HAYES: With Eagles' Carson Wentz struggling, it's time to give Jalen Hurts a shot
Jared Goff was excellent Sunday afternoon, and he won.
Dak Prescott threw for 450 yards, accounted for four touchdowns, and completed his ninth fourth-quarter comeback.
Meanwhile, Carson Wentz lost his second game in a row, largely because Carson Wentz stunk for the second game in a row.
Only this time, the Carson Wentz insurance policy was dressed and active.
After Wentz’s second straight disaster, it’s time to see what Jalen Hurts can do. He was active Sunday, ahead of veteran Nate Sudfeld, so we know the Eagles believe he’s ready to run the team. Hurts even entered the game for three plays — all as a decoy, yes. But now his feet are wet. And the Eagles are 0-2. And in desperate need of energy. Of life.
When the Bengals visit Sunday. Hurts should at least get a snap under center. He should get some red-zone run. If he can handle it, he should lead a whole series. And if Hurts isn’t horrible, he should earn even more time. If nothing else, inserting Hurts would wake up Wentz. It couldn’t hurt.
Resetting the QB class of 2016: Because Sunday firmly reset the order in which the quarterback class of 2016 should now be ranked: first Goff, then Prescott, then Wentz.
This is a reversal from two seasons ago. Wentz rocketed to prominence during their first two seasons, mesmerizing with his superior physical gifts, thrilling in his maniacal passion to make plays. But now, in their fifth seasons, Goff and Prescott are clearly more evolved. More dependable. Better. No objective assessment could draw any other conclusion.
Are Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman assessing things objectively?
If so, those assessments should make them consider using Hurts. They might be saving themselves.
Pederson and Roseman put their jobs on the line at the draft in April when they ignored glaring needs at receiver, linebacker, and offensive line, and, instead, drafted Hurts. A year after spending a second-round pick on a player who might as well never play (JJ Arcega-Whiteside remains catch-less in his last four games), they spent another second-round pick on a player they hoped would never play. Wentz was entering the first season of a five-year, $128 million contract extension.
Wentz hasn’t earned that money. At least let Hurts justify the pick.
Check the numbers: This sounds more reasonable when you check the numbers from the Big Three after Week 2.
Goff’s passer rating is 114.2. Prescott’s is 97.8 Wentz? He’s at 64.4, and that doesn’t take into account the fumble he lost; so, five turnovers. Goff and Prescott have one turnover apiece.
They’re improving. Wentz is not.
Wentz defenders misplace the blame: Last week, when the Eagles blew it at Washington, Wentz’s defenders tried to misplace the blame. It wasn’t Pederson’s play-calling, which was, last week and this, innovative and proper. It wasn’t the offensive line, which was good enough at Washington, and was astonishingly good against the Rams, to whom it surrendered zero sacks. It wasn’t the running game; Miles Sanders returned Sunday from a hamstring injury and gained 95 yards on 20 carries.
All three facets might have been a bit better this week, but none of them was the root problem last week.
Things change quickly: This is weird. Wentz used to make Philadelphians feel good.
Wentz stood as an example of how Philly, whose basketball team was bilked into drafting Markelle Fultz and whose baseball team tried to sell them Gabe Kapler, got it right where other towns got it wrong.
Goff was the Golden Boy, taken with the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Prescott was the new Cowboy king, but he was really a fraud; he was the 2016 rookie of the year not on his own merit but because he had an incredible offensive line and running back Ezekiel Eliiott, who really should have won the award.
But Philly had the best player. Pederson and Roseman had snookered everybody when they “settled” for Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick, a lovable country lug as comfortable in a duck blind as in a huddle.
He was unpolished, unheralded, and un-recruited: He had to play for North Dakota State, a local FCS (I-AA) school. But Wentz had a cannon for an arm and crazy legs. Goff was good, and Prescott was OK, but Wentz was electric, really good, and he would soon be great. And he was Philly’s.
In his second season Wentz was the MVP favorite when he blew out his knee in Game 13. Even entering this season, after Prescott had led the No. 1 offense in 2019 and Goff had been to a Super Bowl after the 2018 season, Wentz appeared to be the better long-term bet.
Wentz now bad bet: He’s a bad bet today. That was glaringly obvious Sunday, when held up against Goff’s elegant example.
Goff completed his first 13 passes before he finally had to throw one away. He finished 20-for-27 for 267 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He never seemed ruffled.
Wentz never seemed comfortable as he replicated his disastrous season debut. Remember, he’d played the worst 36 minutes of his five-year career in Week 1 when he turned a 17-0 lead into a 27-17 loss. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, and took four sacks that should never have happened.
He was nearly as bad against the Rams.
Over the first 40 minutes Sunday, Wentz was 18-for-24 for 167 yards, with no fumbles and no interceptions. The Eagles trailed, 21-16. He then went 8-for-19 for 75 yards and finished 26-for-43 with two interceptions.
Pressure not a problem vs. Rams: Don’t blame the pass-rushers this week. He went down eight times in Week 1, but he was not sacked Sunday. He was seldom even pressured. He was rarely hit. Nevertheless, he threw high, and late, and short, and, generally, badly.
Things turned midway through the third quarter, after the Eagles defense forced a Rams three-and-out and Wentz drove the Eagles to their 21. He then threw an end-zone interception, into double coverage, after staring down JJ Arcega-Whiteside, his worst receiver. It was a late, inaccurate throw.
That cost the Eagles at least a field goal, since the Eagles had the ball at the Rams' 21, which would have cut the lead to 21-19 and retained the momentum the Eagles had stolen. Instead, the Rams eventually kicked a field goal, and the score became 24-16.
“Just throw the ball away in that situation,” Pederson said, disgusted and exhausted. “Or run.” Run? Well, Jalen Hurts ran for 20 touchdowns at Oklahoma last season, when he ran for 1,298 total yards.
Wentz threw another interception late, but by then the score was 37-19. The cause was lost; the new hierarchy, established.
And Jalen Hurts had popped onto everyone’s radar.