PHILADELPHIA − We all know that Carson Wentz has long moved on from the Eagles, as have the Eagles from Wentz.
But now that Wentz is back in the NFC East with the Washington Commanders, the Eagles have to face him twice each season, beginning Sept. 25 in Washington.
So a comparison is relevant here.
Sure, it’s low-hanging fruit to say the Eagles are better off with Jalen Hurts than they are with Wentz. It’s also low-hanging fruit to reach that conclusion after seeing Wentz’s three-interception disaster of a day Monday during a Commanders’ training camp practice.
Reporters at that practice described fans booing Wentz and pretty much lamenting the fact that the team is picking up Wentz’s $28 million contract for 2022. That decision, in large part, forced the Commanders to part with veterans like Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis and others because they had to fit Wentz’s contract under the salary cap.
But really, the reasons for the Eagles being better off with Hurts run much deeper than a bad day during the first week of training camp.
We saw some of this Tuesday through a steamy morning practice in which Hurts connected on a deep ball to Jalen Reagor, continued to work his top target in AJ Brown, and generally made good decisions with the ball.
Yes, the usual caveats certainly apply in both cases.
Wentz certainly isn’t as bad as his 3-INT day. And Hurts threw one interception in each of the Eagles’ first three practices, including a brutal decision in which he threw across his body while running to his left.
Hurts, however, is a student of the game, and it doesn’t take much to see that he’s not above taking criticism. He’s also in a much better situation, with better players around him. And he’s in the same system, with the same coaches for the second year in a row.
Wentz, meanwhile, is on his third team in three seasons. He was pretty much run out of Indianapolis last season after a brutal finish to the season. That came a year after he reportedly asked the Eagles to trade him in large part because he didn’t want to compete with Hurts for the starting job after getting benched for the final 4½ games of the 2020 season.
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“I think it’s in the details,” Hurts said about his improvement. “I think the details are refined and tuned up with time. And from Year 1 to Year 2, running the same offense … installing the same things, tweaking it, trying to do the things that (the coaches) think are most advantageous , you begin to fine-tune even more.
“It just takes time. It’ll be that way for years to come.”
Remember, Hurts will only turn 24 next week. There’s still plenty of room for growth. Wentz, meanwhile, will turn 30 in December. It’s looking more and more like he reached his ceiling in 2017 during the Eagles’ Super Bowl season when he was on his way towards being named the MVP of the league before tearing his ACL.
And on paper, it certainly seems like Wentz had a good season in 2021, or better statistically than Hurts. Wentz had 27 touchdown passes against seven interceptions, compared with 16 and nine for Hurts.
But look closer.
Their completion percentages and passer ratings were about the same (62.4% and 92.4 for Wentz, compared with 61.3% and 87.2 for Hurts), as both quarterbacks were mediocre at best in those categories.
But you can make the argument that Hurts’ running ability should be factored in as well. Hurts led all NFL quarterbacks in rushing yards with 784 and scored 10 touchdowns, an Eagles record for rushing TDs by a quarterback. Combine that with Hurts’ yards passing and TD passes, and his total comes to 3,928 yards with 26 TDs.
Add in Wentz’s rushing yards and TDs and he ends up with 3,778 and 27.
Sure, both teams finished with the same record, at 9-8, but the Eagles made the playoffs and the Colts didn’t. And a lot of that is on Wentz.
After all, the Colts were so disgusted by Wentz’s performance over those last two games, when they needed just one win to make the playoffs, that they traded him to Washington before even knowing who they would get to replace him. It turned out to be Matt Ryan, and wouldn’t you know it, the Colts are raving about Ryan’s professionalism, as well as his accuracy.
Wentz, after all, was especially brutal in that season finale against sad-sack Jacksonville. He had also missed the entire week of practice the week of the penultimate game against the Las Vegas Raiders after testing positive for COVID-19. He was unvaccinated.
The intangibles for a quarterback matter just as much as the statistics.
Sure, Hurts had a brutal final game, too, throwing three interceptions in the playoff loss to the Buccaneers. But Hurts spent the offseason making sure it won’t happen again, traveling from Texas to California to Philadelphia to work with QB coaches and teammates.
It’s safe to say that in the grand scheme of things, Wentz’s 3-interception day the first week of training camp will soon become a distant memory. He will likely come back with some good days and post some impressive stats.
It’s just as possible that Hurts could follow up his strong performances Monday and Tuesday with his share of struggles, missed throws and interceptions.
Yet it won’t be from a lack of trying, as Eagles coach Nick Sirianni demonstrated by breaking down each of Hurts’ interceptions.
“Two of them were bad decisions,” he said. “One was a bad decision in the pocket. One of them was a bad decision on the move. The other one, he just missed the throw and Marcus (Epps) actually made an unbelievable play. You’re going to miss some throws. .. but the ones you’re really correcting hard are the ones that are the poor decisions.”
In other words, so much more is possible. Contrast that with Wentz. His completion percentage last season, which ranked 25th in the NFL − just ahead of Hurts in 26th − mirrors his career percentage of 62.6%.
What you see is what you get with Wentz. In Washington, after the last two seasons with Taylor Heinicke, maybe that’s an improvement. It would certainly seem that way for star receiver Terry McLaurin. With Hurts, the Eagles can expect more, not only because Hurts is determined to improve, but because the Eagles have a better team around him.
And most importantly, Hurts can do more, especially as a runner. When Wentz was at his best, in 2017, he added that dimension too. But after serious knee and back injuries over the years, he’s not that quarterback anymore.
“Just take steps every day,” Hurts said. “Do better than I did the last time. It’s simple. I don’t want to make it harder than it is. Just pushing myself, pushing the guys around me to be a better leader and better quarterback for the team.”
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles better off with Jalen Hurts as QB over Carson Wentz