He was notified just eight days before the start of the regular season that he would be the starting quarterback following Sam Bradford's trade to the Minnesota Vikings. Third on the depth chart and dealing with a rib fracture for a good portion of the summer, he went into the opener against the Cleveland Browns having little time to develop chemistry with his skill-position players.
Making matters worse was the fact that his wide-receiver group lacked juice. Attempts to bolster the position in the offseason fell flat, as free-agent pickups Rueben Randle and Chris Givens failed to make the roster. And so it was Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff (before he was released following an arrest) and Dorial Green-Beckham primarily on the outside, and it did not go well. Even when Wentz ducked and scrambled and extended the play, it was often difficult to find receivers who had gained separation.
A quarterback who came into the league with a bit of a Brett Favre gunslinger reputation ended up boxed in a rather conservative offense and finished 29th in yards per attempt (6.23).
The receiver numbers told a bigger story: According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Eagles' group finished 31st in receiving yards (1,849), yards per reception (10.7) and receiving touchdowns (8) and last in the league in drop percentage (5.8).
Wentz's fate appear to have been changed in one day. By landing No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery and speed wideout Torrey Smith at the start of free agency, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman gave Wentz a tandem that should help maximize the quarterback's skill set.
Welcome to the squad @TorreySmithWR ! Lets go bro! 👊🏼— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) March 9, 2017
ANDDDD also Welcome @TheWorldof_AJ to the squad. Big things ahead!!!— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) March 9, 2017
Wentz has a big arm, and wants to let it rip. Smith specializes in the long ball. He has averaged 17 yards per catch over his six-year career, with 25 plays of 40-plus yards. While Smith is the home-run threat, Jeffery serves more as a security blanket. He is a large (6-foot-3, 218 pounds), sticks-moving target with a ridiculous catch radius and a knack for winning 50-50 balls that might be second to none in the NFL. Sure-handed, he had just one drop on 92 targets last season, per ESPN Stats & Info research. He is the type of player who can bail a young quarterback out, particularly one who had a tendency to throw high at times as a rookie.
There is a discussion to be had about philosophy versus action; how the Eagles want to draft and develop and take the long view when it comes to building this team, yet make moves (such as signing a top-end free agent to a handsome one-year deal) that seem to stray from that path. Whether the investments in Jeffery and Smith ultimately help or hurt them in their quest for a championship remains to be seen. But for the here and now, there's no question that, assuming health, the Eagles are in much better shape at receiver than they were a year ago. That will open things up significantly for Wentz, who should have a much easier go of it in Year 2.