Eagles Position Review: Carson Wentz Showed Franchise Quarterback Potential

Position-by-position breakdown of the Eagles’ 2016 roster.

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

Carson Wentz. (USA Today Sports)

The 2017 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie RosemanJoe Douglas, and Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2016 roster. The team went 7-9 last season and improvement is clearly needed. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 9, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they’ll want to bring back for the 2017 season. Today we’ll start this offseason review series by looking at the quarterback position.

THE PLAYERS

Carson Wentz

Numbers: 1127 snaps, 16 games started, 7-9 record, 607 attempts, 379 completions,  62.4% completion, 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 3782 yards, 6.2 yards/attempt, 79.3 rating, 150 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 14 fumbles

Review: Wentz’s rookie season wasn’t supposed to happen. The Eagles planned to bring the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft along slowly while Sam Bradford handled the starting duties. That all changed, of course, when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a significant knee injury and the Vikings made a desperate trade for Bradford.

It’s important to remember the Eagles’ original plan for Wentz when putting his rookie season in context. By no means did Wentz enter the NFL as a finished product. That much was apparent in 2016.

Wentz defied expectations at first as the Eagles jumped off to a 3-0 start. He made some truly incredible throws while he racked up a number of early season awards, such as multiple NFL Rookie of the Week honors.

But the overwhelming success didn’t last for long. Wentz started to struggle as his supporting cast continued to fail him. The suspension of Lane Johnson, along with injury issues to other starting blockers, weakened Philadelphia’s offensive line. Wentz had to deal with arguably the NFL’s worst wide receiving corps. An inconsistent run game did him no favors, either.

Not all of Wentz’s struggles can be blamed on the situation around him. The 24-year-old quarterback clearly has room to improve when it comes to his mechanics and his decision-making. The team expects him to make significant strides in these areas this offseason, which marks his first full one in an NFL program. Wentz won’t have to worry about pre-draft workouts, interviews, etc. He can focus more on football and improving his game.

Though his numbers may not look great, it’s evident that Wentz showed legitimate franchise quarterback potential as a rookie. His pocket presence was unreal by the end of the season. And it’s not just the on-field aspect that makes Wentz a franchise cornerstone. He showed great signs of leadership and toughness. Excuse the cliche, but he really does have the “it” factor that some talented prospects lack.

The Eagles have plenty of reason to be excited about their future with Wentz under center. The notion that they’re not far off competing, as Pederson suggested, might not be so crazy if the former North Dakota State quarterback can make a big jump in his development. The Eagles’ front office can assist Wentz’s progress by bolstering the run game and giving him legitimate receiving weapons to work with.

Chase Daniel

Numbers: 6 snaps, 1 attempt, 1 completion, 16 yards, 118.7 rating

Review: Daniel’s rating is much better than Wentz’s rating. Why isn’t he the starter?! Just kidding. Daniel wasn’t needed much, which is good for the Eagles considering how much he struggled during the preseason. The 30-year-old veteran held a $5 million cap figure in 2016.

Aaron Murray

Numbers: N/A

The Eagles signed Murray to their practice squad early on in the season. The former Chiefs quarterback was never promoted to the main roster. Murray was the only practice squad player the Eagles did not sign to a reserve/futures contract this offseason, so he’s a free agent.

WHO COULD LEAVE

Let’s state the obvious: Wentz isn’t going anywhere. Murray is already gone.

Could the Eagles move on from Daniel? Cutting Daniel would only save $1 million in cap space compared to $7 million in dead money, so that’s not happening. Interestingly enough, however, trading Daniel would save $6 million in cap space compared to only $2 million in dead money.

It was reported Daniel had a significant market in free agency last offseason, with “at least six teams” being interested in him. If that report was true, and a team gets desperate enough (like the Bradford trade situation), maybe the Eagles can get something for Daniel. I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but teams do crazy things when it comes to quarterbacks.

NFL DRAFT OPTIONS

Last offseason, Jeffrey Lurie noted the Eagles would like to get back to drafting a quarterback every year or every other year. The Eagles obviously won’t be drafting a quarterback high now that Wentz is in the fold. The Birds could look to add a developmental prospect to compete with Daniel and serve as a third string passer.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles signed former Canadian Football League cornerback Mitchell White to a reserve/futures contract.

Three players we kept an eye on during last night’s College Football Playoff National Championship game.

After one season with the team, the Eagles fired Greg Lewis as their wide receivers coach.

Some thoughts and notes after this weekend’s Wild Card round.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Carson Wentz is a finalist for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award.

The Eagles are paying a large amount of money for leaderships at tight end, writes Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com.

At this point, the club is paying [Brent] Celek more for his veteran leadership and presence in the locker room than anything else, which there’s certainly value to that. Whether it’s enough to justify his place on the roster at the current roster is probably in the eye of beholder.

It’s also irrelevant. Even if the Eagles are having buyer’s remorse, all but $1 million of Celek’s deal is guaranteed, much of which would be put toward replacing him anyway. An additional $2 million can be pocketed in the event of a trade, but that’s hard to fathom for obvious reasons.

Which means Celek will remain with the Eagles for at least one more season, although he could wind up being further phased out of the offense in favor of more [Trey] Burton in 2017. Perhaps he would agree to a pay cut if asked, as his desire to win a championship before retiring seems genuine, although the organization has no leverage, and his $4 million base salary isn’t exactly high to begin with.

Truthfully, this is a rare situation where it probably isn’t and shouldn’t be all about the money, because it’s not crippling anyway. Celek and his trademark No. 87 serve a purpose that can’t be measured, and the Eagles no doubt realized that when they made the deal.

Angelo Cataldi for PhillyVoice thinks Sixers rookie Joel Embiid will be a bigger star than Wentz because of his popularity on social media.

Joel Embiid has two things that are essential in sports celebrity today – talent and personality. Not only is he averaging 19 points in 25 minutes per game, but he also regularly contributes plays worthy of YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and all other forms of highlight dissemination. And then he adds some fun to the mix.

He is Allen Iverson, one generation later. Whether he is able to accomplish what Iverson did in his decade here remains a matter for Embiid and his worrisome feet to decide. But barring another injury like the ones that kept him off the court for two years, he will feel the warm embrace of Philadelphia in a way that Carson Wentz will not.

In no way is this meant to diminish the potential Wentz offers the Eagles on the field, where he passed for more yards as a rookie than any quarterback in NFL history. He will be an honorable face of the franchise, with his powerful arm, sharp intellect and wholesome ways. How can you not like a good ol’ boy from North Dakota?

But Wentz already proved in his rookie year that he’s no Embiid in the personality department. His interviews are cliché-riddled yawns, and his social-media presence is more annoying than entertaining. Did he really think tweeting a photo of himself with an eight-point buck would play well in Philadelphia?

COMING UP

A look back at the Sam Bradford trade.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.

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