Dak Prescott

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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Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 — NFC East hopes on life support after damaging OT loss

Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 — NFC East hopes on life support after damaging OT loss

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas — They’re just not good enough. No other way to put it. They’re good enough to keep it close, good enough to make it interesting.

They’re just not good enough to beat good teams.  

You can play around with tiebreakers and playoff scenarios all you want (see story). The 2018 Eagles are just not good enough.

Period.

Here are our 10 instant observations from the Eagles’ 29-23 overtime loss Sunday to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

1. Same old story. Terrible start. Fight like hell to get back into it. Then come up short at the end. That’s the story of the 2018 Eagles season. Why can’t they play a complete game on both sides of the ball for 60 minutes? There are a thousand reasons. Bad coaching. Poor preparation. Not enough elite players. But the bottom line is you can’t win consistently in the NFL if you can’t come out strong and finish strong. The Eagles are just incapable of playing a complete game against a decent opponent.

2. Carson Wentz’s early struggles are really becoming an epidemic, and it’s clear that neither Wentz nor his coaches have any idea how to get him going early in games. This was one of the biggest games of Wentz’s career, and he once again came out flat. He didn’t see open receivers, he misfired trying to hit open guys, he held onto the ball too long, and his pocket recognition was way off. The same pattern just keeps repeating itself. He was brilliant in the second half. But the Eagles have to figure out why he can’t put together a complete game because you can’t win this way, no matter how talented you are (see story).

3. I also don’t think Wentz got any help from Doug Pederson. Pederson's play-calling again was frustrating. Whether it was not using Josh Adams the rest of the first half after his 24-yard run on the Eagles’ fourth play of the game or that ill-advised 3rd-and-1 Wentz run right at Demarcus Lawrence or not getting Golden Tate involved, Pederson once again was unable to get the offense into any kind of rhythm for most of the game. This team just doesn’t score points the way it should.

4. The defense played bend-but-don’t-break for much of the game and held the Cowboys without a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, but the duct-tape secondary finally caught up to it and it just fell to pieces, giving up 23 points and 271 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. Not an excuse, but I just don’t know what more it could do without Jordan Hicks, Jalen Mills, Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan, Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod. The defense forced three turnovers, recorded three sacks and got decent pressure at times, but ultimately it just doesn't have the manpower to stop an offense with the weapons the Cowboys have — Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. It's just not good enough with its current personnel (see story).

5. Pederson was back to his old ways ignoring the running game. Adams got three carries on the Eagles’ first four plays and had an eight-yard run, a minus-two and then a 24-yard gain 3:34 into the game. Then he didn’t have another carry until the third quarter and finished with just seven attempts for the game. Overall, the Eagles ran 36 pass plays and 16 running plays. I’m not saying give him 25 carries every week, but one carry in the span of six possessions for a guy who has been one of the league’s better runners the last month makes no sense. You want rhythm on offense? A nice way to get it is to mix in the running game. The Cowboys held onto the ball for 45½ minutes to 22½ minutes for the Eagles. Dallas had 36 rushing attempts!

6. The Eagles are going to have to figure some things out this offseason because the Cowboys aren’t going away. Dak Prescott threw for 455 yards and three TDs, Elliott had 113 rushing yards and 79 receiving and Cooper 217 receiving yards and three TDs (see story). Getting all the injured guys back will help, but the Eagles still have some significant work to do through the draft and free agency to build a defense that can match up with this group.

7. How big has Darren Sproles been these last two weeks? Here’s a guy who barely played any football since the 2016 season, and he had a huge touchdown in the win over the Redskins and that huge 25-yard catch and run on 4th-and-3 on the last play of the third quarter and then the game-tying TD with 1:39 left Sunday. For selfish reasons, I really hope he doesn’t retire. He’s just so much fun to watch.

8. I don’t say this enough, but Fletcher Cox is a flat-out beast. Honestly, he’s one of the Eagles’ best defensive players ever.

9. So impressed with Dallas Goedert. After catching just one pass for nine yards on the Eagles’ first nine drives, he had a huge 26-yard catch and run inside the 10 and then the game-tying touchdown with three minutes left. He finished 4 for 44 with the TD and had a 75-yard TD wiped away because of a ridiculous call. He is so talented.

10a. Nelson Agholor rarely gets the ball anymore, but the dude is just so clutch. He had one catch against the Giants and it was that huge fourth-down conversion. Then after catching just one short pass the whole game, he makes that miracle 49-yarder down the left sideline to set up the Sproles TD. I wish he was more involved, but he’s just such a gamer.

10b. Finally, I never blame the refs for anything. There are always bad calls, and you live with them. But that ruling to open the game, that there was no clear recovery by the Eagles on the Jourdan Lewis fumble, and the ensuing confirmation by the replay officials, was just absurd (see story). And the offensive pass interference on Goedert that wiped out the 75-yard game-tying TD was worse. Just inexcusable stuff.

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Dak Prescott claps back at Kamu Grugier-Hill's smack talk

Dak Prescott claps back at Kamu Grugier-Hill's smack talk

We’ve got ourselves an old-fashioned war of words. Well, kind of. At the very least, the Eagles and Cowboys are once again the talk of the NFL.

Leading up to this weekend’s crucial showdown in Dallas, Eagles LB Kamu Grugier-Hill started things off by calling the Dallas Cowboys chokers.

Today, during the Cowboys media session, QB Dak Prescott fired back at Grugier-Hill.

Now, this isn’t the most stern of clap-backs, but obviously, Prescott chose to pretend that he didn’t know who Grugier-Hill was and offered a second line about losers worrying about winners.

As far as I’m concerned, simple smack talking like this is a great way to shorten the week and build excitement for a huge game against division rivals. If the Cowboys needed more motivation to beat the Eagles on Sunday, then they’ve got issues. I don’t think either team is going to use any of this as fuel on the field Sunday, but it’s great fun for fans on social media.

If there was one game for Grugier-Hill to break out and make an impact, though, this would be it. The memes alone would be worth it.

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