In a league with Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and reigning MVP Matt Ryan, who would have ever thought that the front-runner for this year’s MVP award would be a second-year quarterback who played Division I-AA college football in North Dakota?
In professional sports, there is a phenomenon known as the “sophomore slump,” a term that represents a dramatic downswing in effectiveness in a player’s second year in the big leagues. For an NFL quarterback, there are many reasons for a potential sophomore slump. Maybe he’s dealing with a new coaching staff. It’s possible that he has new weapons around him and they haven’t been able to develop any sort of chemistry. The most common reason, however, is that the book is out on them. The film is available for teams to watch, strengths and weaknesses are much more apparent after a full season against NFL competition, and tendencies are easily read by people who know the ins-and-outs of the sport.
For Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, it could not be more of the opposite.
Year one was filled with rookie mistakes for Wentz. Overthrowing receivers on easy touchdowns, throwing into double coverage for an easy interception, holding the ball far too long in the pocket and getting sacked as a result. But there were always plays that broadcasted his potential, whether it be escaping from heavy pocket pressure or dropping a dime in the end zone to Jordan Matthews for the first touchdown of his career.
Year two has been loaded with the “potential” plays we saw in his rookie year. His throwing mechanics and footwork issues have been corrected, his deep ball accuracy has been refined to make it a true threat, his already good pocket presence looks like it took the next step.
Everything that the Eagles wanted when they took a risk on a Division I-AA quarterback at second overall appears to be paying off way quicker than they ever imagined.
So quick that the Eagles already have an MVP front-runner in just his second season.
As of week seven, Wentz has lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a 6-1 record, tied for the best in the league. After an average touchdown-interception ratio of 16-14 last year, Wentz has already surpassed his touchdown total with a 17-4 ratio, currently leading the league in touchdowns.
What sets Wentz apart from the competition is on third down. Third down is undoubtedly one of the hardest situations in the league to thrive on because the pressure rises and 95 percent of the time, you’ll have to punt if you can’t get the first down.
Wentz has completed 46 of 68 passes on third down this year, throwing eight touchdowns and just one interception, along with an unheard of 37 first downs. On third and 10+ alone, Wentz is 18/25 with 11 first downs and has ran two times for two first downs.
In all sports, you hear about the “clutch gene.” Basically, a player’s ability to stay composed and make big plays towards the end of the game or in really big moments. Wentz has demonstrated his clutch gene over and over again so far this year.
Wentz doesn’t only work his magic in the air. His ability to run with the football at his size is only seen in players like Andrew Luck, Steve Young and prime Ben Roethlisberger. With all-time greats like Peyton Manning and Brady, you only have to focus on stopping the pass, which is a hard enough feat in itself. With Wentz, you have a quarterback who can beat you on the ground if you focus on taking away his receivers.
Wentz’s offense was completely retooled this offseason, unloading his favorite receiver in Matthews and adding Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith. The buffer period that quarterbacks usually take to build chemistry with their targets has been virtually non-existent this year. For a veteran this would be less surprising. For a second-year quarterback, it is unbelievable to think about.
What Wentz has done this year has blown expectations out of the water. He was expected to take a slight leap with a mixture of struggles and brilliance, but all we’ve seen is a massive leap with 90 percent brilliance and 10 percent struggles. The only game the Eagles have lost this year was a seven point loss to the now 5-2 Chiefs, where he was still able to pick apart a dominant defense for 333 yards and two touchdowns.
No player has impacted their football team quite like Wentz has been able to do with this year’s Philadelphia Eagles. A team that was once considered a fringe playoff team now looks to not only be the odds-on favorite to win the NFC East, but is on track to secure home field advantage and a playoff bye-week.
Philadelphia took a risk on a quarterback who played against Division I-AA talent, and he has paid off quicker and greater than they could have ever anticipated. As of right now, Wentz is the league MVP in his second NFL season. The scariest part? He’s only getting better.
Eric Rose is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ER827957@wcupa.edu.