One of the narratives surrounding Carson Wentz’s later years as a Philadelphia Eagle goes like this:
“The gave him everything he needed on offense”
“Carson didn’t have enough offensive weapons”
It goes something like that, depending on what side of the argument you stand. Wentz detractors seem to think that the Eagles did everything possible to make their QB successful, while supporters will say that he just didn’t have enough to work with.
For starters, let’s disregard the fact that they gave Carson a lot of money. That is not relevant to the players surrounding him. When somebody says, “they supported him by giving him a huge contract,” that’s a useless take. We’re not talking about contracts, we’re talking about the receivers, tight ends, and running backs they put on the roster with him. Giving the QB millions of dollars helps his bank account, not his on-field success.
We’ll start in 2018, because everybody knows 2017 was a great year. Carson had a healthy Alshon Jeffery, an electric Nelson Agholor, a field stretcher in Torrey Smith, and a Pro Bowler in Zach Ertz. He had LeGarrette Blount, the Birds hit on the Corey Clement addition, and then Howie went out and added Jay Ajayi. Roseman and Joe Douglas really knocked it out of the park that year.
Here’s what Carson had to work with in the following years, and for the sake of the exercise, we won’t include offensive linemen as “weapons,” but we’ll note when they added those players to protect the quarterback and keep him upright:
ball carriers: Josh Adams, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles
pass catchers: Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Dallas Goedert, Jordan Matthews, Golden Tate, Shelton Gibson, Kamar Aiken, Josh Perkins, DeAndre Carter, Mack Hollins (played 0 games)
offensive draft picks: Dallas Goedert, Matt Pryor
This brings back terrible memories of the depleted receiving corps and lack of a deep threat. They didn’t have a vertical field stretcher because Mike Wallace played two games and was injured. He didn’t catch a single pass. They also took a huge step backward in the running game, with an injured Ajayi giving way to Josh Adams, Smallwood, and a regressing Clement and Sproles.
In addition, the Eagles went out and added Jordan Matthews, then traded for Golden Tate, and had the audacity to tell us that they did not have three slot receivers on the roster. Agholor played out of position, struggled, and Wentz HEAVILY targeted Ertz on short hashmark routes because he was really the most reliable and consistent player available. Jeffery was still very good in 2018, but better with Nick Foles on the field, and missed three games after getting offseason surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff.
ball carriers: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Darren Sproles, Jay Ajayi
pass catchers: Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Jordan Matthews, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett, Robert Davis
offensive draft picks: Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Clayton Thorson
On paper, it looked like a fantastic offseason in which the Eagles addressed their offensive needs. They added a deep threat in DeSean Jackson. They went out and traded for Jordan Howard and drafted Miles Sanders to create a formidable 1-2 ball carrying punch. They drafted JJAW and Andre Dillard and had two fantastic tight ends on the roster. They should have been a Red Zone juggernaut with this personnel.
Again, the injury situation just obliterated the Eagles. DeSean only played three games. Jeffery played ten. Agholor was underwhelming and took a lot of criticism. Wentz finished that season with zero receivers in the top three of his passing yardage, leaning instead on his tight ends and a rookie running back. On the run to the playoffs, he won four-straight games throwing to guys like Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett, and Josh Perkins. Luckily Goedert and Ertz were able to stay healthy, but the receiver situation was again untenable.
ball carriers: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Jordan Howard, Jason Huntley
pass catchers: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor, Richard Rodgers, DeSean Jackson, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, JJAW, Deontay Burnett, Marquise Goodwin (opted out)
offensive draft picks: Jalen Reagor, Jalen Hurts, Jack Driscoll, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Prince Tega Wanogho
Again, it looked fine on paper.
The Eagles drafted a receiver in the first round. They added more speed with Quez Watkins and John Hightower. DeSean would be healthy and they’d get Jeffery back at some point. JJAW would improve and Greg Ward would replace Agholor as the day one starter in the slot.
Unfortunately it went awry for a variety of reasons. The line was obliterated. DeSean was hurt. Alshon took forever to return. Reagor was injured and inconsistent. Hightower and Watkins were rookies. Ertz and Goedert couldn’t stay on the field.
Add in a coach who didn’t run the ball enough, and a GM who thought Sanders/Scott was good enough as a 1-2 punch, and overall the offense just didn’t inspire at all. Too many injuries, a QB controversy created from a bad draft, and just not enough dynamic playmaking ability, anywhere on the field.
Did the Eagles give Carson Wentz enough weapons?
The findings show that they attempted to do this, but for a variety of reasons it ultimately failed. The injuries piled up, individual players regressed, and they missed on draft picks and a trade. Golden Tate was a failure. Jordan Matthews was a stop gap. JJAW was a whiff. Reagor may be a whiff, but it’s way too early to say for sure. They passed on Justin Jefferson, which we can say was certainly a swing and a miss.
Outside of Sanders, and one good year of Jordan Howard, the running back situation has been less than impressive. If the Eagles had a better Sanders complement and committed themselves to the ground game a bit more, it would have alleviated some of the burden on the quarterback, who was throwing to a depleted group.
(Even then, I’m not sure Miles Sanders is in my top-12 of NFL starting running backs as of 2/23/2021)
Howie’s biggest wins were in the tight end department, with Goedert and Ertz, the latter of whom he inherited from the Chip Kelly days. But Goedert has been steady when on the field, and a reliable Wentz target. The issue is that they never found that bona fide WR1, and Carson’s most reliable target was a lumbering, YAC-less tight end. There was no DeAndre Hopkins on this team. No Davante Adams. No Julio Jones or Stefon Diggs or Allen Robinson. Nobody to go up, attack the ball, bring it down, and make a play. Even at age 31, I’d argue that T.Y. Hilton is going to be the best receiver Carson Wentz has had going back to 2017. Michael Pittman Jr. might go on to have a better NFL career than Reagor, which will be fascinating to watch.
Thus concludes the investigation. I would argue personally that the Eagles tried to give Carson “weapons,” but that it just didn’t work out. Too many injuries, too much regression, and some classic Howie Roseman, thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room. And Carson deserves a ton of blame himself, for just missing wide open players, regardless of whether they were any good.
Edit: I totally forgot about Mike Wallace in 2018. They DID try to add a vertical threat, but he was injured in game two and that started the slot receiver/Agholor nightmare.