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Carson Wentz can end the Nick Foles debate

Eliot Shorr-Parks
August 15, 2019 - 8:10 am

There is a reason the Carson Wentz or Nick Foles debate is the best of all time in Philadelphia sports history. 

Wentz has more raw talent and can do things on the football field that Foles can only dream of. Foles has the better resume and has accomplished things on the football field Wentz still dreams of doing. 

Now that Foles is in Jacksonville, likely never to be heard from again after Thursday night's preseason game against the Jaguars, the question is whether the Eagles’ new starting quarterback can finally end the debate and surpass the old one — and how can he go about doing it?

Wentz has had a healthy offseason for the first time since 2017, taking every single first-team rep in training camp. He has not had a perfect training camp, but he has looked healthy and shown enough flashes that the team has to feel confident about the kind of season he is about to have. Surrounded by the best set of offensive weapons in the NFL, Wentz has everything he needs at his disposal to be the quarterback the Eagles believe he can be. 

One of the more interesting developments of training camp has been Wentz apparently taking a page out of Foles’ gameplan and playing more like the Super Bowl MVP. 

Throughout camp, in the over 250 passes he has thrown, Wentz has clearly made an effort to stay in the pocket more than he has in the past, only escaping outside the pocket maybe once or twice. While Wentz has never been reckless as a quarterback, one fair criticism of his game is that he does tend to be at his best outside of the pocket. It is an asset for the Eagles offense that Wentz can create on the move, but over the long term, Wentz will only become the 10-plus year, franchise quarterback if he can sit in the pocket and run Doug Pederson’s offense. 

Sitting in the pocket and running Pederson’s offense was something Foles did very well, if not to perfection. Although he is not capable of making the highlight plays on the move that Wentz is, and doesn’t have the arm strength Wentz does either, the Eagles’ offense arguably worked just as well (if not better) with Foles under center over the last two seasons. Considering how much more talented Wentz is, and how much more he can do, there is no reason that should have been the case. 

Part of the reason was Foles simply stood in the pocket, made the correct reads and got rid of the ball quickly. From the time he started against the Los Angeles Rams to the end of the New Orleans Saints loss in the playoffs, Foles got rid of the ball in an average of 2.26 seconds, according to Pro Football Focus. That was the quickest of any quarterback with at least 100 drop backs over that same time span. No other quarterback got it out in under 2.3 seconds. Wentz, on the other hand, held the ball for an average of 2.49 seconds last season. 

Wentz’s tendency to hold onto the ball was part of the reason the offense struggled with him on the field. Sacks are drive killers, and Wentz’s tendency to hold onto the ball not only led to fumbles, but led to him being sacked 31 times last season, an average of just under three sacks per game. Foles was sacked an average of just once per game from Week 15 on.

Foles coming in last season, getting rid of the ball and running the offense is a big reason why all the sudden the play of the offensive line looked better. It was a big reason the offense finally came to life. It was the reason they made a run into the playoffs. 

Wentz has the potential to do that and maybe even do it better than Foles. Wentz has a very sharp football mind and one of the best parts of his game is his ability to read defenses before the snap. He also has one of the strongest arms in the league, capable of getting the ball to the sidelines quickly and into tight windows. 

Wentz also has an embarrassment of riches with DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard. He has one of the best offensive play callers in the NFL on the sideline. The Eagles don’t need Wentz to create plays — they will be there to be made from the pocket. They need him to play like Nick Foles did, with the occasional moments of special moments sprinkled. 

Wentz wants to have the same kind of success Foles did in an Eagles uniform. He wants his jersey in the Hall of Fame. He wants the Sports Illustrated covers after big wins. He wants a statue outside of Lincoln Financial Field. He wants his Philly Philly moment. He wants his own Super Bowl and the MVP trophy that will come with it. 

All of that is there for the taking. 

Now all Wentz has to do is go out, end the debate and do it. 

You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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