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Carson Wentz Is Playing a Dangerous Game

The Eagles rookie QB could become a star, if he doesn’t get turned into dust first

Getty Images
Getty Images

Eventually, Carson Wentz is going to lose.

The Eagles’ rookie quarterback will lose a game someday, but if he’s not careful, he’s going to lose more than that. Like his spleen. Chicago laid so many big hits on Wentz during its Monday night loss to Philly, the rookie had to change his jersey number from 11 to 25 or 6 to 4.

Some of the hits — like the vicious sandwich hit he took along the sideline in the second quarter — were avoidable, but Wentz didn’t get much help. On back-to-back plays in the second quarter, center Jason Kelce got called for a hold and a face mask; not that the penalties saved Wentz much pain: He got absolutely atomized both times.

The Bears had their own discipline problems to worry about: They turned the ball over three times (the Eagles had zero turnovers), and committed seven penalties, the worst of which turned a fourth-and-goal stop into a Ryan Mathews rushing touchdown.

Still, Wentz, aversion to bodily safety aside, continued to impress in his second pro start, going 21-for-34 for 190 yards and a touchdown, showing poise under pressure, knowing when to roll out and when to wrap up and not risk a fumble. He went checkdown-heavy at times, averaging only 5.6 yards per attempt, but he also threw a number of accurate — and pretty — deep balls, which were dropped every time by receivers Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews. Wentz’s most reliable receiver on the night was Touchdown Trey Burton — a third-year tight end making a spot start for an injured Zach Ertz — who doubled his career reception total with three catches, including his first NFL touchdown on a nifty goal-line screen.

Wentz looks like he’ll be a good pro quarterback; he just has to live long enough for Eagles fans to enjoy it.

And that’s the key — Philadelphia invested not just the no. 2 overall pick in Wentz, but the five picks it traded (including two first-rounders) to get that pick from Cleveland in the first place. The Eagles’ roster is riddled with holes that could’ve been filled with those draft picks, but you’ve got nothing in the NFL if you don’t have a quarterback. Nobody knows that better than Philadelphia. Around a decade ago, the Eagles went from 13–3 and a three-point loss in the Super Bowl to 6–10 and a last-place finish in the span of a year, partially because Terrell Owens started filming workout videos in his driveway, but mostly because Donovan McNabb got hurt.

Maybe Wentz won’t be as good as McNabb, and maybe the Eagles didn’t expect to contend this year anyway, but they’re in it now, and if you need to know how much an injury to your starting quarterback can fuck up your mojo, just look at the Vikings, who got spooked enough at Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury to send a first- and a fourth-round pick to these selfsame Eagles for Sam Bradford.

Or ask the Bears, who were living their own quarterback nightmare.

Of course, even Jay Cutler at his sourpussiest isn’t the worst-case scenario, because at the end of the third quarter, Cutler left with a hand injury and millions of Houston Texans fans reflexively sat up and shuddered. Brian Hoyer, the most recent person to hold the Caleb Hanie Chair in Backup Quarterbackonomics at the University of Chicago, went 9-for-12 for 78 yards, but his two drives ended in a Jeremy Langford fumble and a turnover on downs.

It’s a shame the Bears didn’t get more out of their quarterbacks, because the Eagles could not cover Alshon Jeffery, who went for 96 yards on five catches and drew the pass interference penalty that set up the Bears’ lone offensive touchdown. The Eagles’ corners did their best, but if you tell Nolan Carroll to guard Jeffery on a deep ball, you might as well hand him a snorkel and a fishing net and say, “Hey, go chase down that nuclear submarine and drag it back to shore.”

Meanwhile, Bears slot receiver Eddie Royal carved up the Eagles early, squirming through the arms of tacklers like a well-lubricated pig through a posse of flabbergasted high school vice principals, then took a fourth-quarter punt back 65 yards to close the gap to its final margin of 15 points.

But it doesn’t matter if the quarterback can’t get the ball to them. Learn to slide, Carson.