Eagles-Cowboys, Day After: Why Carson Wentz Provides Hope

Plus: How much change is coming in the offseason?
Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Change isn’t coming. Well, at least not significant change up top. Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman are both expected to return in their roles. Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz and Dave Fipp could earn interviews for head coaching jobs around the league, but each coordinator will likely be back. Pederson will once again call plays next season, and he doesn’t anticipate much movement among his position coaches.

On the personnel side, Roseman is always one of the most active general managers in the NFL, and you can expect the Eagles to target several positions in the offseason (cornerback, wide receiver and defensive end, to name a few). But according to Over The Cap, the Eagles have one of the worst 2017 cap situations in the league as they have just $9 million in space. While Roseman could free up some money by cutting guys like Connor Barwin, Ryan Mathews and Leodis McKelvin, the Birds still rank 29th in the NFL in cap room.

But they do have one thing going for them, and it’s a big one: Carson Wentz. We’re still years away from knowing whether Wentz will be a franchise quarterback, but early returns are positive. Wentz is the first Eagles quarterback to start all 16 games since 2008, and simply having continuity at the most important position on the field will help the franchise.

“We’re really excited about it. I’ve had five quarterbacks in four years,” Zach Ertz said. “It’s hard obviously to build that trust and that chemistry consistently with a quarterback if they’re constantly getting shipped out of here. But when Carson was drafted it made us so excited for us position players because we knew we were finally going to have the opportunity to build that chemistry with one quarterback for a long time.”

One often overlooked hurdle Wentz had to jump this year was entering the season with almost no practice repetitions with the starting offense. Because Wentz was buried on the depth chart until the Sam Bradford trade a week before the season, he spent much more time throwing to receivers who ended up on the practice squad than guys on the active roster.

Early in the season, Doug Pederson explained how Wentz sometimes missed Ertz, who was consistently open but not getting targeted much, because they weren’t yet on the same page. But with 16 games under his belt and months of offseason work ahead, Wentz’s production should naturally jump next year.

“His progression from the start of the year to today is night and day,” Pederson said. “He’s really seeing the field. He’s surveying the field. He’s using his legs. He’s a gifted runner. He knows where everybody is going to be. He’s got great dialogue and communication on the sideline, on the football field. His leadership ability. He’s an exciting player to watch and to coach, and it’s a pleasure having him this year. In his rookie season, to do the things that he’s done just is amazing, and really looking forward to the offseason and building for next year.”

The Eagles should also have an easier time building around their quarterback than most other teams because little of their cap space is dedicated to Wentz. Thanks to mostly fixed structures of rookie contracts, Wentz’s cap hit never rises above $8.5 million under his current deal. Even Wentz’s backup, Chase Daniel, has a higher cap hit than the starter in each of the next two seasons.

But it’s Wentz’s play, not his contract, that makes his teammates point to him first when asked why they’re optimistic about the future.

“The last thing you want to be looking for is a quarterback. That’s a tough situation,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “Now, we’re just figuring out how we’re going to build around him and that’s a good situation to be in.”

SOCIAL SKILLS

NOTABLE QUOTES

Jason Peters on if he’ll be back next season:

“I don’t know.”

Leodis McKelvin, who said he expects to return next year, on his expectations for 2017:

“Shit, if I get the opportunity to come in next year, I’ll win the starting spot. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Jordan Hicks on his two interceptions:

“I know Mark [Sanchez] well. Mark threw me a couple. I obviously said ‘thank you’ after that game. We’re good buds. Mark was here for last year and I got to know him real well.”

Terrell Watson on scoring his first touchdown in the NFL against Dallas:

“It was a moment that I just wanted to stop and embrace. It was an opportunity that not too many people get. It was an awesome feeling.”

Carson Wentz on getting his offensive linemen guns for Christmas:

“They loved them.  I’ve gotten to know each of those guys so I wanted to give them something special that they thought was different and cool, so they loved them.”

Brent Celek on the Eagles falling short year after year:

“It’s pretty frustrating. You never know how many more you have left, especially when you get up there in age. I want to win a championship. I know the city wants to win a championship real bad. This can’t happen next year; that’s just plain and simple. I think everyone in this organization, and on this team, everyone understands we have to be better than this next year.”

SNAPS

Offense

Player
# of snaps
% of snaps
Brandon Brooks76100%
Lane Johnson76100%
Jason Kelce76100%
Isaac Seumalo76100%
Carson Wentz76100%
Jason Peters7599%
Zach Ertz7092%
Dorial Green-Beckham6484%
Paul Turner5978%
Trey Burton4255%
Byron Marshall3546%
Bryce Treggs3546%
Darren Sproles2938%
Brent Celek2330%
Terrell Watson1216%
Halapoulivaati Vaitai68%
Nelson Agholor68%

*Jason Kelce finishes the season as the only Eagle to play 100 percent of his unit’s snaps. Carson Wentz missed just six snaps this year out of 1,133, while Jason Peters only missed 33 snaps.

*Zach Ertz (92 percent) played the most among skill position players, while Dorial Green-Beckham (84 percent) played the most among the wide receivers. Nelson Agholor (8 percent) played just six snaps due to a right ankle injury he suffered early in the first quarter, but he still finishes the year as the Eagles’ receiver with the most playing time (78 percent of the season’s snaps).

*Byron Marshall (46 percent) played the most snaps among Eagles running backs, while Darren Sproles (38 percent) and Terrell Watson (16 percent) also got some snaps. Marshall led both teams yesterday with 42 yards on 10 carries, while Watson ran for the only rushing touchdown of the game in his first NFL appearance.

Defense

Player
# of snaps
% of snaps
Nigel Bradham56100%
Nolan Carroll56100%
Jordan Hicks56100%
Malcolm Jenkins56100%
Rodney McLeod56100%
Leodis McKelvin5191%
Jalen Mills4479%
Fletcher Cox4071%
Brandon Graham3868%
Bennie Logan3461%
Connor Barwin3461%
Vinny Curry2545%
Destiny Vaeao1730%
Beau Allen1629%
Marcus Smith1323%
Stephen Tulloch1018%
Jaylen Watkins712%
Steven Means59%
Bryan Braman24%

*Malcolm Jenkins finished the season playing the most defensive snaps on the Eagles, having missed just one play out of 1,019. Rodney McLeod isn’t far behind as he missed just five snaps out of 1,019.

*Linebacker depth was a concern heading into the season because of the starters’ injury histories, but both Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks played in every game this season as they each played at least 95 percent of the defense’s snaps.

*Connor Barwin finished the year playing 70 percent of the defense’s snaps, while Vinny Curry was on the field for just 43 percent of the plays after signing a five-year contract extension reportedly worth $46.25 million.