The Eagles beat the Cowboys last week to remain in first place in the division but it didn’t feel like it. The Eagles barely squeaked by and Carson Wentz turned the football over four more times.
As you might expect, Wentz was a major topic of conversation with Doug Pederson on the WIP Morning Show the day after the game.
Whenever we talk about Wentz, his 2017 season has to come up. That year, he was on his way to an MVP season before tearing his ACL. There’s no denying how good he was that season. But there’s also no denying he hasn’t been nearly as good since. So, like many of us, when Pederson compares that version of Wentz to the version we’ve seen this year, the difference is stark.
It’s something he brought up on his own on Monday morning.
“I look back to 2017 and I know everybody, and probably you included, we go back and we compare to 17, right? When he had an MVP-type season,” Pederson said. “And I can honestly tell you, if there’s a common denominator, we had stability around Carson Wentz. We had three receivers, three tight ends and running backs and we didn’t have the moving parts that we had last year, already in the first part in this season, different offensive line changes.
“We had stability and as an offense we had continuity. So that to me has been the biggest different between then and now, right? We’re holding this thing together. Our guys are battling their tails off every Sunday and Sunday night and Monday, the way they practice. We’ve got to keep it together until we get all our guys back. And that’s coming pretty soon.”
OK, some of that is certainly fair. The Eagles did have more stability on offense that season. We’ll get to why that’s obviously not the only reason for Wentz’s struggles but let’s go with that for a minute.
Wentz through 8 games in 2020: 3-4-1 record, 58.4%, 1,883 yards, 12 TDs, 12 INTs, 4 FL, 73.2 rating
Wentz through 8 games in 2017: 7-1 record, 61%, 2,063 yards, 19 TDs, 5 INTs, 2 FL, 101.6 rating
At offensive line in 2020, the Eagles have used seven different line combinations in eight games and that doesn’t even include injuries to Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard before the season began. To me, if we’re going to blame injuries for some of Wentz’s struggles, this is where I’d drop the most beans into the bucket.
Because even though in 2017 the Eagles used five different starting offensive lines in eight games, those lines were all much better than what they’ve had this year. A big reason for those different combos was the left guard position, where Isaac Seumalo got benched for Chance Warmack, who then got benched for Stefen Wisniewski. Still, they were pretty healthy on the OL until Jason Peters went down for the season.
At the skill positions, there’s no question the Eagles were healthier in 2017. That year they had Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor all season at receiver. They had Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton at tight end. And they had LeGarrett Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement all year, eventually adding Jay Ajayi for Week 9.
In 2020, the Eagles have had Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson get hurt at receiver and their best wideout (Travis Fulgham) wasn’t on the team through three weeks. At tight end, Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have been hurt. And at running back, the Eagles didn’t have Miles Sanders for three games.
All that is true.
And if Pederson is going to compare the 2017 version of Went to the 2020 version of Wentz, then it’s perfectly valid to bring up the injuries around him. Fair enough.
But that obviously isn’t the only problem with Wentz. It’s not like if the team magically got healthy, he’d be playing at that 2017 level again right away. Because the turnovers are inexcusable. Wentz had just seven turnovers through eight games in 2017 and he has 16 through eight games in 2020.
“He has to do better there,” Pederson said. “He has to protect the football. He knows that; we know that. And that is a frustrating thing and our success right now has to be protecting the football. Because honestly, until we get all of our guys back, I don’t think we can just line up and just dominate necessarily.”
This is a good point from Pederson. He’s saying that with all these injuries, the Eagles can’t afford to turn the ball over. They need Wentz to play differently than he has been trying to. That means not forcing things because the margin for error is so small right now.
So does Pederson have a point about the injuries on offense? Sure. Is that the whole story with Wentz’s struggles in 2020? No way.