Carson Wentz plays his way into MVP talks: After leading the Eagles to a 6-1 the young quarterback could bring home hardware

By Evin Hartsock, Managing Editor

     Through the first seven weeks of the 2017 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the league with a 6-1 record and are the hottest team in football. Since their 27-20 loss to Kansas City in Week 2, the Birds have flown high, winning five games in a row, putting up impressive numbers on both sides of the ball. The defense, despite some injuries to some key players like Ronald Darby, and Fletcher Cox for a few games, has played lights out. The Eagles defense ranks second in rushing yards allowed, giving up an average of just 67 yards a game, and are sixth in total turnovers caused with 12.

     Offensively, Philadelphia is third in overall in total yards with 2670 which ranks just behind Kansas City and New England. The rushing corps of LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement have brought a strong running game back to Philadlephia that it has lacked since the days of LeSean McCoy, sitting second in total rushing yards in the NFL. The run game has also been successful due to an effective offensive line with the likes of former first rounder Lane Johnson, which is considered one of the best units in the league.

     As good as these units have been playing, the key to the Eagles success has been a rejuvenated receiving core, but more importantly, the breakout sophomore campaign of quarterback Carson Wentz.

     After the Birds’ impressive 34-24 win on Monday Night Football over their divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins, rumblings of MVP talk about Wentz began to surface. Wentz certainly played like an MVP on Monday night, as he completed 68 percent of his passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns against a stingy Washington defense. In addition to his aerial assault on the Redskins, Wentz hurt them with his feet as well, leading the Eagles in rushing yards with 63 on eight attempts.

     It might seem a little crazy to start MVP talk in October with so much more football left to play, it probably seems even crazier to consider a second-year quarterback as a legitimate MVP candidate, but it’s not. Through the first seven weeks of play, Wentz has cemented himself as a legitimate candidate for most valuable player, as he has made a huge leap from year one to two, increased the level of play of his teammates, and brought a winning culture to Philadelphia.

     In his rookie season, Wentz completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns (an Eagles’ record for a rookie), and a less impressive 14 interceptions in 16 games. In his 2017 campaign, Wentz has already surpassed his touchdown total from last season as he has thrown for 17 this year, and greatly reduced his number of interceptions as he only has four through seven games. He currently leads the NFL in touchdown passes and is on pace to throw for more yards than last year as he has already racked up almost 2,000. His yards per attempt has jumped from 6.23 to 7.98 this year, as well as his QBR which is up from 49.4 to 74.9, ranking third in the league.

     While his numbers are certainly of MVP caliber, it’s his ability to make players around him better, like a Tom Brady, that puts him in the conversation.
Last season, Eagles’ wide out Nelson Agholor, a first round pick, had an awful season. He caught just two touchdown passes the entire year and was benched due to his inability to catch the ball. However, this year is a different story. Somehow Wentz has been able to bring Agholor’s career back to life, as he has caught 24 passes for 366 yards and five touchdowns in just seven games; lightyears ahead of what he was able to do last season. Agholor has become a valuable deep threat for Philadelphia, as Wentz has been able to find him open downfield when plays breakdown. Wentz and Agholor have developed great chemistry this season, which has greatly improved the wide out’s confidence.

     Wentz also has his favorite target, tight end Zach Ertz, on pace to have an improved season as well. Last year Wentz was able to connect with the former Stanford Cardinal for 78 receptions for 816 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. This season, Ertz has already caught 39 balls for 494 yards and five touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the best tight ends in the game.

     Wentz has been able to elevate his teammates through his own increased level of play. On Monday night against Washington, and throughout the course of the season, the young quarterback has shown more poise in the pocket as well as patience. Because of his 6’5” stature, Wentz has been able to stay in the pocket longer, even as it is breaking down, and make smart throws, some of which seem almost impossible to make. Against the Redskins, Wentz was able to hang in the pocket and throw a touchdown pass to running back Corey Clement with defensive lineman directly in his line of view.
When the pocket does breakdown, Wentz is able to escape using his feet and make big throws down field, or use his speed to run for first downs as he has done frequently this year.

     If Wentz can keep this level of play up the rest of the season, it would not be a surprise to see him named MVP.

According to TeamRankings, Carson Wentz has the fourth-highest QB rating (104.0), only behind Kirk Cousins (107.2), Tom Brady (108.4), and Alex Smith (120.5)