It hasn't been the easiest couple years for Carson Wentz. Twice now he's gotten hurt, twice now he's been lost for the season and twice now he's missed a postseason run.
He's 26 and going into his fourth NFL season and hasn't thrown a single postseason pass.
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During his recent sit-down chat with a handful of Eagles writers, Wentz talked about the challenges he's faced along the way and his emotions when the Eagles got hot late in the year under Nick Foles and came within a couple plays of the NFC Championship Game.
Obviously, it was frustrating watching. Again, that's the No. 1 thing I remember the last two years, was watching from the sidelines isn't fun. I want to do everything I can to be healthy, to stay healthy and not have to do that again.
The Eagles were 5-6 under Wentz this past year and 4-1 under Foles along with a playoff win.
It's important to note, however, that the biggest change wasn't at quarterback - Wentz actually put up more points per game than Foles (22.9 to 22.1) - it was on defense.
The defense allowed 23.3 points per game when Wentz started and just 18.1 per game when Foles started.
"I thought the offense, I thought it was great," Wentz said. "I was ecstatic to see the guys kind of rally. I think it was awesome for Nick to show (2017) wasn't a fluke. Nick's a heck of a player. But at the same time, there's the real emotions that, again, the same thing, I want to be out there. Here we are again, and when I went down we were losing, and here we're winning. There's all those real emotions that you've got to battle. But at the end of the day, I thought it was just really cool to see the team from where we were and how we rallied together to get to where we finished. I thought it was cool to see."
A play here or a play there? And we're all looking at Wentz a little differently.
If Corey Graham doesn't give up a 4th-and-15 against the Titans, the Eagles win.
If the refs don't blow that ridiculous opening kickoff call in the second Dallas game, the Eagles win.
If the defense doesn't give up 35 yards on a 4th-and-10 in the Carolina game, the Eagles win.
Three plays that are the difference between Wentz going 5-6 and 8-3.
I think you look back throughout the season, and we're going to say this every single year, why did we lose that one game? Well, one play, two plays. There's little plays throughout the year. I don't want to sound like a broken record. There's just little things, mis-execution on the offensive side of the ball, defense, special teams. All little things that can culminate. And so we were right there in all those other games (other than the first Saints game). We just didn't finish. We put it together late in the year, and it's hard to say exactly why. But we kind of rally around each other and found a way to win, which we really weren't doing early in the year.
Wentz's doubters will say the difference was the quarterback. And Foles clearly brought some juice off the bench.
His supporters will tell you it wasn't Wentz's fault that the defense didn't find itself until late in the season. And that's certainly true as well.
Whatever the reality, Wentz goes into 2019 with a lot to prove.
Look at the other top young quarterbacks in the NFL. Jared Goff has reached a Super Bowl. Pat Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns and reached an AFC Championship Game. Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott reached the playoffs.
He knows there'll be a tremendous amount of pressure on him this year, especially once he signs that mammoth contract.
Can he get through a season healthy?
Can he get the Eagles to the playoffs?
Can he do what his best friend did and win a Super Bowl?
"I've just kind of learned to not worry about other peoples' perceptions or others' perspective," he said. "I know what my identity is in Christ first and I've got to always keep that in perspective first and foremost and then be a good teammate, being around my brothers and not worrying about the fans and everybody else.
"Because you're never going to make everyone happy and that's just exhausting trying."
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