The 2018 Philadelphia Eagles season was an odd one. As defending Tremendous Bowl champs, the Eagles handled, amongst different issues, a possible Tremendous Bowl hangover, roster turnover and a bevy of great accidents. However probably the most unavoidable storyline of the yr concerned Carson Wentz, who got here off a close to MVP season and later ACL tear to return, go 5-6 as a starter and then be sidelined as a consequence of a again damage.
Additional complicating issues was not solely the return of final season’s Tremendous Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, who appeared to virtually instantly get the offense again on monitor, but in addition that Wentz will probably be up for a brand new, possible monstrous contract on the finish of subsequent season.
So what occurred? Why did the workforce play higher behind Foles? Was it merely that Wentz was enjoying injured? Was it one thing else?
The circumstances surrounding Wentz and the Eagles’ offense have been peculiar and we began asking questions.
Over the previous two months, PhillyVoice spoke with greater than a half dozen gamers, plus different sources near the group, who all requested to stay nameless — fearing repercussions given Wentz’ energy inside the group. And what they informed us paints a considerably totally different image of the Eagles’ locker room – and their franchise quarterback – than one may anticipate.
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Whereas some circles blamed the Eagles’ offensive failures on new offensive coordinator Mike Groh, quite a few sources in and across the NFL and Eagles stated they thought Wentz might have been the basis of the Eagles’ offensive issues. Groh is a “good coach,” who was “bullied” by Wentz, in line with sources. The issue with the offense this previous season shouldn’t lie with Groh, it ought to “lie with Wentz,” they stated.
Final Tuesday, Eagles coach Doug Pederson declared Wentz the beginning quarterback shifting ahead.
One factor is for certain: Each one among our sources stated the identical issues virtually verbatim concerning the relationship between Wentz and Nick Foles: “They love each other, they respect each other and they support each other.”
However whereas the sentiment within the Eagles’ locker room is that Foles is “universally loved,” Wentz isn’t.
His aw-shucks, overgrown-Opie-from-Mayberry routine performs nicely with the native and nationwide media. Certainly, sources describe Wentz as “incredibly hard working,” “determined,” and “highly intelligent.” However the true Wentz is extra nuanced and difficult, with sources describing him as “selfish,” “uncompromising,” “egotistical,” one who performs “favorites” and doesn’t wish to be “questioned,” one who must “practice what he preaches” and fails “to take accountability.”
Quite a few sources confirmed Wentz was as soon as verbally attacked by a extremely revered teammate for not being “a team guy.”
“Carson Wentz’s biggest enemy is Carson Wentz,” one supply stated. “He’s had his ass kissed his whole life, and sometimes acts like he’s won 10 Super Bowls, when he hasn’t played in, let alone won, a playoff game yet. Everyone around him wants good things for him. He did more thinking on the field than he did playing (in 2018). You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or a football expert to see how differently this team plays and reacts with one guy as opposed to the other.”
According to multiple sources, Wentz tended to “complicate” the offense. He didn’t let it come organically, as Foles did. In line with one supply, Wentz might “complicate 2+2.”
Wentz, in line with sources, created friction inside the offense.
This was totally different in 2016 and ’17 beneath former Eagles coaches Frank Reich, now the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach, and John DeFilippo, the brand new Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator, as a result of they might rein Wentz in and cease him from going off-point, sources stated. Reich and DeFilippo are two revered, entrenched NFL coaches who’ve skilled success. They pressured Wentz to run the Eagles’ offense, a Tremendous Bowl-winning offense that scored 41 factors within the largest recreation in franchise historical past and outdueled all-time nice Tom Brady.
Ask your self who had the higher season: Wentz (279-for-401, three,zero74 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, sacked 31 occasions) or Andrew Luck (430-for-639, four,593 yards, 39 TDs, 15 INTs, sacked 18 occasions)?
The Colts’ offense almost mirrored the one run final yr by the Eagles.
In response to a number of sources, Wentz tended to “complicate” the offense. He didn’t let it come organically, as Foles did. In response to one supply, Wentz might “complicate 2+2.”
Reich and DeFilippo harassed to Wentz the significance of sticking with the play that was referred to as — a accomplished cross was there ready. When Wentz deviated from that, it was typically met with dangerous penalties, like an interception or a sack. When Wentz trusted what Reich and DeFilippo referred to as, it led to an MVP-like season that produced an Eagles’ single-season franchise document 33 landing passes and an 11-2 report in 13 video games.
Pederson, Reich and DeFilippo have been the right storm of coaches. Every had their strengths, and every complemented each other.
With Reich taking the highest job with the Colts and DeFilippo becoming a member of the Vikings this season, the Eagles’ offense was going to be just about the identical, or so the gamers thought. There was one main exception: Wentz didn’t need to run most of the ideas, as a result of he felt that was “Foles’ stuff,” sources stated. However as anybody who watched the Eagles might see, Foles and the Eagles’ offense was profitable operating their “normal stuff.”
Aggravation got here in understanding that if Wentz was the extra dominant participant — and he’s — why wouldn’t the offense be much more prolific with him operating it than Foles?
MORE: Your group’s first spherical picks since 2010, if Mel Kiper’s preliminary mock drafts have been good
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The obvious distinction is that Foles, each supply said, would undergo progressions inside the offense — precisely the way it was designed to run — and hit the open receiver, no matter who it was or the place they have been on the sector. Wentz solely noticed, it appeared, one receiver nearly all of the season: Zach Ertz. This understandably annoyed the remainder of the offense, contemplating different receivers have been open downfield. To cease the Eagles in 2018 underneath Wentz was slightly straightforward: Cease No. 86.
Wentz’s proclivity for enjoying “favorites” manifested itself in concentrating on Ertz, who went on to catch a single-season NFL-record 116 passes for a decent finish. Over the 11 video games Wentz performed, he went to Ertz 106 occasions (a mean of 9.6 targets per recreation), whereas Alshon Jeffery was focused 74 occasions (7.four targets per recreation) and Nelson Agholor 60 occasions (5.four targets per recreation). Sources added, with none nice revelation, that Jordan Matthews is an Eagle as a result of “of his buddy Wentz.”
This even got here out in the course of the yr earlier than Wentz obtained harm, however the Eagles’ veteran management and locker room carried out themselves in a method that prevented it turning into an enormous story.
An unnamed supply in a narrative by ESPN’s Josina Anderson stated of the Eagles’ struggles after the Saints loss, “I really felt like when we came out of camp, we didn’t have that same identity, that same rhythm, that camaraderie that you build on and off the field.”
The identical supply additionally talked about that the staff was “over-targeting Zach Ertz.”
The offensive gamers primarily felt extra snug and assured with Foles – once more, not an excellent revelation – as a result of they knew he would get everybody concerned within the offense. Foles would verify down, if he needed to, however he wasn’t going to audible out of operating performs, as Wentz had a bent to do that previous season.
Wentz additionally had a propensity to tug the ball when he was about handy off to the operating backs, and verify right down to Ertz, regardless of having one of many NFL’s higher offensive strains to run behind. It might frustrate the offensive line, the operating backs and the vast receivers — principally everybody on the sector on the time, except Wentz and Ertz. This too got here out in the course of the season, as Anderson talked about it from her supply.
In 2017, the Eagles gained by gassing groups. In 2018, Wentz’s penchant to point out so little confidence in different points of the Eagles’ offense not solely restricted its efficiency — in flip, it restricted Wentz. He took extra abuse this season (31 sacks in 11 video games in 2018, as against 28 sacks in 13 video games in 2017) than he did his first two years within the NFL. That got here partly as a result of Carson Wentz couldn’t be “Carson Wentz,” the Teflon ginger that mesmerized the NFL in 2017 together with his Harry Houdini escapes, since he was nowhere near being 100-percent wholesome, regardless of what Wentz has stated publicly.
Dropping Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, Brent Celek and LeGarrette Blount is necessary to notice. Smith, who was not an amazing participant, knew the place to seek out openings on the sector and made robust catches. Burton was under-appreciated right here and created matchup issues. Celek performed an integral position within the offense, and was dependable. Blount was a pounding runner who took stress off Wentz within the pink zone.
Our sources expressed the identical narrative: Wentz was so hell-bent on getting again after Foles led the Eagles to the Tremendous Bowl that he risked his personal well being, the well being of the offense and the well being of the Eagles in doing so. That translated right into a 6-7 season, up till Pederson introduced that Wentz had a stress fracture in his again and can be uncertain the ultimate three regular-season video games, spurring additional questions on Wentz’s long-term well being.
Psychologically, Wentz won’t have absolutely trusted the surgically-repaired left knee he injured on Dec. 10, 2017, when he tore his ACL and LCL towards the Los Angeles Rams.
Wentz wasn’t 100 % the entire season, sources agreed. Although, truly, that didn’t have to return from individuals inside the NovaCare Complicated, or from these very acquainted with Wentz’s recreation. Everybody might see it. Wentz couldn’t escape the pocket as freely as he did in 2017, getting caught by linebackers from behind. Sources estimated that Wentz was in all probability at about 80 % of what makes Carson Wentz the particular participant he has been and must be.
Most of Wentz’s incomplete passes have been low. He wasn’t throwing beneath a robust base, pushing his passes extra from his arm and shoulder than from his power, his legs.
Wentz additionally struggled studying defenses this season, in accordance with sources. His eyes have been everywhere. Consequently, his scope of the sector was far narrower. He pressed. Going into video games, the operating backs and vast receivers would brazenly query what number of touches they might get, as a result of they felt Wentz wouldn’t look their method. The offensive linemen grew indignant as a result of Wentz’s indecision would trigger him to carry the ball longer than mandatory — leading to sacks and hits.
“We know what type of player he can be, and who he normally is,” one supply stated. “He needs to realize it’s the Philadelphia Eagles not the Philadelphia Carsons.”
After practices, Pederson will single out a participant and ask what accountability means to him. After a very biting loss in November, there was a clumsy second. Pederson requested one of many extra outstanding offensive gamers to outline what accountability means. So fed up together with his restricted position underneath Wentz, the participant stated nothing. He checked out.
By early December, after the additional time loss in Dallas, the group’s entire synergy modified when Foles took over. The final three video games, the Eagles have been operating “training camp” performs — and profitable, sources stated.
As a result of the Eagles’ offense — the Tremendous Bowl-winning offense — was being run the best way it was meant to be run.
Doug Pederson deserved Coach of the Yr honors and a Nobel Prize for the balancing act he carried out this previous season. One can simply make the case that he did a much better job teaching this season simply to get the Eagles into the playoffs than he did final yr in profitable the Tremendous Bowl. And Pederson wasn’t — nor isn’t — about to throw his franchise quarterback beneath a bus about something. However he does take heed to his gamers, and very a lot cares about their enter.
MORE: Eagles-only 2019 mock draft, model 1.zero
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To an individual, the sources who spoke for this story careworn that they need Carson Wentz to succeed. He’s 26 years previous and has performed only one full NFL season, and no playoff video games. Many would agree the QB needs to be a celebrity, and typically acts like he’s one already, and that’s definitely comprehensible.
One can solely think about what Wentz went by way of, ending his probably 2017 MVP season in a gutsy landing move on a torn ACL. The participant whom Philadelphia traded up twice to get at No. 2 general within the NFL draft had seen his squad attain the postseason, and watched them win a Tremendous Bowl from the sidelines.
The themes interviewed for this story seemed that Wentz modified after his damage. With Foles greater than possible gone subsequent season and nothing however open area forward to rehab and spend a full coaching camp as QB1, there appears to be a superb probability he’ll be his dynamic self once more — each on the gridiron and together with his teammates.
“He has to return to who ‘Carson Wentz’ is,” a source told PhillyVoice. “That comes with relaxing and not forcing things. It also comes with being able to take constructive criticism. He has to learn that it’s not always about him and that’s partly what hurt this team this year. We know what type of player he can be, and who he normally is. He needs to realize it’s the Philadelphia Eagles not the Philadelphia Carsons.
“A little humility goes a long way.”
The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t instantly return a name looking for touch upon this story.
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