Carson Wentz returned from a serious ACL/LCL tear in Week 3 in 2018 and then his season ended early with a stress fracture in his back. But in the middle of all that, he actually put together some good numbers.
This recent tweet from ProFootballFocus grabbed my attention.
2018's highest-graded quarterbacks in the NFC East pic.twitter.com/JzwANvlBBu
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 20, 2019
Yeah, they actually ranked Wentz as the best quarterback in the NFC East despite coming back from the knee injury and playing through a back fracture. My colleague Reuben Frank already dispelled 10 myths about Wentz (see story) and a lot of them were about the Eagles with Wentz vs. the Eagles with Nick Foles. I don't want this to digress into the Foles vs. Wentz debate.
I just want to take a closer look at how Wentz stacked up against the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East. Was he really the division's best quarterback even with these injuries?
Here's a look at their overall numbers from the regular season:
Carson Wentz: 11 games, 5-6, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INT, 102.2 passer rating
Nick Foles: 5 games, 4-1, 72.3%, 1,413 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INT, 96.0 passer rating
Dak Prescott: 16 games, 10-6, 67.7%, 3,885, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 96.9 passer rating
Alex Smith: 10 games, 6-4, 62.5%, 2,180, 10 TDs, 5 INT, 85.7 passer rating
Eli Manning: 16 games, 5-11, 66%, 4,299, 21 TDs, 11 INT, 92.4 passer rating
The thing that stands out there are the records. The Eagles were 5-6 with Wentz at quarterback, but I've always been hesitant to use wins as a QB stat. Sure, the QB plays a major role in them, but it's a team stat that gets transferred to individuals.
Anyway, let's take a closer look at a few of these stats with help from ProFootballReference:
I know passer rating is an imperfect measure, but it's still generally a really good indicator of quarterback play. It takes into account completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions.
Wentz actually improved his passer rating from 101.9 in 2017 to 102.2 in 2018. Those two passer rating numbers are the third- and fourth-best passer ratings in Eagles history (minimum 300 attempts) behind Foles in 2013 (119.2) and Donovan McNabb in 2004 (104.7). Wentz is now the only Eagles QB to have two seasons of passer ratings over 100.
Foles: 72.3 percent
Wentz: 69.6 percent
Prescott: 67.7 percent
Manning: 66 percent
Smith: 62.5 percent
Foles and Wentz saw huge jumps in their completion percentage. The highest completion percentage Foles ever had in a season before 2018 was when he completed 65.5 percent of his passes as a backup in KC. Even in his 2013 year, he completed just 64 percent of his passes.
As for Wentz, he had a goal to improve his completion percentage and, boy, did he do that. He had a near-MVP season in 2017 but completed just 60.2 percent of his passes. He improved that to 69.6 percent in 2018.
Yards per game
The Eagles' two quarterbacks were pretty close in yards per game. The crazy thing is that the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer in franchise history and both of these guys would have been on pace if they played 16 games. Wentz improved his yards per game from 253.5 to 279.5 from 2017 to 2018. He has improved in this category in each of his three NFL seasons.
For as long as Manning has been in the NFL, he's had just one season averaging more than 279.5 yards per game. Prescott set his own personal high this season. And Smith's career high is 269.5 from his time in Kansas City.
TDs per game
This one is obviously huge. Since the start of the 2017 season, Wentz has thrown a ton of touchdowns. And in his first three seasons, Wentz has thrown 70 touchdowns; ninth-most ever in the first three years of a career.
INTs per game
This is obviously in reverse order. Foles threw the most interceptions per game, while Wentz was in the middle. After throwing 14 interceptions as a rookie (in 16 games), Wentz has thrown 14 in 2017 and 2018 combined (24 games). Among the nine QBs who have thrown at least 70 touchdowns in their first three seasons, Wentz's interception percentage (1.93) is the second-best.
So what does all this mean? Well, it means what we've been saying for a while now: Despite the injuries, Wentz was still pretty good in 2018. He's not absolved for the team's struggles early in the season, but it would be foolish to pin those struggles and that record entirely on him. Had the Eagles won a few of those close games - Tennessee, Carolina, both Dallas games - perhaps we'd look back on Wentz's 2018 season much differently.
Was he the best QB in the NFC East in 2018? I don't know. But, if he stays healthy, I think he's going to be the best QB in the NFC East for a long time to come.
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