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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