Will Carson Wentz be Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 1 starter?
File it under good problems to have: The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles soon must decide whether to start Carson Wentz, last season’s favorite for league MVP honors before he tore his ACL on Dec. 10, or kick off their title defense campaign next Thursday vs. the Atlanta Falcons with Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles behind center.
Less than 10 days remain to reach a decision, and Eagles coach Doug Pederson conceded over the weekend that Wentz had yet to be cleared for contact following ACL reconstruction surgery on Dec. 13, typically accompanied by a 9-12 month recovery. The front end of that range would place Wentz a few days shy of being ready, but all ACL injuries and recoveries aren’t created equally.
Wentz and Foles recently have split the first-team reps, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh confirmed Monday, after Philly had pulled Wentz from team drills as a precautionary measure a few weeks ago. We must stress the precautionary part, as all indications are that Wentz appears ahead of schedule in practice. But he obviously won’t play in the preseason, where Foles has struggled, sporting a 48.7 passer rating, 0:2 TD-INT ratio and 6.6 yards per attempt.
Of course it was only six months ago that Foles authored one of the greatest postseasons ever by a passer, beginning with a sterling showing in the divisional round vs. the Falcons ‘D’ that returns to Philly next Thursday. Sure, Foles has struggled this preseason, but Philly has been without several key pieces, not to mention the regular-season game planning that masterfully accentuated Foles’ strengths while masking his deficiencies down the stretch.
Pederson helped bring Eagles fans the franchise’s first championship with not only astute play calling but hyper-aggressive. Would the man who just co-authored a book with PFW television contributor Dan Pompei titled “Fearless” not start his best quarterback if he felt in his heart of hearts that Wentz was ready?
And Pederson’s boss, VP of football Howie Roseman, rebuilt the Eagles from the Chip Kelly dumpster fire to arguably the league’s most talented bunch by authoring one of the more aggressive scripts we’ve seen in recent NFL memory.
A fascinating decision awaits, to be sure.
Wentz is the most valuable asset in the organization; Foles is the league’s most valuable backup quarterback.
The Eagles surely want to start the season on a high note against a legitimate challenger to their throne, but it’s followed by the “mini bye” and consecutive games against last-place clubs a year ago in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, both with QB questions of their own to begin the season.
Playing it safe would obviously mean rolling with Foles, but if Pederson were one for playing it safe, there would be no such thing as the “Philly Special” or perhaps the Lombardi residing in Philadelphia, period.
This much we can say with complete confidence: There is zero benefit to Pederson telegraphing his plan to Dan Quinn’s Falcons, so expect the question of Wentz vs. Foles to go down to the wire next week. The best guess here is Foles, but we’ll flip the coin again between now and next Thursday. Stay tuned.