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Wentz Progress Equals Bright Future

Posted Jan 1, 2017

The 2016 season is, and always was, about the development of quarterback Carson Wentz and his rise into the role of Franchise Quarterback. He ended it as he started it, with a strong performance in an Eagles’ home victory, this time a 27-13 decision over Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field ...

The 2016 season is, and always was, about the development of quarterback Carson Wentz and his rise into the role of Franchise Quarterback. He ended it as he started it, with a strong performance in an Eagles’ home victory, this time a 27-13 decision over Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field.

Wentz tossed two touchdown passes, both to tight end Zach Ertz, and completed 27-of-43 passes for 245 yards, compiling a passer rating of 93.7, avoiding some pass-rush pressure and continuing to impress everyone around him.

“There is no one, and I mean no one, who isn’t impressed with Carson and who doesn’t believe that he is our franchise quarterback and that he has a big, bright future in front of him,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s the guy and he is one impressive quarterback.”

Wentz, thrust into the starting quarterback role eight days before the season opened against the Browns, never flinched in his rookie season. He was a beast, for the most part, throwing 16 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, establishing an NFL record for most completions by a rookie quarterback, and missing only six snaps (all when he was being checked for a head injury against the New York Giants in Week 16).

Wentz shouldered the load with an offensive arsenal that lacked explosiveness and missed right tackle Lane Johnson for 10 games, weathered on without running back Ryan Mathews for much of the season and didn’t have leading receiver Jordan Matthews healthy for the last month of the year.

And he did it very, very well.

“We know how good Carson is and what he means to this offense,” said Ertz, who had 65 receptions in the final nine games of the season, once his rib injury healed and he and Wentz got on the same page. “He’s so big and strong and mobile back there that he almost never goes down when he has the first defender there. He’s going to keep plays alive. It helps all of us.

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“Carson is the leader of this team. As he goes, we go.”

That’s really the theme of this offseason ahead: What can the Eagles do to make Carson Wentz play his very best football? How do they improve in every phase and at every level of the offense? What can the Eagles do on defense to become more of a get-off-the-field unit?

Those are just some of the questions that will be asked in the months to come, and we’ll find out the answers when free agency begins in March and the draft opens in Philadelphia in the spring. There are a lot of uncertainties, for sure, but one thing is absolute: Wentz is entrenched for years to come.

“We had a really crazy year,” Jenkins said, “but every time you looked over at Carson he was the same. He was poised and professional. He was always prepared and ready to play his best football. Everyone in this locker room wondered how it would play out. Would he be ready? We saw right away that he was, and I know we have special things ahead with him as our quarterback.”

Wentz was generally efficient with his throws on Sunday, but one number stands out: His long completion was just 20 yards. That was consistent with much of the season. The Eagles lacked big plays down the field and that is something they will seek to improve for 2017. Getting more “chunk” plays is paramount for this offense.

“I know I loved every minute of the season. I love this game and it was a lot of fun for me to get out there and play and learn,” Wentz said. “We have a great group of guys and coaches. It’s going to be exciting to keep growing together and seeing what we can accomplish.”

Everyone believes in what the future can be, but let’s understand that the Eagles know how much work needs to be done. Everyone knows that the Eagles must be on point this offseason with their personnel moves. They have to be outstanding and efficient. They have to keep Wentz’s well-being in mind.

They need to give him help - on both sides of the football.

No question it is disappointing to be 7-9 and out of the playoffs. The Eagles lost too many close games because they made too many mistakes, because they failed too many times in the red zone, because they led the league in pre-snap penalties and because the defense gave up too many big plays.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Eagles have a franchise quarterback who is only going to improve. Wentz is who the Eagles are building around, and they have a lot to work with in such a talented, driven, intelligent and humble quarterback.

“He’s got everything,” tight end Brent Celek said. “It stinks to leave here not going to the playoffs. We all want that, especially the way we started the season. But we had a chance to see Carson grow and that’s exciting. He’s only going to get better and better.”

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