Carson Wentz is in the spotlight. It’s no matter that wide receiver DeSean Jackson is on Injured Reserve after surgery to repair a core muscle injury. Doesn’t mean a thing that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is struggling or that pass catcher Nelson Agholor hasn’t been consistently productive this season. What’s reality is this: Wentz goes head to head the next two weeks against New England quarterback Tom Brady followed by Seattle signal caller Russell Wilson, and Wentz is going to be judged directly against them.
Fair or not, that’s the way it is. Wentz is the Eagles’ franchise quarterback and with that comes the weight of the football world. An entire week-plus has gone by since the Eagles defeated Chicago 22-14 to improve to 5-4 in this up-and-down season and much of the conversation has circled around Wentz: Has he lived up to expectations in 2019?
Opinions are split. Some expected more from Wentz, in his fourth season with the Eagles who has thrown 15 touchdown passes, only four interceptions with a 92.7 passer rating in nine games. Wentz has exhibited excellent ball security, good decision making and necessary durability after having injury-shorted seasons the last two years. Some think that Wentz has been the best part of an Eagles’ offense that hasn’t quite reached the anticipated heights, bogged down by too many dropped passes from a disappointing wide receiver corps. Without Wentz, those favoring the latter view of his performance, the Eagles wouldn’t be anywhere close to a playoff-contending team.
“Carson has been outstanding,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He has total command of the offense and he’s made good decisions. He’s been accurate with his throws. He’s reading defenses well. From a leadership standpoint and a performance standpoint, he’s been right on point.”
Ahh, but now the comparisons are going to be in big, bold nationally televised examples. On Sunday, Brady and the 8-1 Patriots visit Lincoln Financial Field. Brady, of course, is a six-time Super Bowl winner and a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. Brady has long succeeded without a wealth of offensive talent around him, thriving with his cunning, his quick release and accuracy and his ability to elevate everyone’s skills around him. The following Sunday, Wilson and his remarkable play-extending skills come to town for a prime-time game. Wentz vs. Wilson, a first-class show.
If it’s true that the best quarterbacks win NFL games, then Wentz has his work cut out for him. His challenge this week is to beat the league’s top-rated defense with an offensive skill-positions situation that is fragile, to say the least. An Eagles team that thought its wide receivers were among the best in the league — Pro Football Focus ranked Philadelphia pass catchers as the No. 1 group in the NFL prior to the season – won’t have Jackson and his deep speed. Jeffery is hobbling after a three-drop game against Chicago. Second-round draft pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside hasn’t been able to get on the field, and Mack Hollins hasn’t caught a pass since September.
“I think what we have in front of us is a great challenge,” Wentz said, “and I love challenges. I’m looking forward to this.”
So are we all, as a chapter in Wentz’s career development could be waiting to be written. It’s Wentz’s time to be the best, and to be the best, you must beat the best. ••