Will Carson Wentz play at an MVP level this season?
Four of our writers weigh in.
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Wentz has the ability, barring injury, to become the NFL's best player over the next decade. Even though he's coming back from major knee surgery and may need to curb some of the aggressiveness that made him an MVP candidate last year, he still has all the tools to be a contender as only a pocket quarterback. Wentz was held back through most of training camp, but when he did practice he was stronger and more accurate with his throws than a year ago. The game should slow down for him even more as he enters his third season.
>> READ MORE: The long, arduous countdown to Carson Wentz's comeback
No player can win the MVP alone. The Eagles will have to be a playoff team again for Wentz to be in the conversation. Defense and special teams will have to be first-rate, the offensive line will have to keep the quarterback clean, and skill position players like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agohlor and Jay Ajayi will likely have to play as they did in 2017. But Wentz can carry the Eagles on his shoulders should one of those facets fail to meet expectations. Some argued that Nick Foles' postseason performance proved that Wentz wasn't playing at a MVP level last year. But the Eagles don't get to the Super Bowl without him, and if he had played, the winning margin could have been greater. It might take a year before Wentz is back to being Wentz, pre-injury, but a change in style could make him even better. Scary.
Yes — but not in time to win the MVP.
There's no way Wentz will be as mobile in 2018 as he was before surgery. It's been only nine months since his knee ligaments were repaired. Yes, Wentz was brilliant in his second NFL season, but he routinely depended on his legs to extend plays when he either didn't see open receivers or there were none. That mobility was crucial to his MVP run in 2017.
Timing will be another obstacle. Wentz was limited early in training camp, and he didn't play in the preseason games. That cost him precious reps with veteran newcomer Mike Wallace. Even when Wentz was more fully integrated in practices, top receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and slot man Nelson Agholor (lower body) missed significant time.
When he returns, Wentz should be on approximately the same page as tight end Zach Ertz and running backs Darren Sproles, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, but it might be Halloween before Wentz really starts clicking with his primary pass-catchers.
All of this assumes both Wentz and Jeffery will be full-go within the first two or three games of the regular season, with no setbacks. It also assumes that Wentz isn't hesitant to move when he must. A lot of players coming off an injury need a full year to trust their wheels again.
That's a lot of assumptions. If the Eagles get eight MVP-caliber games from their franchise quarterback, they should be delighted.
Based on everything I've seen at practice this summer, I have no reason to believe that Carson Wentz will have a down year because of the injury. His mobility is a big part of his game, and I wonder whether he'll be as effective improvising and moving in the pocket as he was before the injury. There's no way of knowing until he participates in live action. He says he won't change the way he plays, and I believe he can absolutely return to an MVP level.
When the Eagles are healthy, they have the ingredients on offense to help Wentz. One of the NFL's best offensive lines returns all five starters. He likes to spread the ball around, and the Eagles have a bevy of targets at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. (They must be healthy, though, which hasn't been the case this summer.)
However, it will be difficult to maintain the pace at which he played last season. Just look at his red zone statistics. Wentz went 37 of 57 for 277 yards with 23 touchdowns and no interceptions inside the red zone. Those are other-worldly numbers, and they frankly might be difficult to duplicate. There could be regression simply because it's hard to play at that level – not because of the injury. So that could affect how his 2018 season compares to 2017. Plus, there are a few other worthy MVP candidates returning from injury. But Wentz will remain in those discussions.
There's a decent chance Carson Wentz never again produces the numbers that he did last season, but that's more a testament to his otherworldly performance than it is to the health of his knee. In throwing for 33 touchdowns in 440 pass attempts (7.5 percent) Wentz found the end zone more often than all but seven quarterbacks in NFL history who finished a season with as many throws. Those seven are all likely Hall-of-Famers — Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, Steve Young — and only Manning did it twice (Manning's 2004 season, in which he threw for touchdowns on 9.9 percent of his pass attempts, is the record).
With regard to Wentz's knee, history suggests that Eagles fans have little reason to worry. Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers all returned from late-season ACL tears to play a full season at their previous level. In fact, outside of Robert Griffin III, it is difficult to find an example of a quarterback who suffered a dramatic regression after knee surgery. And in Griffin's case, it has since become clear that his drop-off had more to do with his skill level than his health.
Even if Wentz does not put up MVP numbers like he did a year ago, his presence and performance under center should be one constant the Eagles can count on.