Another Year, but Same WR Question Marks for Carson Wentz

Ed Kracz

PHILADELPHIA – The more things change the more they stay the same

Last year, Carson Wentz carried an Eagles team of practice squad call-ups at the skill positions to a four-game win streak in December and into the playoffs as NFC East champions.

Now, the skill position players – both the holdovers from 2019 and the newcomers – are banged up again and the competition level has taken 10 steps up from last year’s run against all NFC East opponents and into some thin air with the next three teams combining for a 7-2 record, starting with the San Francisco 49ers (2-1) on Sunday night.

Asked if he can draw on what he was able to accomplish last year with a group of mostly no-names and apply it to his situation, Wentz said on Wednesday:

“Without a doubt, it can be a resource. It’s something to look back on and say, ‘How did I get on the same page with some of these guys even though it was a short amount of time to build that chemistry quickly?’

“And so, that’s really the story of this season because of no OTAs, and now even more so going into Week 4. Some things I’ve learned, just how to play fast, and not do too much, and let the playmakers do their job. I think it’s a good week for that, and guys will be ready to go.”

The Eagles tried so hard to get help for Wentz in the offseason. They brought in four new wide receivers and devised a plan to keep DeSean Jackson healthy.

Nothing worked, and it looks like another year will pass without a receiver going over 1,000 yards. The last one they had was Jeremy Maclin, who did it in 2014.

Of the four newcomers, only John Hightower looks like a sure thing for Sunday night.

The other three: Marquis Goodwin (opted out of due to COVID-19 concerns), Jalen Reagor (thumb surgery), and Quez Watkins (just activated from Injured Reserve) haven’t helped much at all. Reagor looked on his way until he tore a ligament in his thumb in Week 2 and will likely be gone until mid-November.

Based on Wednesday’s injury report, the Eagles’ receiving group inside an empty Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night may look like this: Greg Ward, Hightower, and Deontay Burnett. Ward was busy against the Bengals, with 11 targets and eight catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Alshon Jeffery is still not back from last December’s Lisfranc surgery, DeSean Jackson is hurt again, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is nursing a calf injury.

Oh yeah, and Dallas Goedert has a broken ankle, putting a serious dent in the team’s default setting of 12-personnel - it’s well-used two tight end packages.

Richard Rodgers will join Zach Ertz in “12” now, though the team did sign Hakeem Butler from the Panthers’ practice squad. While Butler may find a way to pitch in during Goedert’s absence, Sunday feels like it may be too soon to be brought up to speed.

But, hey, Rodgers. He caught his first pass in two years against Cincinnati last week.

“Obviously, losing a guy like Dallas definitely impacts the offense and what he does in the run game, the throwing game and then the blocking game,” said Wentz. “He does a little bit of everything for us. Definitely impacts those things, but a guy like Richard Rodgers has been here before. He’s been around, he’s a smart veteran, understands the game. We feel confident we can put him in, and he’ll get the job done and be effective.

“Not just Dallas but we’re short at receiver, too. We have to be smart and put guys in the best situation to succeed.”

Questionable weaponry is really no way to help fix a quarterback who has looked broken in the first three weeks.

Broken, at least, from the up-close view Eagles fans have had. Across the country, in California, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan sees a bit of a different picture.

“He looks like Carson Wentz,” said Shanahan on Wednesday during a call with reporters. “The guy is a helluva competitor, can make a ton of plays, has a big arm, and is extremely hard to take down. He was the best player in the NFL the year you guys won the Super Bowl. He just had that unfortunate injury, but he’s come back and fought from that.

“I think any time when you are that good of a player and you’re on a good team like the Eagles are and your guys numbers aren’t the best, people are always going to look at the quarterback. That’s the pressure that goes with that position. But he’s an unbelievable player and he still is. I don’t see anything that’s changed. It’s a matter of time before he’s going to play at a high level. He’s too good not to.”

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