Why keeping Carson Wentz off the field was the smart move


How much have things changed?

From 2000 through 2009, Donovan McNabb threw 513 passes in the preseason — an average of more than 50 per year.

That’s an entire season’s worth of meaningless passes.

At the time it seemed to make sense. That’s just how NFL head coaches went about things. The starting quarterback played a little in the first game, a little more in the second and into the third quarter in the third, and nobody ever really questioned it.

Those days are over, and for the first time in at least 30 years — probably much longer and maybe ever — the Eagles will go into the regular season with a quarterback who never saw the field in the preseason.

Carson Wentz is healthy. But will he be ready?

Listen, we've had a lot of good work with him in training camp,” Doug Pederson said. “We had a lot of great work against Baltimore this week in practice, and I'm real comfortable with where he's at right now in his development, his growth with the team, and with the offense. … I'm comfortable where he is, how he's leading this football team, and just felt like this was another opportunity to look at the other guys play.

The NFL only maintains preseason stats since 2000, but just going from memory I know the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback has played in the preseason every year going back to the late 1980s.

The Eagles open the regular season Sept. 8 against the Redskins, and by that point Wentz will have gone almost exactly nine months since his regular season ended in Dallas last Dec. 9.

I expect us to play at a high level,” Zach Ertz said. “We have to have a fast start, and that’s what we’re going to work on the next two weeks. A lot of us will start focusing on the Redskins now because we never really play in that fourth preseason game, so I expect us to come out and play at a high level. I don’t think there’s going to be rust. We’ve been together for so long, we’ve ran so many routes. The two practices against the Ravens were really good for us.

There is precedent for an Eagles’ quarterback barely playing in the preseason.

In 2012, Michael Vick only threw seven passes in the preseason. He played briefly in two preseason games, suffering a hand injury in the preseason opener against the Steelers and a rib injury a week later against the Patriots.

He didn’t play again until the opener in Cleveland, when he threw four interceptions against the Pat Shurmur-coached Browns.

Here’s a look at the work the Eagles’ starting QBs have gotten each preseason since 2000:

2000: McNabb [4 games, 63 passes]

2001: McNabb [3 games, 37 passes]

2002: McNabb [3 games, 38 passes]

2003: McNabb [3 games, 39 passes]

2004: McNabb [3 games, 44 passes]

2005: McNabb [3 games, 51 passes]

2006: McNabb [4 games, 31 passes]

2007: McNabb [2 games, 20 passes]

2008: McNabb [3 games, 54 passes]

2009: McNabb [3 games, 61 passes]

2010: Kolb [3 games, 53 passes]

2011: Vick [3 games, 36 passes]

2012: Vick [2 games, 7 passes]

2013: Vick [3 games, 38 passes]

2014: Foles [3 games, 48 passes]

2015: Bradford [2 games, 15 passes]

2016: Wentz [1 game, 24 passes]

2017: Wentz [3 games, 23 passes]

2018: Foles [2 games, 26 passes]

2019: Wentz [Did not play]

His rookie year, Wentz suffered a rib injury in the preseason opener against the Buccaneers and didn’t play again until opening day, when he threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-10 win over the Browns. 

And that was his NFL debut.

This is a much more experienced, much smarter, much more prepared Carson Wentz.

Pederson seems to really like where Wentz is at right now both mentally and physically, with the opener 16 days away.

I think from a leadership standpoint, on and off the field, how he's really taken charge of the team, not just the offense but the team, some of the things that I see, I see him really opening himself up to the offense from the standpoint of letting the offense work,” Pederson said. “And that just comes from time with the system and developing his repertoire of plays and what he likes and getting comfortable. He's really done an outstanding job. And even physically from his rehab back in the spring all the way through training camp, he's clicking on all cylinders. His mind is good, his body feels fresh, and all the things that we've seen through camp … that was the deciding factor (in not playing him).

Look around the league. 

Drew Lock of the Broncos is out for at least the opener with a thumb injury he suffered against the 49ers. 

Tom Savage of the Lions has been out most of the preseason with a concussion he suffered against the Patriots. 

Nate Sudfeld is out indefinitely with a broken left wrist. 

We all saw Cam Newton in a walking boot Thursday night in Foxboro.

Wentz is healthy, and if the price of that is a little bit of rust for a series or two against the Redskins, it was well worth it.

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