Eagles news and notes for 12/29
A bit of context for Wentz's rookie season: The Eagles' first plan was for the No. 2 overall pick in the drSaft to not play at all. Their second plan was for him to throw maybe 25 times a game, with the defense and the ground attack taking much of the weight off the rookie's shoulders.
The eighth pass Wentz throws Sunday in the finale against Dallas will set the franchise season record for attempts, currently held by Donovan McNabb (571). When he takes the first snap Sunday, Wentz will become the first Eagles quarterback since McNabb in 2008 to start all 16 games.
Wentz has thrown 37.6 passes a game. The last nine games, the average has been 42.1. Wentz already holds the franchise record for completions (352), and can set the league rookie mark by connecting three times against the Cowboys.
Yet, in passing yardage (3,537), Wentz ranks only seventh in franchise history, sixth among NFL rookies. His 78.2 passer rating is pedestrian. The last five games, he's thrown for three touchdowns and been intercepted seven times.
"He's a franchise quarterback you can build around. I feel like he's faced every situation there is this year," said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was named NFC defensive player of the week after intercepting a pair of Eli Manning passes in the Eagles' victory over the Giants. "Got thrown into the starting job. Played all the division games. Played in an overtime game. Played in tight games. And he's prepared and showed up in all of them.”
Frank Reich doesn’t remember the game, but he recalls the play vividly. About a month ago at Lincoln Financial Field, Carson Wentz rolled out to his left as a big nose guard chased him down. The defensive lineman had no chance of catching up to Wentz, but the rookie quarterback played it safe once he got closer to the sideline and threw it out of bounds.
The next day, when Reich and Wentz watched the play on film, the offensive coordinator cracked a small joke.
“You couldn’t have swung back around and just bought a little bit more time?”
“Am I allowed to do that? Is that free game?”
“Yeah, it’s free game if you can make the play.”
“Okay, now I know.”
Since then, while there hasn’t been a dramatic upturn in scrambles, Wentz has used his legs more to extend plays. He’s also picked up extra yards on the ground as 89 of his 137 rushing yards this season have come in the last month.
“It’s a fine line how much you want to use it, but he has a good sense and it’s showed up pretty well on the field,” Reich said. “It’s definitely part of his development and evolution.”
Here, it's been exactly one year since Jeffrey Lurie fired Chip Kelly.
Since then, because of everything that has happened to the Eagles and everything that they have brought upon themselves, it's easy to forget what a thunderbolt Kelly's dismissal was. And because the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz and Wentz appears to be a bona fide franchise quarterback in the making, it's even easier to forget the chaos that Lurie courted and risked continuing with the move. But understand: The huzzahs and hope that Wentz has inspired this season don't change the Eagles' hard recent history and the task they have before them.
They haven't won a playoff game since 2008. They've had two winning seasons over the last six years. Doug Pederson is their third head coach in five years. They're closer to being the Buffalo Bills than they'd like to admit, and if Wentz's development doesn't accelerate under Pederson next season, Lurie is going to evaluate and judge Pederson based on that stagnancy, and perhaps judge him harshly.
"I guess that's probably a natural thing that will happen," Wentz said. "I don't know if that's always right or wrong. . . . It's just a natural thing that'll happen."
It is, as Wentz suggested, the nature of the relationship between a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. Their fortunes are intertwined and have been from the moment the Eagles leapfrogged those 11 teams in this year's draft to acquire the No. 2 pick and select Wentz. But it's also the nature of the NFL now. The notion that a franchise will grant either a young quarterback or a novice head coach an extended grace period - the notion that someone can grow into either of those important positions - is passe. Free agency and the salary cap have hastened roster turnover and made a quick rebuilding project possible and, to some owners, expected.
Everybody can agree that this hasn’t been the sort of season anybody expected from Vinny Curry.
After moving back to a 4-3 under a defensive coordinator who seemed to understand the best way to use him — and owning a huge new contract — a lot was expected of Curry.
Clearly, it hasn’t panned out.
Curry, whose five-year, $47.25 million contract extension included a $10 million signing bonus, has only 1½ sacks to show for the 2016 season.
Disappointing, no question about it.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was quick to point out, though, that it was Curry’s relentless pressure on Eli Manning that forced his interception at the end of the Giants game Thursday night, resulting in Terrence Brooks' clinching interception and the Eagles' first win in a month and a half.
“He came through for us when we needed him in that game,” Schwartz said Tuesday. “That was big. It's hard to get pressure with three guys. He was able to get pressure (and Eli) floated that ball up. And you talk about slow motion, that ball was in the air for about a half hour. I thought Terrence was going to have to fair catch it.
“You see so much when you are looking at those plays. You're feeling the quarterback and you see the ball go up and you see the flash of that player sort of look like he's open. And then to get that play at the end, Vinny had a lot to do with that.”
There is a great moment in Jurrasic Park when Dr. Malcolm points out that the scientists were so busy focusing on if they could bring back dinosaurs that they failed to ask if they should bring back dinosaurs.
The Eagles could bring DJax back. Should they?
Jackson just turned 30. Speedy players don’t always age well. He missed 6 games last year, but only one this season. He has been slowed at times by nagging injuries. In the last 3 seasons, Jackson has 14 TD catches, hardly a compelling total. He did average 19 yards per catch, which is outstanding. It is also hard to quantify the impact he has on defenses just by his presence on the field. You have to play DBs way back against him and you are taking chances if you single cover him. He is one of the most dangerous home run threats in the game.
There is an argument to be made for both sides. One of the keys to this even being a possibility is price. Jackson is making $6.75M this season. That’s a very reasonable price for his production. In the previous few years he was up over $10M. I don’t think he’s worth that kind of money anymore. Jackson had some financial issues in the past. Is he better now? Will he be looking for mega-bucks? The Eagles won’t have a ton of cap space. They have to be smart shoppers. Other teams will have plenty of room. If Jackson wants every last cent, it won’t be coming from the Eagles.
On a personal level, I have mixed feelings. The Eagles absolutely need WR help. Jackson remains explosive and it would be fun to watch Carson Wentz throwing deep balls to him. It would also be nice for the team to add someone who could play with Wentz for several years. Is Jackson going to be a key receiver for the Eagles 3 years down the road? Maybe.