The Philadelphia Eagles appear like they are about to embark on a new era. As the club prepares to take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, it will be doing so with rookie Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback, the team confirmed on Tuesday. Carson Wentz, Philly’s incumbent starter, will now be demoted to Hurts’ backup.
This move by head coach Doug Pederson comes after Wentz’s struggles throughout 2020 bled into the Eagles’ Week 13 matchup with the Green Bay Packers. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft completed just six of his 15 passes for 79 yards and a passer rating of just 57.4. With a poor performance unfolding once again, Pederson elected to give Hurts extended time under center midway through the third quarter and the Oklahoma product provided a noticeable spark to the offense, including this 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward.
Hurts — who finished with 109 yards passing, including that touchdown and a pick — was taken with the second round of the 2020 draft out of Oklahoma, which was an early indication that Wentz may be on thin ice heading into this season. Judging by how the offense looked when you swapped out these quarterbacks, it does make the reasoning by Philly to go with Hurts a bit easier to understand. With Hurts under center in this game, Philadelphia’s offense averaged 6.29 yards per play over four possession which is a noticeable jump from the 3.52 yards per party over Wentz’s five possessions in that same contest.
“I’m trying to do what I can do for this team. I think it’s as simple as that,” Hurts said on Sunday after coming in under center. “Working hard every day, putting my best foot forward, and taking somebody with me. I’m trying to lead and just get this thing in the right direction. So, anything that can help this team.”
For Wentz, this is officially rock bottom to a 2020 season where poor throws and indecisiveness have plagued him to the point where he’s now a backup. He ranks second-to-last among qualifying quarterbacks in completion percentage (57.4%) and right around the bottom of the league in most other categories. Wentz has also been sacked a league-high 50 times this season. All this serves as quite the fall from grace for a quarterback who was fairly recently looked at as one of the bright up-and-coming players at the position in the league.
“At the end of the day, it’s outside of my control,” Wentz said when asked about the benching for Hurts in the midst of Week 13. “That’s not for me (to decide). I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play better. I have never doubted myself or lost my confidence in my abilities. But a lot of these things are out of my control.”
What is interesting now is the long-term future for Wentz in Philadelphia as it’s nearly impossible to cut or trade him. He is signed through 2024 and has massive dead-cap hits over the next few seasons, specifically in 2021 where the Eagles are sitting with almost $60 million in dead cap money. Things do subside a bit in 2022, but the $24.5 million dead cap number still is substantial. Trading him would be tough this offseason as a team would have to be willing and able to absorb his cap hit of 30-plus million over the next four seasons.
While the answer to who’ll start for the Eagles in Week 14 has been answered with this decision to go with Hurts, it does bring with it a mountain of other questions that Philly will eventually need to now answer.