Today we are starting our positional breakdown series for the Philadelphia Eagles. To begin, we will start with one of the most divisive topics in all of Philadelphia sports: the quarterback. What are the top storylines and question marks for the quarterback position in 2020? How would I grade the position in 2020? Let’s break it down.
First String: Carson Wentz
Between weeks 1-13 and 14-17, it was a tale of two seasons for Carson Wentz in 2019. What went wrong in the first ¾ of a season? How much was Carson Wentz responsible for the Eagles inability to move the ball down the field?
Criticism towards Carson Wentz seemed to culminate during that Seahawks game on Week 12 where he had two interceptions and two fumbles. Any discussion on Carson’s performance in 2019 begins with his inability to control the football. 17 fumbles from Carson Wentz is an absurd number, especially considering that zero occurred until Week 7 vs the Dallas Cowboys. Were the fumbles last season all Carson’s fault? Absolutely not. The fact remains, Carson still needs to take better care of the ball and that’s on him. He’s the leader of the offense and that’s an area that needs to get improve.
For me, Carson’s performance was on the lower scale of the totem pole of Eagles issues in 2019. When you look at last season, context is vital when trying to put a grade on Carson Wentz. On my end, Doug Pederson and the defense’s inability to stop the big play were significantly larger contributors to the Eagles struggles. Doug Pederson’s offense became slow and predictable. When the Eagles committed to the run and stuck with it, the offense looked solid. There were so many frustrating moments when Doug Pederson flat out abandoned the run and left Carson Wentz out to dry.
Carson Wentz hasn’t been the same since John DeFlippo left
That tells me there is a correlation here that cannot be ignored. I am looking dead straight at Doug Pederson this season to let Carson loose and open up the Eagles offense. Carson Wentz is a playmaker who wants to drive the ball down the field. I didn’t like the Jalen Hurts pick at all. However, if there was any reason to get excited about that head-scratching selection, it’s the fact that there could be more creativity inserted into the Eagles playbook in 2020 (we’ll touch on this in a little bit).
Carson Wentz is at his best when he’s getting out of the pocket, creating for others and improvising. This was simply non-existent in 2019. With the speed Howie added on the outside this offseason, fingers crossed that the threat of getting beat over the top opens the offense up for Carson Wentz.
Then you get to the injury bug, which became borderline laughable (insert Homer Simpson going crazy GIF)
Beyond the Eagles losing their top 3 wide receivers, the Eagles saw Zach Ertz, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Jordan Howard and even Miles Sanders get banged up at some point. Lane Johnson, an integral variable to the success of Carson Wentz, missed time during the season’s biggest moments. Despite all of that, Carson Wentz had 20 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a 90-passer rating after week 13. Carson was just a small piece of the puzzle for the Eagles woes. Were the fumbles bad? Yes. Was his footwork and mechanics sloppy at times? Definitely. Did he miss some easy passes on a game to game basis. You bet. Context is vital.
Is Carson Wentz injury prone?
On one end, yes. Carson has failed to finish 3 seasons. An ACL injury took him out of the 2017 season. A back injury took him out of the 2018 season. A season ending cheap shot by Jadaveon Clowney should not be the deciding factor that labels Carson Wentz as injury prone. In my heart, I do not feel Carson Wentz is injury prone.
The Eagles selection of Jalen Hurts was a major red flag in regards to Carson Wentz’s injury history. You do not take a quarterback in the second round of the draft with the intent of making him Taysom Hill. You do not take a gadget guy in the second round when there were so many better options of prospects on the board at that time. This has nothing to do with Jalen Hurts, who is an extremely hard worker and great kid. The selection of Jalen Hurts sealed the deal that Howie and the front office have some major question marks about Carson’s ability to stay healthy.
As much as I want to convince myself that Carson Wentz is not injury prone, you simply cannot ignore the signs
Can you truly say that Carson Wentz is a lock make the Eagles roster in 3 years? This is a seriously depressing thought. The writing is on the wall and the clock is ticking on Carson Wentz’s future in Philadelphia. This is a huge year for Carson to prove that he is worthy of his contract and that can stay on the field for a full season.
How does the Jalen Hurts selection impact Carson Wentz?
Very little, at least in 2020. I definitely see ways in which Jalen Hurts can positively impact the offense this season. I’m very much concerned about whether or not Hurts is going to have the time this offseason to learn the playbook and show he’s ready for the speed of the NFL. With the threat of a shortened offseason, I just don’t see how Jalen Hurts is going to make a major impact on this offense in 2020. Similar to Jalen Hurts, the Eagles are heavily relying on another young talent to make a quick leap forward in his development.
The development of Andre Dillard is everything
I cannot stress enough the importance of Andre Dillard this season. There will be a direct correlation between Andre Dillard’s development and Carson’s success in 2020. Is Andre Dillard ready to become the next great left tackle in Philadelphia? The Brandon Brooks injury makes Andre Dillard’s rise to stardom that much more significant. Dillard’s improvement this offseason makes him the single most important player to the success of Carson Wentz (and possibly even the Eagles season). He is the #1 player to watch this offseason.
How can Carson Wentz take that next step and show he is an elite quarterback in 2020?
For me, Carson Wentz has already showed that he can be a top 5 quarterback. Everything boils down to chemistry on offense and that is where my concerns for 2020 are deeply rooted. I’m concerned about the offense from a rhythm standpoint with the threat of a shortened offseason. We saw last season how slow the Eagles were out the gate in 2019 without playing during the preseason. How quickly can the young receivers, and Miles Sanders, get together, gel and build some cohesion in 2020?
When Carson Wentz has playmakers around him and he’s comfortable in the pocket, Carson Wentz is an elite quarterback. When Carson is locked in, he makes others around him better and that to me is the definition of an elite quarterback
Second String: Nate Sudfeld
In a season full of brutal injuries, this one was incredibly foreshadowing of everything to come. Nate Sudfeld broke his wrist on his non-throwing hand during week one of the NFL Preseason. Sudfeld actually performed quite well up in this game until the injury occurred in the second quarter (10/18, 177 yards, 1 TD, 107.9 rating). He threw a 75-yard completion to Marken Michel, which was one of the highlights of the Eagles preseason. Nate Sudfeld didn’t play a single snap during the rest of the 2019 season.
In a normal offseason, typically the team’s second round pick would normally be slated as the #2 quarterback. My prediction is that Nate Sudfeld will be the primary backup to start. In March 2020, Nate Sudfeld and the Eagles agreed to a 1-year deal to return as Carson’s backup. The Jalen Hurts selection was the draft pick heard ’round the world and everything changed. With Jalen Hurts learning the ropes of the NFL, the 26 year old enters his fourth year with the team with vast knowledge of the Eagles playbook.
Third String: Jalen Hurts
The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia joined the Party on Broad podcast to talk Jalen Hurts and what to expect from him this season. Watch us below to hear his thoughts!
The fact that Jalen Hurts is getting time with his teammates prior to the start of training camp is a wonderful sign. This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who knows Jalen Hurts. This is a guy who is known to consistently put in the work on and off the field. How much playing time should we expect from Jalen Hurts in 2020? In terms of getting Hurts on the field, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor will certainly have his work cut out for him.
How will Doug Pederson implement Jalen Hurts into the offense? Doug made it clear that the Eagles view Jalen Hurts purely as a quarterback moving forward. Naturally, I expect the Eagles to slowly ramp up Jalen Hurts’ snaps in 2020. The Eagles are reportedly watching tape on Lamar Jackson to figure out how they can utiliize Hurts’ strengths. I don’t expect Hurts to play special teams or get time at running back. I expect his primary role will be as a gadget player playing approximately 10-15% of the snaps on offense this season (maybe too high?).
I think it’s criminal to label Jalen Hurts as the next Taysom Hill, who was an undrafted free agent
The Eagles are clearly thinking outside the box and they deserve credit for that. A low key storyline of the Eagles offseason was the hiring of Marty Mornhinweg as a senior offensive consultant. Mornhinweg was with the Baltimore Ravens when Lamar Jackson was a rookie QB in 2018. In that season, Lamar Jackson played 16 games, starting 7, and finishing with over 1,800 yards total offense and 11 touchdowns. Lamar Jackson played 52 snaps on the field alongside Joe Flacco and finished with 49% of the Ravens snaps in 2018.
How Doug Pederson, Marty Morhinweg and Press Taylor collaborate and revamp the Eagles playbook is a huge storyline. We’re used to watching two-tight end sets on a regular basis. The Eagles do that more than any other team in the NFL. The concept of two-quarterback sets with Carson and Hurts on the field together is an intriguing concept. As long as Carson and Hurts can get on the same page, the double RPO is going to be ridiculously fun to watch this season. The largest questions remain: 1) Will there be enough on field time this offseason to get it right? 2) How quickly can Jalen Hurts pick up the Eagles playbook?
This is the same head coach who ran a trick play in the Super Bowl. I’m staying optimistic that Doug Pederson will get it right and bring the creativity element back to the Eagles offense.
On the Bubble: Kyle Lauletta
The former 4th-round pick is a nice development piece for the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s got great size at 6’3 and is a quick decision maker with the ball. Lauletta will battle Nate Sudfeld for that final QB spot on the roster. The Jalen Hurts selection hurts Lauletta’s chances to make the roster. There is zero chance the Eagles bring on another project with a potential shortened offseason. I do expect Kyle Lauletta to earn a spot on the practice squad. Here is a clip of Kyle Lauletta setting the Senior Bowl on fire with his strong performance.
Position Grade & Final Thoughts
Can Carson Wentz carry over his December 2019 performance into the 2020 season? Carson finally has speed to work with on the outside. DeSean Jackson is back and the versatility/YAC potential of Jalen Reagor paired with Carson Wentz is exactly that: potential. I expect the Eagles to dress 3 QB’s (Wentz, Sudfeld, Hurts) on Sundays this season. Listen- I already know Carson Wentz is an elite quarterback. The talent is there, everyone knows that. It’s time for Carson, Doug and the Eagles offense to put it all together. The excuses need to stop and it’s time for Carson to deliver.