Roob's Eagles Observations: Has any QB ever regressed like Carson Wentz?

Roob's Observations: Has any QB in history regressed like Wentz? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A look at Carson Wentz’s decline, some fascinating psychology from Howie Roseman and thoughts about Miles Sanders and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

With free agency just over a week away, here’s this week’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations!

1. There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether there’s any precedent for the kind of regression we’ve seen the last few years in Carson Wentz. I figured the answer was no, but I wanted to try to find a way to quantify it. Here’s what I came up with: Wentz is one of only six quarterbacks in NFL history to have two seasons with a passer rating over 100 before his 26th birthday. Of the five others, four led at least one team to a Super Bowl (Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Jared Goff, Russell Wilson) and the other is DeShaun Watson, who despite missing a year and a half has led two teams to the playoffs and made three Pro Bowls. Only a handful of quarterbacks have done what Wentz did early in his career. Only one of them has been released, traded twice, gotten benched even once or played for three teams in three years. This is unprecedented stuff.

2. One of the most remarkable records in the Eagles record book is Harold Carmichael’s 79 career touchdowns. It's been 40 years since he broke Steve Van Buren’s franchise record of 77, but only Mike Quick (61) and Brian Westbrook (68) have come within 20 touchdowns of Harold. Among active Eagles, Jalen Hurts has the most career touchdowns (26). Harold’s record might last forever.

3. By far the most interesting thing that came out of Howie Roseman’s chat with the media at the Combine was his explanation why the Eagles didn’t extend any of their unsigned players during the season. This is some typically innovative Roseman thinking. Generally, the Eagles re-sign two or three of their top free agents to be during the season, while they still hold their exclusive negotiating rights. But this year – despite so many prominent free agents – they didn’t sign anybody. Roseman’s explanation shows that it’s as important for a general manager to understand psychology as well as the salary cap: “We took a little bit of a different tactic this year. Usually, we like to sign guys early and sign guys during the season, and because of how hot we started, how well we did, and how many free agents we had, we thought it would create a different dynamic if we started to pick one guy and not another guy. We understood that could cost us in the end, but we felt like it was worthwhile because of the opportunity to potentially win a championship. Unfortunately, we came up short.” In other words, as the Eagles piled up win after win with this incredible chemistry, Roseman and Nick Sirianni feared that picking and choosing one or two of the numerous free agents could create hard feelings about the guys who didn’t get signed and threaten that delicate locker room dynamic. And if it cost them a player or two in the long run, then it was worth it to keep things status quo during a Super Bowl run. The Eagles didn’t get the championship, and they very well could lose players who they could have kept in October. But in the big picture, it was a brilliant gamble, and it nearly paid off.

4. Jalen Hurts has had two seasons with 750 rushing yards, an average of at least 4.5 yards per carry and 10 or more touchdowns. Every other quarterback in NFL history combined has had one such season (Kyler Murray in 2020).

5. The Eagles currently have only four position players older than 26 under contract – Haason Reddick and Dallas Goedert are 28, and Darius Slay and Lane Johnson are 32. That’s wild. Just goes to show you how heavily the Eagles will be counting on their young draft picks. There are 12 other players 27 and older who played for the Eagles in 2022 who are free agents: Boston Scott and Andre Dillard are 27, Zach Pascal is 28, Javon Hargrave, James Bradberry and Isaac Seumalo are 29, Robert Quinn and Fletcher Cox are 32, Linval Joseph and Brandon Graham are 34, Jason Kelce is 35 and Ndamukong Suh is 36. The Eagles have more very good young players on the roster than they have in a long time.

6. An incredible 12 of 32 current NFL head coaches – nearly 40 percent - either played for or coached with the Eagles at some point in their career: John Harbaugh, Sean McDermott, Ron Rivera and Todd Bowles coached here under Andy Reid, DeMeco Ryans played for Reid and Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson played and coached here, Frank Reich coached under Pederson, Jonathan Gannon and Shane Steichen coached under Nick Sirianni and Sean Payton coached under Ray Rhodes.

7. First 14 weeks of this past season, Miles Sanders had a 5.2 average. He ranked 4th out of 39 running backs with at least 100 attempts during that span. After that – the last four weeks of the regular season and three games in the postseason – he averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked 20th out of 29 backs with 50 or more carries from Week 15 on. That dropoff is alarming. Sanders finally stayed healthy, he had a terrific year, made his first Pro Bowl, ran for 1,200 yards. But Sanders wasn’t effective in the postseason and Kenny Gainwell got his chance and took advantage. Sanders is really talented, but if you can’t depend on your bellcow back to be at his best during the stretch run and postseason, you certainly can’t pay him $7 million a year.

8. Interesting to see in Pro Football Focus’s final 2022 safety grades that Chauncey Gardner Johnson ranked 58th of 123 safeties who played at least 100 snaps. He was 93rd as a run defender, 108th in tackling and 52nd in coverage, which is surprising considering he tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions in just 12 games. When I watched Gardner-Johnson, I saw a playmaker with range all over the field and an inconsistent tackler, but what PFF can’t measure is the spirit, energy and personality CJGJ brought to the field and the locker room every day. You always take all of PFF’s grades with a grain of salt but it will be interesting to see how the Eagles value Gardner-Johnson and how the rest of the league does as well if it comes to that.

9. The Eagles were 86-7 in franchise history with 30 consecutive wins before the Super Bowl when scoring 24 first-half points.

10. Kenny Gainwell’s 291 postseason scrimmage yards are 2nd-most ever by a player drafted in the fifth round or later before his 24th birthday. Tim Hightower had 310 for the Cards in 2008 and 2009, including unfortunately, two of the biggest postseason plays ever against the Eagles.