Eagles

The dumbest criticisms of Carson Wentz, ranked

The dumbest criticisms of Carson Wentz, ranked

Carson Wentz just guided the Eagles to a win over Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, where Rodgers wins about 80 percent of the time, on a short week, with numerous injuries in his receiving corps and a defense that could make Kevin Kolb look like a Hall of Famer.

Yet, no doubt, some Eagles fans will find a way to denigrate Wentz’s performance while leading the offense to 34 points on Thursday. After all, he “only” completed 59 percent of his passes and threw for 160 yards while averaging 5.9 yards per attempt, which are hardly elite numbers.

Well, haters, I hate to burst your bubble, but this entire debate over Wentz’s supposed non-greatness is pure nonsense. Time to poke holes in some of these petty criticisms of the franchise quarterback.

5. Wentz is injury prone

Sure, there’s a modicum of truth to this. Wentz has dealt with several injuries in his four-year NFL career already and even going back to college.

We could debate under which circumstances an athlete has earned the “injury prone” label, only there’s no need to here. The quarterback Wentz’s most vocal critics wanted is on the shelf right now.

I take no pleasure in Nick Foles’ misfortune, but the reality is he’s been injured every time he’s had a chance to be a starter. Literally. In 2013, it was a concussion. In 2014, collarbone. In 2015, concussion. In 2019, collarbone. Heck, an elbow injury limited Foles throughout the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship season, and even caused him to consider retirement.

Yes, Wentz has been hurt. Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger are hurt right now. The injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent. There does come a point when a player is just injury prone and that’s all there is to it – Sam Bradford springs to mind, and you could argue Foles.

Wentz isn’t there yet.

4. Wentz takes too many hits/is reckless

One of the legitimate flaws in Wentz’s game has been a tendency to hold on to the football too long and take sacks, unnecessary hits or attempt risky, desperation passes just to get rid of it. Occasionally, he needs to check it down or give up on a play and throw it away.

But now, because Wentz had these injuries, there’s been a sharp over-correction in the attitude about his overall style of play. Every time he lunges for a first down or takes any hit at all in service of playing the position of quarterback, it’s deemed reckless.

First of all, it’s not as if Wentz has taken an inordinate number of shots this season. Through four games, he’s been hit 22 times – so about five or six per game – and 10 of those were by the Falcons, who did a good job keeping the Eagles’ offensive line on their heels.

More to the point, Wentz is 6-foot-5 with 4.7 speed. Eluding would-be sackers and extending plays with his legs is part of what makes him so special, and you can’t expect a guy who is trying like hell to win to just shut off his instincts. Obviously, he can’t throw caution to the wind, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with scrambling to keep plays alive or diving for a first down, for example.

3. Josh McCown led the offense right down the field!

This one makes a legitimate case for dumbest simply because even a cursory glance at the stats will tell you McCown didn’t do anything special on that fateful partial-series.

Week 2 in Atlanta, Wentz spent some time in the concussion protocol (not out with a legitimate injury), and everybody’s favorite player – the backup quarterback – suddenly got the chains moving for a stagnant offense that managed three points in the game’s first 29 minutes.

McCown started with a couple dump-off passes to Miles Sanders to pick up a first down, then on 3rd-and-6, hit Zach Ertz over the middle for his only legitimate non-check down completion before Wentz returned. The 17-year veteran was 3-of-5 for 24 yards with a 4.8 average per attempt while moving the Eagles into field goal range.

It was fine, and the Eagles are fortunate to have a competent backup who can keep the ship afloat. McCown was also asked to make some simple throws on that series, and by and large, an offense predicated on dinking and dunking its way down field will have trouble sustaining success.

At the very least, it wasn’t enough of a body of work to draw any real conclusions about a McCown-led offense. However, mostly it’s silly to assess a couple of dump-offs and one third down conversion as superior quarterbacking.

2. Wentz “misses some throws”

Every week, Wentz misses some throws. Yep, Wentz missed some throws on Thursday. Missed some throws last week, too. It seems every single game, he has some overthrows, some ducks or just doesn’t see a wide-open receiver.

Why can’t Wentz be more like Tom Brady? That guy has six rings for a reason – a career 100-percent completion rate.

Wait. You mean Brady throws incompletions? Every week you say? Huh.

Watch any NFL game. These guys all miss throws for one reason or another. Drew Brees is literally the most accurate passer in NFL history, and he misses his talented, All-Pro wideout Mike Thomas plenty. None of these guys are perfect, but if you watch enough football, you’ll see every QB sail passes, throw a couple into the turf, let loose at least one wobbler and not target that wide-open receiver you managed to spot from the luxury of your nosebleed seats 150 feet in the air.

That’s not to say Wentz couldn’t be sharper. He’s only completed 60.7 percent of his passes this season. Then again, in 2018, he completed 69.6 percent, which was third in the league, so he certainly has that in him.

1. Wentz isn’t as good as people think he is

Since returning from a torn ACL suffered during his MVP-caliber 2017, Wentz only has a 7-8 record as a starter. And prior to Thursday’s win, he guided the Eagles to back-to-back gut-wrenching losses in which the offense started slow and fell behind early.

To which I say there’s only so much the guy can do.

Wentz was never completely healthy in 2018, between rehabbing the knee and then the back. Yet he still managed to set career highs for completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating. And Weeks 2 and 3 of this season, he was without Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Dallas Goedert – literally the majority of his receiving corps – and had to endure 10 drops from their backups.

Even then, he put the game-winning touchdown in his receivers’ hands in both losses.

When Wentz is healthy and his supporting cast just hangs on to the ball, he’s one of the bright, young quarterbacks in the sport. Again, go back to ’17. Foles might’ve won the Super Bowl, but they had a bye and home field in the playoffs because of Wentz.

There’s room for improvement. Wentz is also 26 and in his fourth season and far from a finished product – and still undeniably in the top-10 quarterbacks you’d choose to build a team around right now. Peyton Manning wasn’t Peyton Manning at this stage of his career, either.

Maybe stop trying to find reasons why he’s going to fail and embrace the fact that, whatever his ceiling, wherever he falls in the quarterback rankings right now, Wentz is really, really good.

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Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

For the last month of the 2019, the Eagles finally saw how much a healthy Tim Jernigan can help their defensive line. 

Will that be enough reason to bring him back? 

That’s a question the Eagles will have to ask themselves this offseason as Jernigan is set to become a free agent. On one hand, when Jernigan is healthy, he’s been pretty good and Jim Schwartz has previously said Jernigan “means something to our spirit.” And he’s still just 27. 

On the other hand, Jernigan has struggled to stay healthy the last few years and the Eagles might not be able to rely on him. 

An emotional Jernigan spoke to our Derrick Gunn just after the playoff loss earlier this month and was well aware his future is up in the air. 

It hit different when you’re a free agent because you don’t know what’s going to happen with you. At the end of the day, man, as long as my teammates know that I gave everything I had on Sunday, when those lights turned on, I gave y’all everything I had. I’m at peace with that. 

“However it turns out with me in this free agency thing, I’m at peace with that. As long as y’all boys know I gave y’all everything I had. The city knows I gave them everything I had. It’s always love from here, from me there’s always love.

As of earlier this month, Jernigan said he and the Eagles hadn’t had any discussions about a possible contract. That doesn’t mean they won’t. 

Remember, the Eagles traded for Jernigan before the 2017 and he played really well that season before an ankle injury began to limit him. Still, he started 15 regular season games that year and all three in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII. 

He played well enough that during the 2017 season, the Eagles gave him a four-year extension worth up to $48 million. 

But then Jernigan hit some hard times. He suffered a mysterious back injury in the offseason and needed surgery. Jernigan still hasn’t said publicly how he suffered the injury. He and the team renegotiated the deal and Jernigan played just three regular season games in 2018, but then played in the playoffs. He fought his way back. 

Last offseason, the Eagles unsurprisingly declined the option on his renegotiated contract but still signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million for the 2019 season. Jernigan hurt his foot early in the season in 2019 but returned to play 10 games and eventually played at a pretty high level. 

So, yeah, there have been some ups and downs. 

“I’ve been through a lot the last two years,” Jernigan said. “I’ve had my highs and lows, I’ve had my times where I didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I went through every emotion but I made it. That’s definitely a positive to take from the season. I was able to finish this thing the right way.” 

The Eagles know they’ll have Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at defensive tackle in 2020. It would seem like Jernigan would be an obvious choice to be the third guy in the rotation but Hassan Ridgeway is also going to be a free agent and is two years younger. 

But Ridgeway hasn’t been able to stay healthy either. He’s actually played one fewer game than Jernigan over the last two seasons and he hasn’t had the highs, especially not in this city. 

There’s a decent chance the Eagles try to bring Jernigan back for another season. But if it doesn’t happen, there won’t be hard feelings on Jernigan’s side. 

“Either way it go, whether I’m with the Eagles next year or I’m not,” Jernigan said, “I can promise you, I am one of those people, I’ll always be around this city, you know what I’m saying? I’m gonna always be around this city, even a long time from now. I met people away from football that I found love for. It’s love from me. 

“If I ain’t here, then y’all know what it is, man. I’m six years into my career, 27 years old, I can always end up back here. It ain’t over till it’s over, man.”

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Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Is it time to move on from a legend?

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Is it time to move on from a legend?

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at offensive tackles: 

Jason Peters 

Roob: It’s time. He’s one of the greatest Eagles of all-time, but it’s time. Peters is still a pretty good left tackle, but he’s not what he used to be, Andre Dillard is here for a reason, he looks ready, and at some point you just have to make the decision to move on. It’s going to be weird seeing an Eagles team without J.P. He’s been here so long he blocked for Vince Young. But it’s time to turn the page, and I think the Eagles understand that now.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: It was a great run for Peters, who arrived in 2009 thanks to what was probably the best trade in franchise history. Peters had years of dominance, making seven of his nine Pro Bowls with the Eagles. But he’s turning 38 later this month and even though he played fairly well in 2019, the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard for a reason. Peters is a free agent and as tough as it might be for the organization, it’s time for them to let him leave. I just wouldn’t want to be the one who has to tell him. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: After seven Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections and 11 seasons with the Eagles, it's easy to get sentimental about a player. Peters is a surefire Hall of Famer. Hell, he's still probably better than at least half the left tackles in the league. Unfortunately, he may not be better than the left tackle the club drafted last April. We won't know until the change is made, but it's time to find out rather than pin the hopes on a 38-year-old oft-injured free agent-to-be. 

Verdict: Goes

Lane Johnson 

Roob: It was a tough year for Johnson, who missed the first Seahawks game with a concussion and then missed the last four games of the season with a knee injury. It was the first time in Johnson’s seven-year career he’s missed multiple games because of injury. Johnson turns 30 this spring, and he’s still an elite right tackle when he’s healthy, and there’s no reason to expect anything less from him. The Eagles really need him to stay healthy.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The Eagles missed Johnson down the stretch of last season. Simply put: They’re a much better team with him on the field. The Eagles think he’s the best right tackle in the NFL and gave him a huge contract extension during the season to keep him in Philly through the 2025 season. He’s the only player on the roster signed through 2025. He’s not going anywhere for a while. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: There's nothing not to like about Johnson. He'll be 30, still in the meat of an offensive lineman's prime. He's arguably the best right tackle in the NFL and a leader. His brand new contract extension does squeeze the Eagles for a cap hit just south of $16 million in 2020, but when healthy, the two-time Pro Bowler is worth every penny. Plus, if the Eagles win another Super Bowl, he'll probably get everybody beer again. 

Verdict: Stays

Andre Dillard 

Roob: It’s kind of weird that Dillard was so bad at right tackle after holding his own at left tackle. He didn’t seem to have a great attitude about trying to play on the right side – it’s like trying to write with your left hand and all that – and that’s a concern. You want a guy to embrace any challenge and dive in head-first. Dillard has the physical tools in the world, he’s still got to prove he can handle the mental challenges that come with the job. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The rookie started three games at left tackle and acquitted himself quite well. Playing on the right side was a disaster and wasn’t a good sign, but that’s not why they drafted him. I expect him to be the starter at left tackle in 2020. He still has to answer plenty of questions but he’ll have to do it on game days. He needs to play in 2020. If he works out, the Eagles could have three waves of incredible stability at left tackle with Tra Thomas, Peters and then Dillard.  

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: The kid took some lumps, especially in his lone start at right tackle, where he was benched at halftime. Dillard showed promise at his natural position on the left though, and the only way he's ever going to take the next step is to play. They're literally going to give Peters the boot for this kid, so yeah, he'll be here for a little while. 

Verdict: Stays

Halapoulivaati Vaitai 

Roob: Big V is an unrestricted free agent, and while he’s never been a full-time starter in his four years here he’s really been a valuable sixth o-lineman who could back up both guard and tackle spots. Vaitai started 20 games at various spots here and was the Super Bowl left tackle, so he’s got a decent body of work after an inauspicious start back in 2016. The Eagles would love to have him back, but somebody is going to give Big V a lot of money.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: As a fifth-round pick back in 2016, the Eagles got a lot of use out of Big V in the last four years. He played in 52 games with 20 starts and started four more games in the playoffs, including at left tackle in Super Bowl LII. He’s not a top-tier guy but he’s solid and versatile and he’s been a solid player for the Eagles. They’d probably like to have him back. But even average tackles get paid in this league and he might get near-starter money elsewhere. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Big V is a largely competent swing tackle who's at his best when given a full week to prepare to play rather than coming off the bench cold, and even then he's is good for one or two massive blunders per game. And in the NFL, where tackles are at a premium, that's probably good enough to get paid this offseason. Vaitai is a free agent and could very well be starting somewhere in 2020 – it just won't be here. 

Verdict: Goes

Jordan Mailata 

Roob: Assuming Big V and Peters leave via free agency, Mailata could very well become the backup at both tackle spots. Mailata will be going into his third year, and that’s about when you expect to see results from this sort of long-term project. He’s still young. At 22, he’s two years younger than Dillard but this will be a big training camp for him. He’s still never played in a regular-season NFL game, but he should be in the mix for a role this coming season.

Verdict: Stays 

Dave: This is tough because we’re two years into the Mailata experiment and he still hasn’t played in a game that counts. But I haven’t seen anything to change my opinion that he can play the game and the Eagles always knew this was a long-term project. And, by the way, he’s still just 22. The Eagles might try to bring Big V back or sign a different veteran; if not, Mailata could be the swing tackle next season. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Two years into the rugby-player-turned-American-footballer experiment, we're no closer to knowing whether Mailata belongs on an NFL field. That was likely the plan all along, though looking at this list of players, he currently projects as not just the top backup – he's the only backup on the roster. The 6-foot-8, 346-pound Australian showed there's a lot of pure physical ability to work with in preseason action, and he's only 22 and on a cheap rookie deal, so the Eagles probably owe it to themselves to see this thing through now. But, man, it's a little scary to think he might be one injury away from starting in 2020. 

Verdict: Stays

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