This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.
A 7-9 team in the NFL isn’t quite like being late-lottery-pick team in the NBA, but sometimes it feels that way. Turnarounds happen in the NFL, but more often the climb to the top is long and tedious and in need of precision and fortunate rolls of the personnel dice. One definite similarity is that in both leagues the winning teams have blue-chip talent where it matters most. In the NFL, for sure, it’s at the quarterback position. There are outliers like Mark Rypien (Washington) and Trent Dilfer (Baltimore) and Brad Johnson (Tampa Bay), but for the overwhelming most part the roll call for Super Bowl quarterbacks is a who’s who of Hall of Fame players.
In that respect, the Eagles have the belief that they’re got the key, key, key piece in Carson Wentz, the prized acquisition of the 2016 offseason. Taken second in the NFL draft after the Eagles deftly moved up from No. 20 in the first round to No. 2 thanks to a pair of go-for-it trades by Howie Roseman, Wentz was everything the Eagles hoped and more in his rookie season. He played in every snap except six, missing the end of a drive against the Giants in Week 16 as he was being evaluated for a head injury. Otherwise, Wentz was a big, tough, hang-in-there quarterback who was far more athletic and poised than anyone could imagine a kid jumping from North Dakota State to the NFL and being inserted into the starting lineup eight days before the first game could ever be.
“What he’s done,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said during the season, “is really remarkable. Carson is one of those guys who adapts to any situation and then raises his performance. He isn’t fazed. He just says, ‘Here’s a challenge. I’m going to win.’ And then he does.” Ah, winning is the key here. The Eagles won 7 games in 2016. It was the start of a new era with Doug Pederson as the head coach and Wentz as quarterback. It was a foundation-establishing season, albeit disappointing after the 3-0 September.
Now it’s time to take it up a notch. And to do so means upgrading the roster, surrounding Wentz with more explosiveness in the offense. How much does he need??
Really, the question is this: How good can Wentz be? Will he some day, and perhaps soon, be mentioned in the same breath as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, or Seattle’s Russell Wilson or even Oakland’s Derek Carr, who has engineered the Raiders’ great improvement in a three-year period? “If we’re mentioning Carson’s name with someone like Aaron Rodgers, then we’re all going to be very happy,” vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “We have to do what we can to bring out the best in Carson Wentz.”
Free agency begins on March 9, and between now and then the reports and the rumors are going to fly. Big-time wide receiver? The Eagles are certainly keeping their eyes open. Running backs to supplement a position that has a lot of questions? The possibilities are many in free agency and in the draft. Offensive line development? There is some age and some performance questions for the Eagles up front, and while they are high on second-year men Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the team wants to dominate at the line of scrimmage. So maybe that is an area to address as well. It’s all about Carson. The Eagles did the right thing last spring and made the moves to get Wentz, and now they go about the task of making Carson Wentz the best NFL quarterback he can be.
And that is … how good, exactly? “The sky is the limit with Carson,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He is a true franchise quarterback.”
Said Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo: “Carson generally doesn’t make the same mistake twice, and I’ve been saying that since we saw him on the field last spring. That’s a rare trait. The physical gifts are very obvious. The competitiveness is off the charts. His intelligence is way beyond what you normally find with a young quarterback. He made great progress in his first season and he knows, as well as all of us, just how much more work he needs to put in maximize his ability.” The theme of last offseason for the Eagles was to re-establish normalcy in the organization and acquire the franchise quarterback. This offseason, the Eagles want to upgrade around Wentz. It’s not going to happen overnight. It may not even happen in a single offseason, at least to the optimal level.
But that’s the theme. Give Wentz a chance in 2017 to take his game to the next level. The building of a Franchise Quarterback continues, step by step.
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