Carson Wentz enters Year 2 at the helm for the Eagles, but with a new backup plan in place. Chase Daniel was released and replaced with Nick Foles, who returns after stints with the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. Matt McGloin was added to the mix as well after four seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
There's no shortage of experience on the bench now. Of course, whether the situation under center is improved or not is largely dependent on one person – Wentz.
Is it possible Wentz will regress in his second season? That would be highly unusual.
There aren't many examples of quarterbacks with Wentz's pedigree taking a step back in Year 2. Since 2004, 13 other signal callers were chosen in the first round of the draft and went on to start at least 12 games a rookie. Only two saw a decline in passer rating in their second season, according to Matt Mullin for Philly Voice. Matt Ryan was just named the league's Most Valuable Players and guided the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl, so we'll chalk that one up as an anomaly. Robert Griffin was simply never the same after a torn ACL ended stellar rookie campaign with the Washington Redskins.
Projecting improvement for Wentz is easy. He's healthy. He's situated, with the whirlwind pre-draft process behind him. He has a whole year of pro football under his belt. There's no reason we shouldn't anticipate growth from Wentz.
Chase Daniel has attempted 78 passes over eight NFL seasons. Nick Foles has thrown 56 touchdowns in five.
The truth is we didn't learn much about Daniel in his year with the Eagles, but the little we saw didn't inspire confidence. Foles has 36 career starts under his belt, and is proven capable of Pro Bowl production and guiding a team to the playoffs under optimal conditions. There is truly no way to compare the two. Even third-string quarterback Matt McGloin has significantly more game experience than Daniel – seven starts to two.
Maybe Daniel is really great, but has never had the opportunity. Regardless, Foles has actually executed in games, which creates a sense of comfort that was missing last season.
Nobody was betting on Wentz taking the Eagles to the playoffs last season. He wasn't even supposed to be the starter or active on game day until the September 3 trade of Sam Bradford cleared the way. As a result, Wentz was free to make mistakes and fail, and only a fatalist would find reason to be concerned when the team wasn't winning.
Rest assured, there will be no free pass for Wentz in 2017. It's not exactly Super Bowl or bust, either, but a lot of folks are counting on the Eagles to at least compete for a playoff spot this season. Peter King for The MMQB believes the team can even win 11 games, provided Wentz takes a big leap in Year 2. Fair or not, there is far more pressure to succeed, and failure to do so will inevitably draw criticism.
Do not discount the importance of continuity for a young signal caller. Wentz enters his second season in head coach Doug Pederson's offense. The Eagles retained quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo as well. Wentz is even projected to continue taking snaps from Jason Kelce, assuming the center isn't traded between now and the beginning of the regular season.
That level of familiarity with everything can only aid Wentz's development. He doesn't have to learn a new system, work with new coaches who bring different concepts to the table, or even worry about something as small as a change in the center-quarterback exchange. All of those aspects taken together should go a long way.
Carson Wentz's ceiling
Is Wentz the guy who's going to lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl championship? Can he provide the franchise stability under center for the next decade-plus?
Truthfully, we don't yet know, and may not for years. Wentz could continue to improve as expected, while simultaneously never living up to his promise as the second-overall pick in the draft. Simply being better does not mean the Eagles are a playoff team, or that this quarterback is on the cusp of ushering in another era of unprecedented winning. It doesn't mean that's not the case, either. Wentz's ceiling, and the speed in which he will get there are both impossible to predict.
BETTER OR WORSE?
There is no question the Eagles upgraded the depth under center, at least on paper. What this really boils down to is whether Wentz is better or worse. While it's impossible to say for sure, conventional wisdom suggests the 24-year-old should take a step forward in 2017. How big that step will be is to be determined, but some improvement is to be expected, even if only marginally. Better.