When the Philadelphia Eagles raised the Vince Lombardi two years ago, Carson Wentz was relegated to spectator after tearing his ACL earlier during the season. The next season, he was back under center but the campaign ended in the same fashion: due to a lingering back injury, the Eagles opted to place Wentz on injured reserve for the second year in a row. Both times, veteran backup and eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles replaced him.
Now, Foles is gone — he opted out of his contract during the offseason and ultimately signed a free agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars — and Wentz is back as Philadelphia’s undisputed starting quarterback. And on Sunday, for the first time in his career, he will face the team against which his de facto predecessor won the franchise its first and only championship: the New England Patriots and the NFL’s best defense will come to town.
The game against the 8-1 Patriots will be a challenge for Wentz, but New England is also aware of the 26-year-old’s abilities to do what Foles did in February 2018: consistently put pressure on the defense and subsequently points on the board (even though this year’s version is far superior to the one the Patriots fielded in Super Bowl 52). Head coach Bill Belichick pointed this out during a press conference on Wednesday.
“He’s a good quarterback,” said Belichick about Wentz. “He can do it all: good arm, athletic, can extend plays, tough kid, can run if he needs to, can make all the throws, get the ball down the field, gets the ball to all his receivers. Uses the backs, tight ends and receivers based on who’s open, his route progression. He’s good at reading defenses. They give him a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to change plays or adjust plays.”
So far this season and returning from his second consecutive stint on IR, Wentz has looked good — something the statistics reflect. The second overall selection of the 2016 draft has completed 190 of his 303 pass attempts through the Eagles’ first nine games of the season for a combined 2,060 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. Moving the ball with his right arm is not the only strength Wentz brings to the table, though.
“He can definitely run,” Belichick continued. “The [run-pass-options] — there’s a couple different versions of them — they use both and they have. They incorporated it into their offense several years ago and continue to use them. They mix it in there. You’re going to get them in every week. It might be more or less depending on how it’s going, but you have to prepare for them and you’re going to have to defend them.”
“They’ll definitely run some. But they have a couple different varieties of it; it’s not just one way of doing it. They have a couple of different looks, so it’s a challenge to the defense that way,” he added. While Wentz is not on the same level as some of the league’s dual-threat quarterbacks, he certainly is capable of carrying the football if need be. This year so far, he has done it 30 times for 152 — an average of 5.1 yards per carry — and one score.
Needless to say that New England has to be able to contain the North Dakota State product on Sunday in order to prevent a performance like the one Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens offense had two weeks ago. And even though Wentz does not pose the same threat on the ground as Jackson, he has the skillset to challenge the Patriots’ defense on a down-to-down basis with his arms and his legs. Belichick therefore summed him up well on Wednesday.
“Looks like he’s pretty good at everything,” he said. “A pretty accomplished guy.”