Where should the bar be set?
Is Carson Wentz going to step in right away and fire touchdowns seamlessly 9 1/2 months removed from a torn ACL and MCL? How much can he actually help this underwhelming offense? Is he the answer to all of the Eagles’ problems?
There’s a lot to dissect.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. As a rookie, Wentz cracked his rib in the preseason opener and essentially didn’t practice much in the lead-up to the regular season while also missing his final three exhibition games. He went and threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL game against the Cleveland Browns.
Grant it, he missed just a month instead of 9 1/2. Point is, don’t doubt Ginger Jesus. The logic says that Wentz will need a couple games to get re-acclimated to the speed and trust his knee.
Just don’t be surprised if Wentz defies it.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson believes it will take some time to get used to the flow of the game again. I agree.
“I think there’s going to be maybe an issue or two. It’s going to take some time to get back into the rhythm and the flow of the game. The speed of the game is different than the speed of practice. We do everything we can to try to simulate that during the week and try to prepare him that way. And listen, he’s a guy that will be totally prepared. He comes in early, studies the tape as do all the quarterbacks, stays obviously late in the day, asks a lot of questions, and has a lot of ideas. He’s going to be prepared mentally. Now it’s just a matter of the physical part taking over.”
Pederson said that Wentz will not have any restrictions.
“In my mind, and we all felt the same way that; he’s cleared, he’s cleared and there’s no need to hold back. Now, we’re still going to have conversations. It’s no different [than] when he was healthy. We’re still going to have conversations about protecting yourself as we do with all the quarterbacks and making sure we do the right things there, but there [are] no limitations.”
Wentz doesn’t have much to work with. The Eagles had just three healthy wide receivers on the roster, Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson and Kamar Aiken, prior to adding Wentz’s buddy Jordan Matthews on Wednesday.
Matthews spent four years with the Eagles between 2013-16 and caught 73 passes for 804 yards and three touchdowns during Wentz’s rookie season in 2016. Due to the lack of depth at wideout, bringing in a receiver that knew the playbook and could contribute right away was key.
“We’re excited to get him back. He knows our offense. I think it’s huge. It has a comfort level for the quarterback knowing that you got another receiver that we brought in from the outside who has worked with him in the past. I just think it can be a benefit to Carson.”
Matthews, however, is strictly a slot receiver and Agholor has flourished there recently. Does Matthews’ signing mean Agholor is moving back to the outside?
“I don’t get into slot, inside, outside. The only reason I say that is because we move our guys around so much. You see [WR] Nelson [Agholor] inside, you see Nelson outside, and that could be by formation, just matchups and different things.
Yeah, his (Matthews) career he’s primarily been an inside receiver. We understand that. We’ll see where he is at and see how he fits into the game plan this week.”
But is Agholor as effective outside as he is inside?
“Nelson has been a really big part of the offense so far and in both spots, inside and outside. He’s obviously done a great job blocking in the run game, and then in the passing game be able to be outside as well.
So, moving him around has been beneficial for us.”
Zach Ertz is going to have to be the one to step up his game. He had 11 receptions for 94 yards against Tampa Bay, but struggled with drops in the opener against Atlanta.
Seeing some more of Dallas Goedert will be beneficial as well, but he saw just 17 snaps in Week 2 compared to 26 for Joshua Perkins. Here was Pederson’s reasoning for giving Perkins more snaps Sunday.
“Some of it is game planning. We lose receivers, we start having to use the second or third tight end. Listen, it’s a complex thing when you start moving bodies around. Without getting real specific with the game plan, just one part that goes down, you have to adjust everybody else. A lot of times it’s easier with (Perkins) in the game. Dallas played, but at the same time, it didn’t change our receivers on the outside. Those guys are in their same spots.
It’s complicated because you (the media) don’t know the plan. When you don’t know the plan or the formations, where we move guys and have guys specifically in the game plan, when one guy goes down, it shuffles the whole thing. So we can keep it real consistent by just moving one part and many parts.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh stated that the Eagles would like to get Goedert more involved.
We have a talented player in Dallas, and we need to find more ways, as you stated, to get him involved. We need to get him involved more. We had some extenuating circumstances the other day, for a variety of reasons. He just wasn’t in there in the spots where we were getting the ball to.
We’re going to continue to try to monitor that and make sure that he is going to help us win games here.
I’ll never forget what Nick Foles did for the Eagles, but Wentz is a different breed. The misreads will be minimized, he’ll be more consistent, he’ll make the proper pre-snap reads, he’ll make the correct audible, he’ll get the ball downfield and he’ll be the king of third down again.
It may a few games for Wentz to get into MVP-form again — or none if he’s superman — but once he does, everything will be calm in Philadelphia again.
At least a little calmer.