After the completion of the disastrous 2020 season, the Eagles find themselves with a new head coach and without an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator. They lack playmaking at the wide receiver position on offense. They are in desperate need of an outside corner to play opposite Darius Slay, have neglected the safety position for years, and barely even have warm bodies at linebacker on defesne. For all of the needs that the team currently has, the debate leading up to the draft will center around 2 positions: WR and CB. Should the Eagles take a WR to help the offense or a CB to help the defense. But what if we should be asking ourselves a different question?
Should the Eagles draft a QB?
I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. Quarterback is the most important position on the field. Howie Roseman fully believes that. In his press conference where he defended the pick of Jalen Hurts during the 2nd round of the NFL draft, Howie said this:
“When coach Pederson came in and we sat down in 2016 we said we were always going to be about the quarterback position, it’s the most important position in sports…”
Evaluating the Current QBs
Given the importance that the Eagles place on the QB position, they must have a lot of questions as they evaluate the current QB room. Carson Wentz is coming off of the worst year of his career. Jalen Hurts didn’t exactly excel as a starter. Understanding what we saw from these QBs in 2020 and what it means for the future is vital to understanding the current QB conundrum.
Jalen Hurts 2020 Season
Hurts entered the Packers game in week 13 for Carson Wentz and provided a spark to the offense. In week 14 he was named the starter and led the Eagles to a victory over the New Orleans Saints. Hurts would remain the starter for the final 3 weeks of the season. But the Eagles did not win another game.
Hurts completed 52% of his passes for 1,061 yards and 6 TDs against 4 INTs for a QBR of 41.2. He took 13 sacks. He also rushed for 354 yards and 3 TDs while fumbling 9 times.
Beyond the Stats
Hurts provided a spark to an offense that was struggling mightily with pass protection by using his mobility. He has athleticism that Carson Wentz simply doesn’t possess anymore that allowed him to extend plays. Suddenly, when an offensive lineman lost a rep, it didn’t mean the play was over. When a receiver couldn’t get separation, Hurts was often able to extend plays with his legs and buy time. Plays that would have been negative plays with Carson Wentz suddenly had a chance to succeed.
However, purely as a passer, Hurts showed a lot of flaws. He demonstrated an inability to read and throw to the middle of the field, a tendency that opposing defenses began to key on after the Saints game. He also showed an unwillingness to progress through reads, either throwing to his first read or looking to run. At times, he broke the pocket when he wasn’t pressured. That led to sacks from contain rushes.
Hurts showed the traits that made him a great player in college, making sideline throws with anticipation and his ability as a runner. But he struggled to build on those at the NFL level during his rookie season.
Carson Wentz 2020 Season
Wentz was a disaster in the 2020 season. Starting in week 1 when he was sacked 8 times to week 13 when he completed only 40% of his passes before being benched for Jalen Hurts. He was erratic, pressing too hard and making boneheaded plays that lead to unnecessary turnovers. The season seemed to get away from Wentz as he continued to compound mistakes while trying to dig himself out of a hole that became deeper by the week.
In 2020, Wentz completed 57% of his passes for 2,620 yards and 16 TDs against 5 INTs for a QBR of 49.7. He took 50 sacks. He also rushed for 276 yards and 5 TDs while fumbling 10 times. However, when compared to Jalen Hurts as a passer, Wentz was +10% in true completion percentage, +2% completion percentage when under pressure, +3% when throwing from a clean pocket, and +13% on catchable pass rate.
Beyond the Stats
We remember Carson Wentz being elite in the 2017 season. We remember Carson Wentz dragging a group of practice squad offensive weapons to the playoffs in 2019. But what if we remember incorrectly? As this USA Today article laid out, Wentz was off the charts good in 2017 in key situations (3rd/4th down and in the RedZone). In fact, he was so good that it was unsustainable. But as the analytics show, Wentz on early downs in 2017 is largely who he has been in his entire career, 2020 included. When the regression to the mean in key situations came it may have revealed who Carson Wentz truly always was.
What Should the Eagles Do?
Legendary NFL coach John Madden used to say, “If you have 2 quarterbacks, you have none.” The Eagles certainly find themselves in that position headed into the offseason. They have two dogs in the race so to speak in Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts after Nate Sudfeld (The unstoppable QB according to owner Jeffrey Lurie) is set to become a free agent. The Eagles are currently in a place where they are placing their success in 2021 on 1 of 2 outcomes:
A new coaching staff will get the best out of Carson Wentz with largely the same offensive players on the roster, many of whom may prefer Jalen Hurts
A new coaching staff will implement a new system that will cause Jalen Hurts to take a big leap in year 2 that he hasn’t shown yet on tape.
While both outcomes are possible, they should both be considered long shots. And, even if they work, would the offense that you put together in either scenario be better than the offense led by a QB that you would draft at #6 overall?
What makes your offense better? Drafting Trey Lance or Zach Wilson at #6 or spending the pick on a WR or CB? These are the tough questions that the Eagles have to answer this offseason. If the Eagles truly believed that QB was important enough to spend a 2nd round pick on last season, then they will definitely consider adding another QB in this year’s draft.
Quarterback is the most important position in pro sports, and it is nearly impossible to win a Super Bowl without a great one. In the last 17 years only 3 QBs that I would consider not to be elite players have won the Super Bowl: Nick Foles in 2017, Joe Flacco in 2012, and Eli Manning in 2011 and 2007. Foles did it on the back of one of the craziest hot streaks that I have ever witnessed in pro sports. Flacco hit a hot streak and had one of the best defenses in the league that year, and Manning did it on the strength of his defense.
The Eagles defense is not going to be winning them a Super Bowl anytime soon. So the team can either cross their fingers and hope Wentz/Hurts can become a top-level QB, pray for a hot streak in January, or cast the dice once again in April and hope for the best.
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