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Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Quarterbacks

Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Quarterbacks

Carson Wentz enters Year 2 at the helm for the Eagles, but with a new backup plan in place. Chase Daniel was released and replaced with Nick Foles, who returns after stints with the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. Matt McGloin was added to the mix as well after four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

There’s no shortage of experience on the bench now. Of course, whether the situation under center is improved or not is largely dependent on one person – Wentz.

BETTER

Carson Wentz

Is it possible Wentz will regress in his second season? That would be highly unusual.

There aren’t many examples of quarterbacks with Wentz’s pedigree taking a step back in Year 2. Since 2004, 13 other signal callers were chosen in the first round of the draft and went on to start at least 12 games a rookie. Only two saw a decline in passer rating in their second season, according to Matt Mullin for Philly Voice. Matt Ryan was just named the league’s Most Valuable Players and guided the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl, so we’ll chalk that one up as an anomaly. Robert Griffin was simply never the same after a torn ACL ended stellar rookie campaign with the Washington Redskins.

Projecting improvement for Wentz is easy. He’s healthy. He’s situated, with the whirlwind pre-draft process behind him. He has a whole year of pro football under his belt. There’s no reason we shouldn’t anticipate growth from Wentz.

Backup quarterback

Chase Daniel has attempted 78 passes over eight NFL seasons. Nick Foles has thrown 56 touchdowns in five.

The truth is we didn’t learn much about Daniel in his year with the Eagles, but the little we saw didn’t inspire confidence. Foles has 36 career starts under his belt, and is proven capable of Pro Bowl production and guiding a team to the playoffs under optimal conditions. There is truly no way to compare the two. Even third-string quarterback Matt McGloin has significantly more game experience than Daniel – seven starts to two.

Maybe Daniel is really great, but has never had the opportunity. Regardless, Foles has actually executed in games, which creates a sense of comfort that was missing last season.

WORSE

Expectations

Nobody was betting on Wentz taking the Eagles to the playoffs last season. He wasn’t even supposed to be the starter or active on game day until the September 3 trade of Sam Bradford cleared the way. As a result, Wentz was free to make mistakes and fail, and only a fatalist would find reason to be concerned when the team wasn’t winning.

Rest assured, there will be no free pass for Wentz in 2017. It’s not exactly Super Bowl or bust, either, but a lot of folks are counting on the Eagles to at least compete for a playoff spot this season. Peter King for The MMQB believes the team can even win 11 games, provided Wentz takes a big leap in Year 2. Fair or not, there is far more pressure to succeed, and failure to do so will inevitably draw criticism.

THE SAME

Support system

Do not discount the importance of continuity for a young signal caller. Wentz enters his second season in head coach Doug Pederson’s offense. The Eagles retained quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as well. Wentz is even projected to continue taking snaps from Jason Kelce, assuming the center isn’t traded between now and the beginning of the regular season.

That level of familiarity with everything can only aid Wentz’s development. He doesn’t have to learn a new system, work with new coaches who bring different concepts to the table, or even worry about something as small as a change in the center-quarterback exchange. All of those aspects taken together should go a long way.

THE UNKNOWN

Carson Wentz’s ceiling

Is Wentz the guy who’s going to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship? Can he provide the franchise stability under center for the next decade-plus?

Truthfully, we don’t yet know, and may not for years. Wentz could continue to improve as expected, while simultaneously never living up to his promise as the second-overall pick in the draft. Simply being better does not mean the Eagles are a playoff team, or that this quarterback is on the cusp of ushering in another era of unprecedented winning. It doesn’t mean that’s not the case, either. Wentz’s ceiling, and the speed in which he will get there are both impossible to predict.

BETTER OR WORSE?

There is no question the Eagles upgraded the depth under center, at least on paper. What this really boils down to is whether Wentz is better or worse. While it’s impossible to say for sure, conventional wisdom suggests the 24-year-old should take a step forward in 2017. How big that step will be is to be determined, but some improvement is to be expected, even if only marginally. Better.

 

 

Previously:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Tight ends
Offensive line
Defensive line
Linebackers
Defensive backs

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch of the year at Junior League World Series

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USA Today Images

Kennett Square's Jack Regenye makes catch of the year at Junior League World Series

Sunday gave us the catch of the year. And it didn't come from MLB, or the minors, but from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania's Jack Regenye in the Junior League World Series.

Just take a look at this. Then watch it again and again, trying to figure out how this is possible. 

After being initially ruled an out, the umps reversed the call, calling it a home run. After more deliberation, it was finally ruled an out because rules be damned, when a catch is that good, you have to count it.

Regenye's Junior League team (ages 13-14) went on to lose to Chinese Taipei, 12-1. 

With Odubel Herrera on the DL, maybe the Phils should give Regenye a call.

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Eagles' latest Achilles heel emerges in preseason

Right when the Eagles get finished plugging one potential hole, another springs up.

For months, cornerback was considered by far the greatest weakness on the Eagles' roster, but Howie Roseman appears to have taken care of that with the trade for Ronald Darby. Now, all of a sudden, the Eagles' secondary has the potential to be a strength in 2017.

Yet, just as the plan at corner is beginning to take shape, another concern is emerging halfway through the preseason, at a position many fans thought Roseman solidified in May. Running back looks like it could quickly become a serious problem for the Eagles if it hasn’t reached that point already.

It’s only preseason, and the offensive line hasn’t done him any favors, but LeGarrette Blount has nine carries for 17 yards with a fumble in two games. Fifth-round draft pick Donnel Pumphrey – who the coaching staff seemed enamored with this spring — has 14 total touches for 34 yards. After a strong start at training camp, Wendell Smallwood has yet to play in an exhibition game due to a hamstring injury. And by now, everybody is aware 34-year-old Darren Sproles isn’t an every-down back.

The best any running back has looked in exhibition games is undrafted rookie Corey Clement, by far. Whether that’s a testament to his development or a commentary on the state of the backfield is a matter of perspective.

Regardless, you could’ve seen this mess coming from a mile away.

The Blount signing was met with tremendous enthusiasm when it really should’ve been met with tremendous skepticism. Though he rushed for 1,161 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2016, Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, sat by in free agency as the Patriots moved to replace him, and turns 31 in December. He’s never been a threat as a receiver, and even his gaudy numbers last season with the Super Bowl champions were an outlier compared to the rest of his career.

The reality is Blount is not a mortal lock to make the Eagles' roster. He likely will, because he still has value in short yardage and at the goal line, and most of all, because the competition hasn’t made enough of a push. However, releasing Blount would only cost the Eagles $400,000 against the salary cap, according to OverTheCap.com, while his age and the limitations of his skill set are worth reiterating.

The question is what then?

While the Eagles have toyed with getting Pumphrey and Sproles on the field at the same time, projections as to how prevalent those designer packages would be always felt ambitious as well. Listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, Pumphrey has not looked like an NFL-ready player through two games. Even if he is ready to contribute, that is not an offense designed with running the football in mind.

The Eagles’ ability to let Blount go would seem to hinge almost solely on Smallwood. Of course, it was an unwillingness to rely on a second-year player with 83 touches that caused the club to seek veteran help in the first place.

Smallwood is not an unimpressive prospect. A fifth-round draft pick from West Virginia a year ago, Smallwood has the size and athletic ability to handle the bulk of the work. He was running with authority in camp. He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy, which is his biggest shortcoming at this point, aside from inexperience. It’s impossible to tell whether Smallwood is in line to finish with the most touches in this backfield (regardless of Blount’s presence) or if he’s fighting for his job.

Clement is the bright spot in all of this and arrives as a more polished pass protector than Smallwood was as a rookie. Seeing as inexperience was one of the primary reasons the Eagles weren’t willing to entrust Smallwood as the primary ball carrier, it’s difficult to imagine Clement could be the guy the in September.

Again, some of the culpability for Blount’s struggles falls on the offensive line. Some. Blount’s last season in New England was far from the norm, and for most of his eight-year career, he’s been purely a situational player. Even under optimal circumstances, expecting him to recreate last season’s numbers, or come close, never made much sense.

And while it would be easy to chalk up the pitiful ground attack as a symptom of the preseason, the fact is these games have exposed a problem that’s been lurking beneath the surface. Blount is old and not an ideal fit for the Eagles' offense. Pumphrey is an undersized rookie. Sproles is Sproles. Smallwood is a mystery.

Up until a week ago, everybody was worried about the cornerbacks. Before that, it was the wide receivers, until the Eagles made significant investments in talent over the offseason. All along, there’s been an underrated need at running back, or at the very least, an uncertainty.

Try as he might, Roseman can’t seem to find a solution for every hole on the roster — and it’s beginning to look like running back is the spot the Eagles might spring a leak.