Preseason football barely tells anything about the potential success of a team. Ideally the first unit offense and defense look sharp in limited series, and then the rest of the roster fights for a spot on the final 53. This year was different because: Carson Wentz.
Last season the Eagles beat the Packers in Week 3 of the preseason. It’s the week that teams play their starters into the second half. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play that night, but Sam Bradford and his offensive teammates played flawless football against a solid defense. Seriously, Bradford finished the game 10-10 for 121 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.7 passer rating. After that game people thought Philadelphia could win the whole damn thing.
The Eagles then barely won seven games, fired their coach and traded away three starters.
Moral to the story: preseason doesn’t mean anything.
But after signing Bradford and Chase Daniel, then trading up to draft Wentz, and subsequently deciding he’d basically redshirt this season, preseason became everything for fans. Fans wanted to see Wentz, and preseason looked like the only time to see him.
Thursday’s preseason opener lacked excitement after the first seven minutes. Philly led 14-6 with 7:01 left in the first quarter, and a whopping six total points were scored the rest of the way. But despite the dullness, Wentz shined for a handful of plays. His first completion to Zach Ertz was a thing of beauty. Wentz struggled, as rookies do, some snaps. He threw passes too high. Under distress, according to Pro Football Focus, Wentz completed three of 10 passes, including an interception. Wentz, if you wanted to specifically classify he performance, had an up-and-down game. The preseason presented an opportunity for Wentz to figure out the NFL speed, and how to navigate an offense. Wentz, for the most part, played with undrafted rookies or borderline roster players. His best moments unsurprisingly happened with NFL-proven players like Ertz.
Before the preseason opener, Doug Pederson announced Wentz would play most, if not all, of the second half. Any coach can say what the game plan will be, but the game plan’s so tentative due to circumstances out of a coach’s control. Preseason, however, is different, because it’s a glorified practice. Wentz played a series in the first half, but Pederson didn’t do anything wrong by keeping him into the fourth quarter. Wentz broke his rib with 5:24 left in the fourth quarter on the play that could’ve happened at any junction. Wentz faced pressure, but Tampa Bay wasn’t hitting him every snap. Aside from the injury, the Buccaneers hit him on one of his runs, the play right before he suffered the hairline fracture and the roughing the quarterback penalty the play before his interception. Wentz has the athleticism to avoid rushers. It’s one of his strengths, which the Eagles should use to their advantage. Obviously if Wentz runs around he’s more susceptible for injury, but he did a great job sliding on Thursday. It’s an area where Wentz has to improve. He was able to be careless in college, because of the nature of his offense. It was a pro-style one, but they utilized his mobility with design runs or read options.
Wentz had durability questions surrounding him at North Dakota State. He said this was the first time he broke his ribs, though. Injuries can happen with dumb luck, but obviously someone can be more injury-prone than others. He broke his wrist his senior year of college, and then, according to Wentz, broke his thumb and had shoulder and arm issues in high school.
There’s really no point in rushing back Wentz. Only if he’s 100 percent with little chance of re-injury should he play in Week 4 against the Jets. It would be a downer if the only action fans saw from Wentz this year were 24 pass attempts, but getting him healthy should be Philly’s only priority.