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

Chip Kelly shares how close Eagles got to trading for Marcus Mariota

Chip Kelly shares how close Eagles got to trading for Marcus Mariota

Chip Kelly will make a transition this fall from coaching on the sidelines to analyzing games in the television booth for ESPN.

The former Philadelphia Eagles head coach sat down with his new co-worker Adam Schefter about his new challenge of doing television. Chip seems excited at the opportunity to study new trends and see where the game is going.

He also spoke about a couple of the hot button issues from his days with the Eagles. Those were the days before Carson Wentz was the quarterback in Philly so the Birds were always in search of a franchise quarterback.

"It is the most important position on a football team," Kelly said of the quarterback position. "When you have a good one, everybody else becomes a better player."

"That’s why everybody is always looking for the next great one."

Perhaps the Eagles' most hyped hypothetical from the Chip era was the inability to trade up to get Marcus Mariota from the Tennessee Titans in 2013. Schefter asked Chip if there was anything they could have done differently to land Mariota in Philly.

"No," Chip said. "From all the conversations with Tennessee, they weren’t moving off the pick. Rightly so. They were looking for the same thing to get themselves a really top quality quarterback. We didn’t really get into a conversation about what we could or couldn’t offer.

"We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it. I would have loved to coach him."

A couple of other areas of interest to Philly fans:

On night Shady got traded

"That was one of those deals where the trade had been initiated but not approved yet from the league. Before anything ever got approved, we weren’t going to say or comment or do anything in that situation. Then obviously the story got out before we ever had a chance to communicate with the guys being traded. I never got the chance to talk to LeSean before he got traded. I always say that’s on us."

Is Chip done with coaching? Could he see return to coaching?

"I’m excited about what I’m going to do for ESPN then I’m going to see what happens after that. I don’t have any set plans how long I’m going to do anything. We all like to think we have control of our lives but we really don’t. The unknown really keeps you going. It gives you a little bit of energy, a little bit of juice. I know what I’m going to be doing in the fall. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing after that."

On the Running of the Bulls in Spain

"Everybody is dressed the same. You usually have a white t-shirt and a red bandana. When I was in the ring for maybe 20 minutes, it was hot, I'm trying to figure out how many bulls are left. I'm ready for this thing to end. Out of the corner of my eye, in the middle of Pamplona, Spain, I saw a guy in a Tim Tebow jersey in the middle of the ring. I decided to stay near him. No bull was going to go near Tim Tebow, so no bull is going to go near me."

You can listen to the full Chip Kelly with Adam Schefter podcast right here.

Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Offensive line

Eagles Better or Worse 2017: Offensive line

The Eagles didn’t change much about their offensive line from last season. In fact, they retained pretty much everybody, even handed out a few contract extensions, while also going out and signing Chance Warmack in free agency.

The question is whether that was good enough. There are plenty of question marks among a nucleus of Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson, and standing still didn’t necessarily provide many answers.

BETTER

Depth

The Eagles haven’t been this deep up front in years. First and foremost, 2016 draft picks Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai both got significant, meaningful experience in their rookie seasons, and should only be better for it going forward. Vaitai gives the club a capable backup at right tackle, while Seumalo will compete to start at left guard, but can play pretty much anywhere in a pinch.

Chance Warmack bolsters a strong interior. Formerly the 10th-overall choice by the Titans in 2013, Warmack hasn’t really panned out in the NFL, plus missed all but two games last season with a hand injury. However, he has 48 career starts under his belt, only turns 26 in September, and is reunited with Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland from his college days at Alabama. It’s a great situation.

Veteran Stefen Wisniewski was retained after his one-year trial, and can fill in at guard or center, giving the Eagles quality backups at all three positions.

Trades could change the outlook here, as Allen Barbre and Jason Kelce have both been rumored on the block. Even if both were to go – which seems unlikely – the Eagles’ depth looks improved based on the increased experience alone.

Lane Johnson

Theoretically, Johnson could test positive for performance-enhancing drugs and wind up being suspended for the entire 2017 season. However, we’re going to assume he’s learned his lesson.

Johnson was slapped with a 10-game ban last season after his second positive test, and it turned out to be a crushing blow for the Eagles. Case in point: the team had a 5-1 record with Johnson, but went 1-9 without him. As long as he can put that stuff behind him once and for all, the arrow is still pointing up. Johnson is only 27, and there’s absolutely no debate about his importance to the offense now.

WORSE

Getting older

Between Johnson, Seumalo, Vaitai and Warmack, the Eagles have no shortage of young talent along the offensive line. Evan Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks are only 28 this year. That being said, two of the most vital members of the unit are going to be on the wrong side of 30 – and their performance has already shown some signs of decline.

Jason Peters rebounded after a dismal 2015 campaign that left doubts about his viability at left tackle, earning his ninth invitation to the Pro Bowl last season. He’s no longer the dominant force who was once considered the best O-lineman in the league, but was still one of the more dependable players blindside players out there. Nonetheless, Peters is 35, and despite being rewarded with a contract extension two weeks ago, there naturally is concern that the age- and injury-related decline could be sudden.

Meanwhile, Jason Kelce has already been drawing criticism for the past two seasons, and the fact that he turns 30 in November isn’t likely to help. Though still one of the NFL’s top centers in space, people still have hang-up about his size, and the fact that he doesn’t appear to be getting any stronger with age. Kelce is a better player than he is often credited for at the local level, but that 30th birthday is something to watch.

If the Eagles’ line takes a step back in 2017, it will likely be because one or both of these guys isn’t hacking it anymore.

THE SAME

Brandon Brooks

Brooks was as advertised last season at right guard after signing as a free agent from the Texans. At 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, Brooks is capable of engulfing defenders in the ground attack, particularly at the second level, and he was perfectly solid in pass protection as well. He has the tools to go from good to great, and seeing as he only turns 28 in August, reason to think he may still have that leap in him.

Even if Brooks is what he is, that’s a plus-blocker in both phases. The only concern here really is he wound being a late scratch two times in three weeks with an illness in 2016, and was later diagnosed with anxiety as the apparent cause the symptoms. Brooks addressed the issue, so his unexpectedly winding up on the inactive list two hours before a game should be a thing of the past.

THE UNKNOWN

Left guard

The unknown isn’t always a bad thing, and the Eagles’ competition at left guard is a perfect example. Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo are going head-to-head for the job, and whoever wins, the offensive line should be fine.

Barbre started 28 games at left guard over the past two seasons, and was surprisingly better than serviceable, even when everything around him was falling apart in 2015. A third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2016, Seumalo appeared in nine games for the Eagles as a rookie and started four, and did not look out of place.

For obvious reasons, it would be better for the Eagles’ long-term outlook if Seumalo wins the battle, as is sort of expected. Should that come to pass, it could allow the Eagles to move Barbre, in which case, Warmack is right there to back him up. Or, if Kelce is traded, and Seumalo moves to center, Warmack is there to push Barbre. Wisniewski can play left guard, too! In other words, we don’t know precisely how it will shake out, but the Eagles have plenty of options.

BETTER OR WORSE?

Barring a sudden drop-off from Peters, the Eagles appear to be in good shape up front. Even if something happens to Peters, Johnson can play left tackle, and Vaitai takes over on the right. There is no shortage of moves along the interior, so consider that group vastly improved before any trades are made. The only question is depth behind Vaitai at tackle, though Seumalo can play outside as well. Everything points to an already solid group staying that way, and in many cases, continuing to develop. Better

 

Previously:

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