Eagles

Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Was Carson Wentz the best QB in NFC East last year?

Carson Wentz returned from a serious ACL/LCL tear in Week 3 in 2018 and then his season ended early with a stress fracture in his back. But in the middle of all that, he actually put together some good numbers. 

This recent tweet from ProFootballFocus grabbed my attention. 

Yeah, they actually ranked Wentz as the best quarterback in the NFC East despite coming back from the knee injury and playing through a back fracture. My colleague Reuben Frank already dispelled 10 myths about Wentz (see story) and a lot of them were about the Eagles with Wentz vs. the Eagles with Nick Foles. I don’t want this to digress into the Foles vs. Wentz debate. 

I just want to take a closer look at how Wentz stacked up against the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East. Was he really the division’s best quarterback even with these injuries? 

Here’s a look at their overall numbers from the regular season: 

Carson Wentz: 11 games, 5-6, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating
Nick Foles: 5 games, 4-1, 72.3%, 1,413 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INT, 96.0 passer rating
Dak Prescott: 16 games, 10-6, 67.7%, 3,885, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 96.9 passer rating 
Alex Smith: 10 games, 6-4, 62.5%, 2,180, 10 TDs, 5 INT, 85.7 passer rating 
Eli Manning: 16 games, 5-11, 66%, 4,299, 21 TDs, 11 INT, 92.4 passer rating 

The thing that stands out there are the records. The Eagles were 5-6 with Wentz at quarterback, but I’ve always been hesitant to use wins as a QB stat. Sure, the QB plays a major role in them, but it’s a team stat that gets transferred to individuals.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at a few of these stats with help from ProFootballReference: 

Passer rating

Wentz: 102.2 
Prescott: 96.9 
Foles: 96.0 
Manning: 92.4 
Smith: 85.7 

I know passer rating is an imperfect measure, but it’s still generally a really good indicator of quarterback play. It takes into account completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. 

Wentz actually improved his passer rating from 101.9 in 2017 to 102.2 in 2018. Those two passer rating numbers are the third- and fourth-best passer ratings in Eagles history (minimum 300 attempts) behind Foles in 2013 (119.2) and Donovan McNabb in 2004 (104.7). Wentz is now the only Eagles QB to have two seasons of passer ratings over 100.

Completion percentage

Foles: 72.3 percent
Wentz: 69.6 percent
Prescott: 67.7 percent
Manning: 66 percent
Smith: 62.5 percent 

Foles and Wentz saw huge jumps in their completion percentage. The highest completion percentage Foles ever had in a season before 2018 was when he completed 65.5 percent of his passes as a backup in KC. Even in his 2013 year, he completed just 64 percent of his passes. 

As for Wentz, he had a goal to improve his completion percentage and, boy, did he do that. He had a near-MVP season in 2017 but completed just 60.2 percent of his passes. He improved that to 69.6 percent in 2018. 

Yards per game 

Foles: 282.6 
Wentz: 279.5

Manning: 268.7
Prescott: 242.8
Smith: 218

The Eagles’ two quarterbacks were pretty close in yards per game. The crazy thing is that the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history and both of these guys would have been on pace if they played 16 games. Wentz improved his yards per game from 253.5 to 279.5 from 2017 to 2018. He has improved in this category in each of his three NFL seasons. 

For as long as Manning has been in the NFL, he’s had just one season averaging more than 279.5 yards per game. Prescott set his own personal high this season. And Smith’s career high is 269.5 from his time in Kansas City. 

TDs per game 

Wentz: 1.9 
Foles: 1.4 

Prescott: 1.38
Manning: 1.31
Smith: 1.0 

This one is obviously huge. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wentz has thrown a ton of touchdowns. And in his first three seasons, Wentz has thrown 70 touchdowns; ninth-most ever in the first three years of a career. 

INTs per game

Prescott: 0.50
Smith: 0.50
Wentz: 0.64 
Manning: 0.69
Foles: 0.80

This is obviously in reverse order. Foles threw the most interceptions per game, while Wentz was in the middle. After throwing 14 interceptions as a rookie (in 16 games), Wentz has thrown 14 in 2017 and 2018 combined (24 games). Among the nine QBs who have thrown at least 70 touchdowns in their first three seasons, Wentz’s interception percentage (1.93) is the second-best.

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So what does all this mean? Well, it means what we’ve been saying for a while now: Despite the injuries, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018. He’s not absolved for the team’s struggles early in the season, but it would be foolish to pin those struggles and that record entirely on him. Had the Eagles won a few of those close games — Tennessee, Carolina, both Dallas games — perhaps we’d look back on Wentz’s 2018 season much differently. 

Was he the best QB in the NFC East in 2018? I don’t know. But, if he stays healthy, I think he’s going to be the best QB in the NFC East for a long time to come.

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Fringe 1st-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk undergoes core muscle surgery

Fringe 1st-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk undergoes core muscle surgery

Possible first-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk reportedly had surgery today in Philadelphia, according to NFL Network. 

The speedy Arizona State receiver is thought to be a possible late-first-round or second-round pick in the NFL Draft later this month. 

Meyers, who is based in Philadelphia, is widely considered to be the top surgeon in the country for this procedure. He draws in athletes from all over the country for this particular surgery. 

It’s the same surgery DeSean Jackson ended up needing last year and that another draft prospect, Laviska Shenault, had in February. 

The big question with Aiyuk is this: What does this do to his draft stock? 

Well, a surgery a little over two weeks from the draft certainly won’t help. But at least it explains why he ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash at the combine. That’s not a bad time at all, but Aiyuk looks faster in games and that’s probably because he is. 

The likelihood of no OTAs is an interesting wrinkle in this. The normal recovery time after this kind of surgery is around 4-8 weeks. So because there likely won’t be any practices until training camp, there’s a good chance Aiyuk will be completely healed by then. 

In an Eagles-only mock draft on March 31, I had the Eagles taking Aiyuk with the 53rd pick but I wasn’t completely convinced he’d be there. This injury/surgery makes it slightly more likely that he is. 

Replacing N’Keal Harry for the Sun Devils in 2019, Aiyuk had a big season, catching 65 passes for 1,192 yards (18.3) and 8 touchdowns. But he also played just two seasons at ASU after transferring from a JUCO program. 

Despite the injury, Aiyuk tested well at the combine. And his freakish wingspan gives him a giant catch radius. 

Where Aiyuk really shines is with the ball in his hands. He also returned kicks and punts at ASU and his YAC ability is impressive. Aiyuk would be a great weapon for Doug Pederson and the Eagles’ offense. 

Maybe this surgery helps him fall into their range in Round 2. 

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NFL mock draft 2020: Eagles get a couple receivers and a lot of defense

NFL mock draft 2020: Eagles get a couple receivers and a lot of defense

Another Eagles-only mock draft, another one with them taking two receivers. 

I just can’t see how they don’t at this point. With their inaction at the position all offseason, I think they need to draft at least two later this month. 

Let’s not waste more time. To my latest Eagles-only mock: 

Round 1-21: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU 

For a while now, Jefferson has been the most popular name for the Eagles with the 21st pick and for good reason. He’s a good receiver, but not considered to be one of the top three in the class. His value lines up right around where the Eagles will be picking. 

Heck, my colleague at NBC Sports, Chris Simms, loves Jefferson. 

The big question about Jefferson (6-1, 202) is whether or not he’ll be able to play outside at the next level. It’s a valid question and there’s legitimate concern about that. So if the Eagles wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a slot receiver in the first round, it’s going to take some projecting on their part to make the pick. And with a team that has prioritized 12 personnel in recent seasons, maybe the Eagles simply want to find a player they can play outside. 

But, to me, Jefferson is just a really good receiver and I’m not as bothered by his lack of playing time outside. If we’re worried about giving Carson Wentz a reliable weapon, Jefferson fits that mold, even if he’s working inside most of the time. He can still be a game-changer working from the slot. 

And it’s not like Jefferson is a sloth out there. He has good speed and athleticism, so even if Jefferson is inside, he’d be explosive from that spot. 

In 2019, Jefferson caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. And he came up huge down the stretch as LSU won the national championship. There are no sure things in the NFL Draft, but I feel pretty confident Jefferson will at least be a good player at the NFL level. 

Round 2-53: Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota 

The Eagles re-signed Rodney McLeod, brought back Jalen Mills as a safety and signed Will Parks as a free agent this offseason. But none of that should stop the Eagles from drafting a safety high. And Winfield is a really good one. 

Some people will be scared by his size — or lack of size, but the 5-9, 203-pound Winfield is built well and has an NFL pedigree. He’s the son of former NFL cornerback Antoine Winfield. The younger Winfield is coming off a really impressive 2019 season after injuries in the previous two years limited him. In 2019, Winfield Jr. was great. 

Last season, he had 83 tackles, 7 INTs (1 returned for a TD), 3 sacks. And he even returned a few punts in 2018, taking one to the house. 

Winfield is not an outstanding athlete, but he’s athletic enough to get the job done and that 4.45 speed isn’t bad either. 

Winfield makes up for his lack of size with incredible instincts and still hits pretty hard despite his stature. He’s fun to watch because he’s just a playmaker. And he’s versatile enough that Jim Schwartz and the Eagles should be interested. 

Round 3-103: Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah 

Howie Roseman is going to struggle to sit and watch 50 picks come off the board but he’d probably be pretty happy if he can still get a good pass rusher late in the third round. Remember, the Eagles’ own third-round pick went to the Lions in the trade for Darius Slay. 

With Anae (uh-nigh), the Eagles would be getting a 6-3, 257-pound pass rusher who is coming off a 13-sack season at Utah and broke the school’s all-time sack record with 30.0 in four years. Anae started 38 games for the Utes and was a two-time first-team All-Pac 12 defensive end. 

The Hawaiian-born Anae got an invite to the Senior Bowl this year and made the most of it. He had a good week of practices and then picked up three sacks in the game. 

Because Anae had a solid performance at the combine and he was good at the Senior Bowl. He was a high-motor player for Utah, putting together some impressive tape. 

The Eagles have a need at defensive end too. Because Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are back in 2020 but neither are locked up long-term and there isn’t much depth after them either. 

Round 4-127: Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado

The Eagles probably won’t draft a linebacker super early but here’s a chance for them to wait until the fourth round and get a really intriguing player with an amazing athletic profile. 

Taylor (6-0, 228) is obviously undersized but that’s kind of what the Eagles want in their linebackers these days. With a little more polish, he has the chance to be a really good player. He certainly has the physical makeup for it. 

If you think his 4.49 time in the 40 at the combine is fast, well, he shaved even more time off of it at the Colorado pro day. This dude has track speed and it showed up on the field. Here was one of his more eye-popping collegiate plays: 

Taylor got a late start in football because of religious beliefs — check out his story (it’s pretty interesting) — so he’s still a work in progress. But with the physical tools he possesses, the right coaches could make him into an impressive player. 

Round 4-145: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina 

Here comes the double-dip for the Eagles at receiver. This time, they nab Edwards (6-3, 212), who I think would have gone a little higher if not for injury concerns. I think the Eagles will stay away from injury-concern guys at the top of the draft but if they can find value later on with guys who slip because of it, they might take a chance. 

Edwards final college season ended with a knee injury and then he broke his foot before the combine so he couldn’t participate. I think he would have tested very well. 

He’s a big, strong receiver who has plenty of long speed. Edwards made some impressive plays for the Gamecocks. 

In his four-year career, despite shaky quarterback play, Edwards caught 234 passes for 3,045 yards and 22 touchdowns. Edwards is the South Carolina record holder for career receptions, yards and finished one touchdown behind Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery for that record. 

Round 4-146: Harrison Hand, CB, Temple 

This is probably later than some would like to see a cornerback taken but there’s a chance the board simply falls this way. And Hand would be a nice scoop late in the fourth round. The Cherry Hill product starting his college career at Baylor but transferred to Temple for the 2019 season and was granted a waiver to play immediately. 

In his one season with the Owls, Hand had 3 INTs, 5 PBUs and 4 TFLs. His junior season at Temple wasn’t all good, but he showed some traits that might make him a good NFL player. 

At the combine, Hand ran a 4.52, which is solid but he would have likely gotten that under 4.5 at Temple’s pro day. Oh well. 

Round 5-168: Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State 

The Eagles lost Halapoulivaati Vaitai in free agency and don’t have a ton backing up Andre Dillard and Lane Johnson right now. Jordan Mailata might be ready … he might not. So the Eagles get a guy who can play multiple positions in the next round but for now, they get another project for Jeff Stoutland. 

Taylor is 6-8, 308 and comes from the same FCS school that produced Javon Hargrave in 2016. 

A former basketball player, the thing that stands out about Taylor is his athleticism. In fact, he transferred to SCSU to play basketball before getting back on the football field. 

Round 6-190: Calvin Throckmorton, iOL, Oregon 

No, I don’t have the Eagles taking Throckmorton just because his name is great — although that certainly didn’t hurt. Throckmorton is 6-foot-5, 317 pounds and has the versatility to play several spots along the line. That alone should be enough to like him. 

At Oregon, Throckmorton started a total of 52 games coming at four different positions. The only spot he didn’t start was at left guard. According to Oregon, he allowed just one sack in his last 45 games. Throckmorton was a late addition to the Senior Bowl but the brainy senior picked up the offense very quickly and played both tackle spots and center during the actual game. 

Throckmorton is big and accomplished but there are questions about where he fits best at the next level. Many think it’s inside because he’s not a great athlete. That’s also a reason why he’s available this late in the draft. 

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