The Eagles' fan base is split down the middle on Carson Wentz.
One side believes Wentz was worthy of Howie Roseman’s tremendous wheeling and dealing that netted the team Wentz with the second overall pick four years ago.
The other side believes there is more hype than substance, more sizzle than steak, more excuses than results.
Coincidentally, both sides saw the Wentz they believe exists in the same game Sunday. For a quarter and a half, despite being under siege seemingly on every drop-back, Wentz carved up Washington’s defense, engineering three long scoring drives in the first four possessions. The final 11 possessions were Bizarro Wentz, managing just seven first downs, zero points and three turnovers.
The naysayers have every reason to believe that Wentz isn’t the real deal after Sunday’s debacle in Landover, Maryland. But how quickly they forget how dynamic he was just last December, almost single-handedly dragging the team across the finish line to an NFC East title, throwing passes to receivers who were barely household names in their own household.
The Wentz Wagoneers were riding high when the Eagles took a 17-0 lead Sunday, but even at that point you could see cracks in the armor. Wentz had already been sacked four times at that point, and was hit a handful more. He was trying to extend plays where there were none, trying to elude a pass rush that was not only formidable, but getting almost no resistance from Wentz’s offensive line.
So which is the real Carson Wentz? The one we saw come out of the FedExField tunnel like he owned the place, or the one who spent more time on his back than a drunken turtle in the second half?
The answer lies within Wentz himself. In his fifth NFL season, he is entering the beginning of what should be his peak years. He should be improving with each passing season, which is what made the end of last season so exciting. If he played so well surrounded by fringe roster players, how much better will he be when his receivers are healthy again?
But in his fifth season, Wentz should also know, to quote the late Kenny Rogers, “when to fold ‘em,” when to realize that the possibility to make something out of nothing no longer exists, and that the intended receiver is now in the fourth row of the stands.
Throwing the ball away isn’t optimal, but it beats the alternatives — a sack that loses yardage (and potentially the ball), or a throw under duress that could fall into the wrong hands. Looking at last year’s stats, the two quarterbacks that threw the ball away the most were Tom Brady (40) and Aaron Rodgers (31). Wentz threw the ball 607 times last year; he had 10 throwaways and 37 sacks. And that was 37 sacks with a solid offensive line.
We saw it in the first half: when given time, Wentz can make any throw you need him to make. The issue at hand is, when he doesn’t have time, will he realize the best play is to heave it out of bounds?
Seeing how the offensive line played Sunday, we won’t have to wait long to see whether Wentz has developed this key decision-making skill.