Each week, Patrick Wall previews the upcoming game by looking at the biggest storylines of the week.
For another week, Philadelphia will remain Carson Wentz's. And why shouldn't it be? After throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns, and earning rave reviews from his teammates and coaches, he's earned it. But as the luster of Week 1 fades and the brights lights of Monday Night Football come into view, the huge, potentially season-altering question remains:
Can he do it again?
As impressive as his performance was (and it was impressive), it's hard to shake the nagging feeling that the opponent had something to do with it. The Browns are basically the 2015 Sixers, and a 19-point win over them isn't exactly putting the league on notice. And yes, the Chicago Bears ain't exactly world-beaters. But hey, no one expected the Eagles to be very good, either.
Part of the cloudiness around a team starting a rookie quarterback is that predicting the outcome of their games becomes an exercise in futility. Sure, we can look at potential matchups and say, for example, that the Eagles' defensive line should be able to get through Chicago's suspect o-line and get to Jay Cutler. But what if Wentz regresses and throws three interceptions? Will any of those deep dives matter?
So instead of getting into matchups, I thought we could spend today thinking about what to reasonably expect from Wentz on Monday night. Sports Illustrated gave me some help this week with a very interesting chart that highlights how the recent crop of rookie starting quarterbacks looked in their first and second starts. The results are... not promising.
Wentz is coming off a victory over the Cleveland Browns that included 278 passing yards and two touchdowns. [Dak] Prescott and the Cowboys fell to the New York Giants in their season opener, as the former Mississippi State quarterback passed for 227 yards with no touchdowns and 55.6% of passes completed.
Since 2012, every rookie quarterback except Jameis Winston has slightly regressed in their second game.
But what does that really mean? In the NFL it's never as simple as "this game was good; this one was bad". So let's look at which teams those QBs played, and how good those teams' pass defenses ended up being in that year. For simplicity's sake, I removed all non-starting quarterbacks from the list (sorry, EJ Manuel) and went with SI's list of quarterbacks who started Weeks 1 and 2 for their squads. The second graph is courtesy of BGN Radio's own Matt Dering:
|Year||Player||Game 1 Opponent||Pass D Rank||Yards||TDs||INTs||QB Rating||Game 2 Opponent||Pass D Rank||Yards||TDs||INTs||QB Rating|
|2016||Carson Wentz||vs CLE||?||278||2||0||101.0||at CHI||?||?||?||?||?|
|2015||Jameis Winston||vs TEN||7||210||2||2||64.0||at NO||31||207||1||0||114.6|
|2015||Marcus Mariota||at TB||16||209||4||0||158.3||at CLE||22||257||2||0||96.3|
|2014||Derek Carr||at NYJ||14||151||2||0||94.7||vs HOU||21||263||1||2||69.8|
|2012||Andrew Luck||at CHI||8||309||1||3||52.9||vs MIN||24||224||2||0||107.5|
|2012||Robert Griffin III||at NO||31||320||2||0||139.9||at STL||15||206||1||1||86.3|
|2012||Ryan Tannehill||at HOU||16||219||0||3||55.6||vs OAK||20||200||1||0||91.0|
|2012||Russell Wilson||at ARI||5||153||1||1||62.5||vs DAL||19||151||1||0||112.7|
|2011||Cam Newton||at ARI||17||422||2||1||110.4||vs GB||32||432||1||3||72.0|
|2011||Andy Dalton||at CLE||2||81||1||0||102.4||at DEN||18||332||2||0||107.0|
Okay, now this is interesting. In their first game, these starters faced defenses whose yearly pass defense ranking averaged 12th-best. Some were atrocious (like the Saints' historically abysmal defense in 2012), but most hovered around respectability. But in the second game, that average falls to around 21st. In fact, every quarterback but RGIII faced a defense in the bottom half of the league for their second game.
And despite that, all but Famous Jameis played worse against inferior competition. And speaking of Griffin, he's the only one who gets a pass - he's the only one who played a better defense in Week 2 than Week 1.
It's obviously early, but it looks like Wentz will be only the second guy on this list to face a better defense in Week 2. And, unfortunately for Eagles fans, history doesn't love his chances.
You Said It!
But enough doom and gloom. Let's check in with you lovely people. This week's question was pretty simple. Do you think Wentz will play better or worse this week?
Here is this week's #YouSaidIt poll:— Patrick Wall (@ByPatrickWall) September 14, 2016
Do you expect Carson Wentz to play better than last week, or worse?
This week was significantly closer than last, but your voices are pretty clear - you expect Wentz to buck the trend and play better. Well, sort of. Take it away!
@ByPatrickWall @BleedingGreen i dont like "worse".. i just dont see him doing better on the road against a better front 7— Zach (@ceeemogreen) September 14, 2016
Both. I expect more big plays, rushing and passing, but i also expect more mistakes. https://t.co/SDZJFKwdBE— NICK THE REALIST (@eaglesrealist) September 14, 2016
better. carson doesnt seem like kinda dude who is gonna make the same mistakes 2x, especially w/that photo memory https://t.co/jhVvUrH3tz— Chuck (@cmart6780) September 14, 2016
What if Doug Was One Of Us?
Some players give great quotes. Jordan Matthews is one of those players. I've been saying it in private for a while now, but I've spent time around him, and let me tell you - he is the fabled Next Dawkins. If this team gets "2001-2008 Eagles" good, J-Matt will be the heart and soul of that locker room. He has a commanding presence, speaks with authority and is now producing on the field to the level that demands respect from teammates.
So when he was asked about head coach Doug Pederson, I felt like his words carried some significant weight (emphasis mine):
"I felt like Coach Pederson went out there and he did his thing. Like I said, the best thing about Coach Pederson is just his authenticity. He’s played the game and not only has he played the game, but he’s been in our shoes. And when I say ‘our shoes,’ he’s played in the city of Philadelphia. Playing in the city of Philadelphia - it’s not like any other sports state. When they’re playing football in here, it maximizes that much more. So he’s been in those trenches before.
"When I see him, it’s not even as much as I see a coach, it’s like ‘Yo Pops, I got you.’ That’s a blood brother right there, no different from those guys in the locker room. Sometimes Coach Pederson doesn’t even have to say much. We already feel that family vibe from him so we just really want to go out there and win for him. I feel like that’s his best asset. I felt like he called a great game. Obviously he’s going to be hard on himself too. He’s going to make sure he goes back and corrects some things. But at the same time as a collective unit as need to just hone in realize it’s one game, put it behind us and get ready for Chicago."
Jordan Matthews just called the rookie head coach a blood brother. That's high praise for any player to give a coach, much less after his first game. After a head coach in Chip Kelly who could come across as aloof, it seems like at least Matthews appreciates having a coach who's played in the NFL and creates a different atmosphere.
Of course, winning makes everything easier. But as someone who was in the building during the Andy Reid and Chip Kelly regimes, I can tell you that this feels different. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro even said as much in an interview with James Seltzer on BGN Radio last week. If the Eagles can go into the bye riding high at 2-1 or 3-0, you're going to hear the word "family" a whole lot the rest of the year.
And I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty darn good to me.