32 for 32: Back from Wentz He Came
Editor’s Note: This is a part of our 32 for 32 QB Profiles series.
There are many questions facing the Philadelphia Eagles as they head into the 2018 season. How will the longtime underdogs cope with now being in everyone’s cross-hairs as the team to beat? Will the defense, thought of as an area of strength prior to the Super Bowl itself, be able to shake off the memories of a day where they allowed 600 yards of offense? Will the players be able to compete with or even top some of their touchdown celebrations from a year ago?
But the main question facing the team is: Will Carson Wentz be Carson Wentz again?
After winning his first three games as a rookie in 2016, Wentz and the Eagles faltered somewhat for the rest of the season. In wins against the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers, Wentz completed 64.7 percent of his passes on his way to 769 yards and five touchdowns. He was on pace for 4,101 yards and 27 touchdowns at a 7.6 yards per attempt clip.
In the remaining 13 games, Wentz and the Eagles were not so efficient. His completion percentage was down to 61.6, his touchdown passes came at an average of less than one per game, while his interception rate went from zero to 1.08. As for the lofty yards per attempt mark, that was 6.07. All in, Wentz’s rookie season saw him complete 62.44 percent of his passes, for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
The Eagles did not have a strong cast of characters around Wentz in 2016. Zach Ertz led the team in receptions and receiving yards with 78 and 816. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews was close behind with 73/804. But the two scored only seven touchdowns all season, with two of Ertz’s coming in Week 17. No other wide receiver averaged more than 2.5 receptions per game. Only Paul Turner (14.0 yards per reception on nine catches) and Bryce Treggs (26.7 on three receptions) averaged more than veteran tight end Brent Celek’s 11.1 yards per grab. Things needed to change in Philadelphia.
And change things they did. The Eagles signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, bolstering their wide receiving corps so much that they could safely trade Matthews to the Buffalo Bills and wave farewell to Dorial Green-Beckham with little sadness. With new and better toys to play with and a year of taking his lumps behind him, Wentz got better and better as the 2017 season rolled on.
In 2017, Wentz had his pass attempts scaled back from 38 per game as a rookie to just under 34. Despite losing these attempts, his passing yards per game jumped from 236.4 to 253.5. This was thanks to a huge leap in Wentz’s yards per attempt. His 6.36 as a rookie was overshadowed by a 7.55 mark the following season. Five players saw at least 25 targets from Wentz in 2017. All of them provided him with an adjusted yard per attempt mark in excess of 7.0.
His fantasy production was likewise much improved. He went from averaging 16.76 in 2016 to 26.59 in 2017. After back-to-back weeks as the QB24 and QB17 in Weeks 3 and 4, Wentz finished among the top 12 in weekly scoring in every game the rest of the season, but one (Week 11 – QB14). His QB2 finish in Week 14 was all the more remarkable when one remembers he played just over half of the game against the Los Angeles Rams, even throwing a touchdown pass after tearing his ACL.
Wentz’s final numbers for the season were 3,296 passing yards, an Eagles record 33 touchdown passes, and seven interceptions. Since 2010, seven quarterbacks have thrown for more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a season. Wentz sits in some exalted company.
The Comeback Trail
Given the relatively late stage last season when Wentz suffered his injury, the initial prognosis for his 2018 involvement was not positive. The esteemed Dr. James Andrews estimated a 9-12 month recovery time. Even at the optimistic end, this put his return to the field sometime in September. As football fans will know, September is when the season starts. Wentz maintained very early on that his goal was to be ready for Week 1. But his participation in training camp was seriously in doubt.
Saying that however, it appeared that the doubts were not justified. Wentz was running by April, after this, he was throwing in individual drills in May, before avoiding the PUP list to start training camp and taking part in 11-on-11 padded practices at the end of July. The odds of Wentz being the Week 1 starter are getting shorter by the day.
Wentz’s health is, of course, the biggest question mark surrounding him heading into the season. Assuming he is fully healthy when he next sees the field, there is little doubt that he can and will justify the faith that has him going off the boards as the fourth quarterback in 2QB leagues. All of his main playmakers (with the exception of backup tight end Trey Burton) are back with the Eagles in 2018, as well as the addition of second-round draft pick Dallas Goedert, who is expected to give the Eagles another weapon, especially in the red zone. This should make an already dangerous offense even more so. This is just more great news for Wentz in 2018.
Neil resides near Liverpool in England. He lives with his fiancé and their two daughters, as well as a guinea pig named Piggle.
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