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The Mystery of Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz has thrown 15 interceptions this season. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 10 interceptions the past three seasons.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In 2017, Carson Wentz – the rocket-armed quarterback who went from the anonymity of North Dakota State to No. 2 pick of the 2016 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles – was in the thick of the MVP race as the calendar turned to December.

However, in Game 13 at the Los Angeles Rams – a four-touchdown masterpiece – Wentz suffered a torn ACL. Wentz watched with crutches as Nick Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship.

After posting a 101.9 passer rating with 33 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions in 13 games in 2017, Wentz returned in 2018 and fashioned a 102.2 rating on the strength of 21 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a career-best completion rate of 69.6 percent.

The following June, Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension. He looked like one of the next big things, a potential successor to Aaron Rodgers’ throne of quarterbacking superiority.

Hitting fast forward, Wentz and the Eagles will play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Rather than a big thing, Wentz has been a big dud. While Rodgers is No. 1 in the NFL with a 117.6 passer rating, Wentz is 30th in passer rating (73.4), 30th in yards per attempt (6.02) and 31st in completion percentage (58.1).

His 15 interceptions not only are four more than anyone else in the league in 11 games this season, it’s five more than Rodgers has thrown over 43 games over the past three seasons.

What happened?

That’s what everyone – including Eagles coach Doug Pederson – is trying to figure out as Wentz’s cap charge will soar from $18.7 million this season to four consecutive years of $31-plus million.

“I’ve been asked this a lot,” Pederson said during his conference call on Wednesday. “He was definitely having a heck of a season in 2017. He had some setbacks with injuries and things of that nature. And then you look at where we are as an offense, just the amount of injuries and some of the things we’ve had.

“Sometimes as quarterbacks and even sometimes as play-callers, you try to do too much and sometimes you get caught up in that, and we’ve had conversations where, ‘Listen, you don’t have to wear the Superman cape all the time. Just go do your job and we’ll coach everybody else up, we’ll coach you up and we’ll make this thing work.’ You just don’t have to feel like you’ve got to make every play. Sometimes that can hurt you and we’ve had that probably more than once this season.”

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Perhaps the return of Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz will get Wentz rolling. In 2018, Ertz finished second in the NFL with 116 receptions. With Ertz serving as a prolific security blanket, Wentz finished third in the NFL with a 69.6 percent completion rate. Without Ertz the last five games, Wentz has completed merely 57.2 percent of his passes despite facing an opponent in the bottom half of the NFL in opponent passer rating in each game.

In his last 25 games, Wentz has topped a 100 passer rating only four times and been better than 110 just once. That came in the Eagles’ 34-27 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field last season. Wentz threw three touchdown passes vs. zero interceptions that night.

“We don’t try to hide anything from our guys,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. “We show them all of it and, certainly, we don’t have to look any further than last year’s film, when he came in here and they got after us and he played well. I know they’ve had their struggles but, as a defense, we run paranoid and we’ll always have the utmost respect. We always have to assume we’re going to get the other team’s best. Hey, if they’re not playing at that level, that’s great. But we have to assume we’re going to get their absolute best. I know they’ve had their struggles, but they’re getting some of their weapons back and this is a quarterback that’s been productive. I know what they look like on paper, but this is a good NFL team that’s got good players that’s coming in here and they came in here a year ago and they took it to us. So we’re looking forward to it.”

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