Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty recently revealed his annual rankings of the NFL’s best quarterback situations. The Philadelphia Eagles appear five spots higher than they did last year, which is cool. But their overall situation is still ranked well below average. Take a look:
21) After laughably generating early MVP hype, Carson Wentz regressed down the stretch of his rookie season, with his mechanics largely in shambles by Week 17. Wentz’s elongated throwing motion caused elbow pain, necessitating offseason work with quarterback gurus Adam Dedeaux and Tom House. Wentz posted a quarterback rating higher than 80.0 just four times over his final 12 starts, with his deep ball checking in as particularly erratic. Wentz was not without alibis for his struggles. He was dealing with one of the league’s worst supporting casts, and was, after all, a 23-year-old rookie making the jump from the FCS to the NFL. That, of course, is also cause for concern. Already headed into his age-24 campaign, Wentz isn’t as projectable as some young quarterbacks. Ultimately, Wentz will live and die with his mechanics. If he can’t clean them up, he’s a Blake Bortles waiting to happen. There’s promise here, but the risk is real after Wentz’s inconclusive rookie year.
I don’t think this ranking is unfair. Wentz undeniably showed promise as a rookie, but he also showed that he has a lot of room for improvement. Having a stronger supporting cast in 2017 should greatly behoove him. Still, he needs to show up and do his part.
2017 is a very big year for Wentz. He won’t have the same kind of excuses as he did last year if he struggles. The common refrain is that players make the biggest jumps in development from Year 1 to Year 2. We need to see Wentz take a significant step forward this year.
Take it for what it’s worth, but so far Wentz has been up and down in two OTA practices open to the media. He’s still sailing some passes too high; his accuracy hasn’t exactly been pinpoint. It’s too early to be freaking out about this in May, but it’d be nice to see more progress at this point.
Wentz is the ultimate X-factor for this team. It won’t matter how much the rest of the team improves if he doesn’t end up being the guy they need him to be. If he does step up, however, the Eagles could instantly become annual contenders.
Before we look at the rest of the NFC East, allow me to point out the Eagles rank one spot higher than the Vikings (hello there, Sammy Sleeves) in these rankings. Thanks to the Sam Bradford trade, the Eagles have Derek Barnett. And a 2018 fourth-round selection!
12) Some still insist on talking about Kirk Cousins like the matter hasn’t been settled. It has. Since Cousins replaced Robert Griffin III as starter, he’s been one of the league’s best signal callers. Amongst quarterbacks with at least 17 starts since 2015 (one full season plus one game), only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan have generated more yards, while just Ryan, Brees, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson have posted higher quarterback ratings. Cousins has completed 68.3 percent of his 1,149 pass attempts. His touchdown percentage ranks 15th, his interception percentage 12th. His 7.91 YPA places him behind only Ryan, Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. “Elite” is too strong a word, but “answer” is not. That’s why it’s so baffling that his own team has aligned with the Twitter hordes and pretends the jury is still out. If the Redskins won’t pay Cousins, there will be a dozen-plus clubs busting down the door to do so in 2018. Eventually, the Redskins figure to come to their senses and lock Cousins up, guaranteeing a strong quarterback situation for at least 3-4 more years.
Washington is stuck in a bad spot with Cousins. The quarterback holds all the leverage. They’ll either have to make him the highest paid NFL player ever or be willing to let him walk. Because tagging him for the third year in a row ($35 million cap hit) doesn’t seem realistic.
Cousins has had statistical success but the bottom line is this is a guy who is 19-21-1 as a starter and 2-11 against teams with winning records. Those losses aren’t all his fault, as you surely mock me for citing “QB Winz,” but come on. That’s the guy you’re potentially making the highest paid player in the league ever? Just doesn’t seem like the most efficient use of resources to me.
14) The No. 135 overall pick of the draft, Dak Prescott was thrust into starting duties after Tony Romo injured his back in the third preseason game. He responded by setting rookie records for quarterback rating (104.9), completion percentage (67.7) and interception percentage (0.87). He also guided the Cowboys to home-field advantage and ushered Romo into retirement. What did you do with your rookie season? Any talk of Prescott’s historic 2016 must acknowledge that he was set up for success. The Cowboys’ dominant line play and running game would make things easier for anybody. But there’s no such thing as “just push play” quarterbacking. As Bill Belichick would tell you, the NFL is about doing your job. Displaying poise rare for any player — let alone a first-year starter for America’s most-scrutinized team — Prescott did his to perfection. If he can do it again in 2017, the Cowboys won’t just have their quarterback of the future, but a potential Hall-of-Famer.
So I see Dak Prescott is already being talked about as a potential Hall of Famer. I once remember when Nick Foles went 27-2 and literally had his jersey enshrined in the Hall of Fame. I’m not saying Dak will be Foles, but geez. Let’s see how he does in Year 2 before crowning him.
NEW YORK GIANTS
20) Fresh off a two-year rebound from his 2012-13 doldrums, Eli Manning slumped to a 10-year low in 2016. The 12th-year starter averaged 6.73 yards per attempt, overseeing an offense that generated a sickly 1.9 offensive touchdowns per game. Manning flunked the eye test, as well, struggling to drive the ball down the field. Manning’s career has been a series of peaks of valleys — scarred, empty river beds amongst Himalayan heights — but struggles take on a new light when you’re 36. Coach Ben McAdoo flatly blamed Manning for the G-Men’s 2016 offensive woes, while both GM Jerry Reese and co-owner John Mara admitted the team needs to begin the search for Manning’s successor. So far, all those words have produced is free agent castoff Geno Smith and third-rounder Davis Webb. Manning’s job is not under threat for 2017, and likely 2018, for that matter. But the clock has been started. The Eli Era is in its twilight. It’s good that the Giants have acknowledged this. Now they need to do something to meaningfully address it.
The Giants are trying to stave off Manning’s decline by surrounding him with a lot of weapons. With Odell Beckham Jr. already in the fold, New York added Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Wayne Gallman to the mix. The only problem is ... will Manning even have time to throw to those guys? The Giants failed to seriously address their offensive line this offseason. The Manning era could be ending soon. Also he could have a total bounce back year as the Giants win the Super Bowl because that’s how things randomly work for the G-Men.