Now that the dust has settled from the draft and free agency, there is little question the Philadelphia Eagles have improved by adding some key weapons on offense and making a few additions on defense.
So, with this new group of weapons surrounding him, will Carson Wentz improve as the Eagles’ starting quarterback or regress into the dreaded “sophomore slump”?
Among the current crop of very good NFL quarterbacks, only Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were victims of the “sophomore slump.” In 2006, Rivers’ first year as a starter, the Chargers went 14-2, with Rivers throwing 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. In 2007, the team’s record dropped to a respectable 11-5, but his completion percentage and passing yards dipped and his interception total went up from 9 to 15. Despite this slight regression, Rivers has had nine more years for the Chargers as an outstanding QB. Drew Brees had a more dramatic descent in his second year. In 2002, the Saints went 8-8, Brees threw for 3,284 yards with 17 TDs and 16 interceptions. In 2003, he started 11 games and the team’s record fell to 2-9. His completion percentage dropped by almost 4 percentage points and he threw for only 2,108 yards with 11 TDs and 15 interceptions. But of course, Brees has played for the Saints for another 13 seasons and is a future hall of famer with a Super Bowl Ring.
And then there’s Peyton Manning. In 1998, he started every game and the Colts went 3-13. He completed 57 percent of his passes with 26 TDs and 28 interceptions. In his second year, he led the Colts to a dramatic reversal as they finished 13-3. His completion percentage rose by almost 5 points and he reduced his interceptions to 15.
Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco all had very sophmore seasons in-line with their rookie debuts.
Meanwhile, in Eagles recent history, Nick Foles took over as the starter in midseason 2013 and in the next 10 games, the Eagles achieved an 8-2 record. Foles was unbelievably spectacular. He completed 64 percent of his passes for an average of 9.1 yards per attempt and threw an impressive 27 passes with an incredible interception total of only 2. He was an instant success, but the next year descended back to earth and threw only 13 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions and his completion percentage dropped to 58 percent. By the beginning of the next season, he was traded to St. Louis, where, in 11 starts, he threw only seven touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Now, he is back, and the Eagles are touting him as the best backup QB in the NFL which may be the case.
Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a fair share of struggles this season for Carson, but more as a result of the team continuing to gel and find the right rhythm between the pass and the run. A huge key will be Legarrette Blount and Darren Sproles sharing the load out of the backfield and how heavily Pederson relies on the run in general, taking pressure off of Wentz.
What Eagles fans should be most concerned with is Wentz cutting down on the interceptions, making quicker/better decisions, and getting rid of the ball before taking huge hits. There is so much talent and ability there that the spectacular throws and game-winning drives will come in the absence of those mistakes.
I’m interested to see how the addition of Alshon Jeffrey and Torey Smith will aid in his confidence to let it fly and more impotantly, provide some damn YAC to pad the stats and scoreboard. Expect to see an improved Wentz and Eagles overall, but don’t book your Super Bowl reservations just yet.
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