure is confound someone like Sanders or fellow rookie left tackle Andre Dillard. 

Sony Michel
If you're playing Sony Michel, you're hoping for a touchdown. And there's a chance you'd get one on the goal line, but the Patriots have been throwing more lately from down in close, which has meant fewer opportunities for New England's big back. He has just five red-zone carries in the last two games, and he's averaging 1.2 yards per attempt on those, with no touchdowns. What happened to Michel in the passing game in Baltimore, with one drop and one snap where it looked like he ran an incorrect route, there just doesn't seem to be much opportunity looming for him. 

Phillip Dorsett
The hurry-up might be a good thing for the Patriots passing offense, but the emergence of Sanu and a potential Harry debut make Dorsett's role a little less certain. He's dependable when he's thrown to, but he doesn't see enough targets to make him a must-start in any week. This week is no different. 

Eagles receivers
Just don't do it. 

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