Eagles

Donovan McNabb weighs in on Carson Wentz's durability and expectations with Eagles

Donovan McNabb weighs in on Carson Wentz's durability and expectations with Eagles

Everyone has an opinion on Carson Wentz, even the former franchise quarterback of the Eagles, Donovan McNabb. 

This morning, 5 was on CBS Sports Radio with Zach Gelb and spewed his take on Wentz, one that doesn’t offer the new franchise quarterback much of a leash. 

Here’s what he said on the topic: 

I think in the next two years or so, he needs to find a way to get out of the second round of the playoffs. What Nick Foles was able to do, take them to a Super Bowl and then possibly take them back to the NFC Championship proves that, hey, some people can get into that offense and be very successful. [Wentz] hasn’t been healthy. He hasn’t really proven to me, besides the year before he got hurt, in his first year, of really the MVP candidate. He needs to get back to that mode. 

I think, personally, if he can’t get out of the second round in the next two, maybe three, years, but really two years, to be honest with you. If he can’t get out of the second round, they should look to possibly draft another quarterback because you just don’t know about his durability. Staying healthy is very key in this league. The team only goes as far as their quarterback takes them. And they put so many eggs in the basket with Carson Wentz and he has to prove that in the next two years. 

Well, the first thing here is that we should correct McNabb. The year Wentz got hurt was his MVP-caliber season. Had he played those last three games, he probably would have won the award. No harm done. Moving on. 

Now, let’s get to the gist of McNabb’s point. He has Wentz on a very short leash. If Wentz can’t get to an NFC Championship game in two years, they should move on, according to McNabb.  

I get part of what McNabb is saying even though he didn’t really say it. The Eagles are clearly in win-now mode; their window to win Super Bowls is open right now and they need Wentz to play well for that to happen. But to say he needs to get out of the second round because “you don’t know about his durability” doesn’t really make much sense. Sure, if he’s healthy, he’ll probably be good and the Eagles will find success. Is McNabb’s point that if Wentz isn’t healthy, they should move on? Well, that’s a salient one, I suppose. 

Here’s the thing, though. The idea that the Eagles should just draft another quarterback is a hard proposition. Franchise QBs don’t grow on trees. It’s why the Eagles were so aggressive to trade up in 2016…because they identified Wentz as that guy. And it seems unlikely the Eagles are going to stink if Wentz is on the field. So, then we’re talking about a pretty big jump up in the draft to get another elite quarterback. 

Maybe McNabb didn’t put too much thought into this answer. Because getting into the NFC Championship Game in two years seems like a pretty arbitrary goal. What if Wentz plays well in the playoffs and the Eagles lose close games in the divisional round in back-to-back years? Still moving on? Yeah, probably not. 

And we didn’t even talk about the contract. The Eagles have seemed pretty on-board with getting an extension done with Wentz this offseason or next. If that happens, you can forget about them moving on. Then they’ll be locked in with Wentz for better or for worse.

McNabb was also asked about some other stuff pertaining to the Eagles and around the league. Listen if you want: 

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse along the offensive line?

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse along the offensive line?

The Eagles invested their first-round draft pick into the offensive line, but injuries were more widespread than one position last season. Will the unit be better or worse in 2019?

Key additions: Andre Dillard (draft, first round) 

Key departures: None

Why they could be better: Healthy bodies

Noticing a trend in this series? The Eagles’ bad injury luck in 2018 hit the offensive line hard, even though the affected players somehow missed a grand total of one game. Jason Peters was coming off a torn ACL to begin with, then went on to exit somewhere around half the games early with various dings. Jason Kelce battled injuries all year, yet hardly missed a snap, and Lane Johnson only failed to suit up once when it turns out he wasn’t practicing pretty much the entire season.

All three were already playing better down the stretch, a sign the unit was getting healthy. Kelce hasn’t missed a game since 2014, Johnson is traditionally very durable (suspensions notwithstanding) and Peters is another year removed from major knee surgery. Obviously, injuries can strike at any time, but 2019 is setting up as a clean slate for 60 percent of the Eagles’ front, which is a good sign.

Why they could be worse: Brandon Brooks’ injury

The injury gods giveth, but primarily they taketh. Brooks has designs on being ready to return potentially as early as Week 1 — it’s just hard to fathom that timetable is based in reality. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in January. That’s less than eight months turnaround from an injury that could take upwards of a year to fully recover from, if it doesn’t derail an athlete’s career entirely.

It’s plausible, if not likely the Eagles won’t have Brooks in uniform until November or December, and then what kind of player will they be inserting at right guard? A two-time Pro Bowler, or a guy working his way back from a major injury? And whoever is replacing Brooks until then — from the looks of things at OTAs, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who’s never played guard before — has massive shoes to fill, as this is one of the most dominant interior linemen in the NFL the past two seasons.

The X-factor: Left tackle

There’s an old saying around here: 80 percent of Jason Peters is better than 80 percent of the left tackles in the league. So when the 37-year-old legend occasionally gets beat because he simply doesn’t get around like he used to, it’s accepted because he’s probably taking care of business the rest of the time.

Except the trouble with Peters isn’t necessarily his performance. It’s the matter of availability, which has been an issue the past few seasons. He tapped out of games with injuries in 2015. He was shelved by an ACL in 2017. Then last year, it not only took a while for Peters to return to anything remotely resembling form, but actually finish whole games. It will be interesting to see how much work the nine-time Pro Bowler can actually handle, and if wear and tear accumulate, whether either first-round draft pick Andre Dillard or rugby star-turned-football prospect Jordan Mailata can plug the hole. Recent history suggests one of them may need to.

Is the Eagles’ offensive line better or worse?

It’s hard to get around the strong likelihood Brooks will miss time. It’s also hard to project a 16-plus-game season where Peters doesn’t exit an important game early. Dillard may help ease the loss of a Hall of Fame talent at left tackle, but it’s a lot to ask of a rookie. And while the Eagles have some nice depth pieces in Vaitai and Stefan Wisniewski, the appearance they are needed and not just luxuries is worrisome.

WORSE

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Eagles mailbag: Biggest 2019 concern, rookie of the year, LBs

Eagles mailbag: Biggest 2019 concern, rookie of the year, LBs

I answered half of your questions yesterday and saved the rest for today. 

The first batch were about Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins, training camp and I picked a candidate to have a breakout season.

Let’s get to the rest right now: 

I’m tempted to say the health concerns about the offensive line, but instead I’m going on defense to the defensive end position. In my last mailbag, I picked Derek Barnett as a breakout candidate for 2019, but even if he does break out, the Eagles don’t have great depth at the position. They started last season with these top four defensive ends: Brandon Graham, Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. This year, their top four are probably: Graham, Barnett, Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat/Shareef Miller. That could be a problem. 

At least the Eagles now have much better depth at defensive tackle with Malik Jackson and a presumably healthy Tim Jernigan. But will that be enough to cover of the deficiency of depth at edge rusher? Not sure. 

I’ll make the safest bet here and say Miles Sanders. I don’t like that Sanders was forced to miss the entire spring with an injury, but among all the rookies, he has the best chance to get significant playing time. Andre Dillard won’t play unless Jason Peters gets hurt. JJ Arcega-Whiteside is behind three very talented receivers. Shareef Miller has room to grow. And Clayton Thorson won’t play. Maybe there’s an undrafted guy who carves out a role, but we know Sanders is going to play and be a complementary player with Jordan Howard and Corey Clement. In fact, I still think Sanders can have a big year as long as he can stay healthy during training camp. 

I think they’re doing it to give themselves flexibility. If a team were to trade for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, they’d do it because they think he can play tackle, not because he learned how to play guard. And based on the spring, it seems like the Eagles are preparing Vaitai to play right guard if Brandon Brooks isn’t ready for Week 1. Doug Pederson even mentioned the importance of Lane Johnson learning how to play next to Big V; that comment wasn’t lost on me. Ultimately, I think the versatility can only help Vaitai and it might help extend his career. 

It’ll be Kamu Grugier-Hill. He played 32 percent of defensive snaps last season and I think he can handle even more this season. I thought he played well when he got the chance last year and he’s in line to have a big role in the defense this year. Zach Brown is kind of playing catch-up as he learns the defense. He’ll play in base defense, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Nigel Bradham and KGH on the field in nickel situations. 

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