The Eagles wrapped up their first offseason training activity on Thursday, and the only thing we really learned about this retooled team is that they would probably have a heck of a flag football squad.
The Eagles skill players looked great in shorts and with no contact, and if the 2017 NFL season was to be played on paper, they would be a lock for the playoffs.
The Eagles added a bunch of skill players who should – and “should’’ is the operative word – have a big impact on their 2017 season. Veteran wide receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith and rookie receivers Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibbs made the passing drills a lot more fun to watch. And the additions of veteran running back LeGarrett Blount and Donner Pumphrey should give the Eagles a lot more options with their ground game.
But none of that really matters if the guy behind center doesn’t take a big step in the right direction this coming season. All of those offensive additions were made to help second-year quarterback Carson Wentz and eventually it will be up to him to take advantage of all of those upgrades. The Eagles front office worked overtime to surround Wentz with better talent and now the onus is on him.
All things considered, Wentz had a very good season last year, but he was also inconsistent. Since he was a rookie and didn’t have a lot of offensive weapons around him, that shouldn’t have been a surprise. But now there are no excuses. Former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan used to say that an NFL player makes the biggest strides of his career from his first to his second season and that’s what the Eagles need to see from Wentz.
But will he deliver? Will he be the franchise quarterback the Eagles need so desperately? Eagles fans desperately want to believe that, but those fans are notoriously and understandable skeptical, given the history of their favorite team.
Since 1980 the Eagles have had only three guys you could really call franchise quarterbacks – Ron Jaworski, Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb. For the most part, their QB has been a stopgap veteran like Jim McMahon, Bubby Brister, Ken O’Brien, Rodney Peete, Ty Detmer, Michael Vick and, yes, Doug Pederson.
But there have also been young guns who, like Wentz, were supposed to be the future of the franchise and were handed the starting job, but then fizzled out for some reason. That group consists of Bobby Hoying, Kevin Kolb and Nick Foles, who all had moments of greatness, but couldn’t sustain them. That consistency is what a franchise quarterback is all about and none of them had it.
And that’s the biggest fear Eagles fans have – Wentz will prove to be one of those young studs who never panned out. After his incredibly hot start to the 2016 season, Eagles fans were already planning their parade down Broad Street, but then the rookie quarterback started to make mistakes and look like, well, a rookie quarterback. And now nobody is sure which of the two extremes is the real Carson Wentz.
This season should tell us. Wentz isn’t a rookie anymore and the Eagles made serious upgrades to their offense and it’s time to see that come together. That doesn’t mean the Eagles have to win the Super Bowl this season or even make the playoffs. But they have to be consistent and competitive on a weekly basis. They can’t be like they were last season, when they played two good games and then four bad ones.
Wentz can’t do it all by himself, of course. But nobody talks about having a franchise center or a franchise linebacker. That phrase is reserved for one position only, and it’s the most important position in team sports. That’s why quarterbacks make the most money in the NFL and probably why they get the most girls in high school and college.
As any fan of Spider-man knows, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why the fate of the Eagles – this season and into the foreseeable future – falls on the shoulders of one man.
So, will the real Carson Wentz please stand up?