Carson Wentz is entering the biggest year of his career, there’s no doubt about that.
Not only is this a big year because of his impending contract extension, Wentz needs to prove that he’s truly a franchise quarterback. I’ve been the biggest advocate for Wentz through his injuries and even his sub par play this past season.
But this year, all bets are off. There won’t be any excuses for him this time around — if the team fails to make the playoffs, the bulk of the blame will fall on Wentz’s shoulders.
If Wentz wants Howie to hand him a massive contract, something like what Russell Wilson just got, he’s going to need to ball out in 2019. He’ll need to be as good, if not better, than he was in 2017.
On paper, this is the best arsenal of weapons that Wentz has had to work with since entering the league. He’ll have three solid receivers in Alshon, D-Jax and Agholor and possibly another if they add one in the draft; perhaps the best tight end duo in the NFL with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and the running game should be better this season with the addition of Jordan Howard and another offseason of development for Corey Clement and Josh Adams.
Any solid QB would thrive with these weapons at their disposal, so there’s no reason Wentz shouldn’t.
Here are three things Wentz needs to do this season to earn himself a big contract extension and prove he is the future of the Eagles franchise.
Stay Healthy for all 16 Games and Make the Playoffs
In 2017, Wentz proved he can get home field advantage and lead a team to the postseason. But we haven’t seen him actually play in a playoff game yet due to injuries. That’s going to need to change in 2019.
Quarterbacks earn their money and credibility in the postseason. No one believed Peyton Manning was an all-time great until he got over his playoff yips. Trust me, no Eagles fan is going to believe Wentz is the real deal either until he performs at a high level in the playoffs.
His health is easily his biggest question mark heading into the year. His injury history is really the only thing that holds me back from saying he’s our guy for the next decade.
If he can’t stay healthy this year, that’ll make it three straight seasons he missed time due to injury. You just can’t miss that much time as a franchise quarterback – it doesn’t matter how great you are when you’re healthy.
The best ability is availability in pro sports, and as of right now Wentz isn’t very good in that department.
Cement His Status as The Best QB in the Division
This may seem silly to some, but when you look at the NFL landscape, every division winner usually has the best quarterback in their division.
There are exceptions; like last season when the Bears won the NFC North. Obviously Aaron Rodgers is better than Mitch Trubisky, the Bears just had a far superior team.
But, more often than not this notion holds true.
I think it’s fair to say Wentz is already clearly better than Case Keenum and Eli Manning, so let’s just focus on Dak and the Cowboys.
Before last season, even the thought of Dak Prescott being better than Carson Wentz was laughable. But here we are one year later, and the gap between the two has never been closer.
For the record, I still believe Wentz is better than Dak.
Dak’s benefited from having a top three o-line and running back every year he’s been in the NFL. And the one season he didn’t have one of those two luxuries, he was terrible.
Sure, Dak’s won a playoff game and Wentz hasn’t, but that goes back to Wentz not even being healthy enough to play in a playoff game. I don’t like playing the “what if?” game, but if Wentz was healthy for the playoff run in 2017, I don’t believe the outcome at the end of it all would’ve been any different.
In order for Wentz to silence his doubters, he’s going to need to out-perform Prescott in their head-to-head matchups and sweep the season series with Dallas.
If Wentz can’t even beat Dak in head-to-head games, then why would we want him long-term? Dak’s not even a top-10 QB in the league. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a quarterback who struggles to beat a guy who’s barely in the top-15 list of QBs.
Beating Dallas twice this season would make me, and all of Eagles nation, feel a lot more comfortable with Wentz moving forward.
Be the Leader That Foles Was
When it comes to pure on-field talent, Wentz is better than Foles. But when it comes to leadership and the ability to rally those around you, Foles was better than Wentz over the last two seasons.
The locker room adored Foles. The fans adored Foles. He was humble and carried a quiet confidence with him. And above all else, he did what he had to do to win in big time moments.
His stat line wasn’t always the prettiest, but in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, I’d take Foles over anyone in the NFL not named Tom Brady.
At times last season, Wentz seemed like he was pressing. He tried to put the game on his shoulders and his shoulders alone. While I love seeing my QB with that mamba-like mentality – it doesn’t hurt to lean on your teammates every once in a while.
Foles has made a living by taking what the defense gives him. Wentz needs to do this more consistently and allow the playmakers around him to do what they do. He doesn’t always have to make THE throw or THE scramble to win a game.
Foles was so beloved by his teammates because he trusted them. He knew that all he had to do was get the ball in their hands and let them do the rest. If Wentz can show his teammates that he has that same type of trust in them, they’ll rally behind him just like they did for Foles at the end of last year.
This isn’t to say Wentz isn’t a good leader by any means. I just think he could benefit from taking a page out of Nick Foles’ book.