On the Brinck: Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are at the helm of two potent offenses in their sophomore campaigns
Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are finally living up to expectations in their sophomore seasons. Through seven weeks, Wentz is playing at an MVP level while leading his Philadelphia Eagles to a 6-1 record, the best in the National Football League. Goff’s Los Angeles Rams are 5-2 and putting up 30.3 points per game, the highest mark in the league.
As good as Wentz and Goff seem to be now, their rookie seasons were disappointing. Drafted first and second overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, Wentz and Goff were entirely outshone by No. 135 overall pick Dak Prescott, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record. Goff didn’t start a game until Week 11, the third-most games missed to start a career by a quarterback taken No. 1 in the draft. He started the final seven games of the year and lost all seven while throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. Wentz took over the reins in Philadelphia right away and led his team to three straight impressive wins to start the season before losing nine of the final 13 games of the season. It was a solid rookie campaign but nonetheless upsetting for Eagles fans after months of hype and an undefeated start to the season.
Both Philadelphia and Los Angeles were set on sticking with their young guns in the coming years and dedicated their offseason to strengthening their QBs’ supporting cast.
Rams General Manager Les Snead traded six draft picks in 2016 to get the No. 1 overall pick and draft Goff. Finding his franchise quarterback was the first half of a two phase rebuild strategy for the Rams. Phase two focused on bolstering Goff’s coaching and offensive arsenal. In January, the Rams hired Sean McVay, a more offensive-minded head coach than Jeff Fisher, who was fired last December. The Rams acquired linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan to protect Goff, who was sacked a ridiculous 26 times in his seven starts in 2016. To compensate for losing wide receiver Kenny Britt, the Rams’ leading pass catcher by nearly 500 yards, Snead traded for Sammy Watkins, signed Robert Woods and drafted Cooper Kupp in the third round.
With Snead’s offseason acquisitions thriving, the Rams have already surpassed their 2016 win total and have made Snead look like a bona fide genius in the process. Through seven games, Goff has been sacked 16 fewer times than he was in the same amount of games last season. Goff is also utilizing his new weapons: Kupp, Watkins and Woods are Goff’s most targeted wideouts. The additions around Goff have significantly boosted his personal statistics too. He currently has four more touchdowns and three fewer interceptions than he had last year as well as almost 700 more passing yards. His completion percentage has increased by 5.3 points and his passer rating has jumped from 63.6 to 90.3.
But even with Snead’s offseason moves, the Rams’ offensive transformation in 2017 is nothing short of miraculous. In 2016, Los Angeles ranked last in the league in total yards and points per game and 31st in rush yards and pass yards per game. This year, the Rams lead the league in points per game and rank sixth in rush yards per game, ninth in total yards per game and 12th in pass yards per game. Their 212 points in seven games so far this season are just 12 points behind the abysmal 224 points they scored all of last season.
Philadelphia didn’t have offensive (or defensive) struggles as prominent as Los Angeles in 2016, but the Eagles’ 24th-ranked pass offense wasn’t something to be proud of either.
To fortify their offense, the Eagles brought in veteran offensive threats LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, all of whom are paying off. Coupled with Wendell Smallwood and a mobile Wentz, Blount leads a Philadelphia rush attack that ranks fourth in yards per game this season. Jeffrey ranks second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards, while Smith is fourth in each category.
With a full season’s experience under his belt, Wentz himself has made huge improvements this season. He is first in the league in touchdowns with 17, surpassing his 2016 total on Monday versus the Washington Redskins, and has only four interceptions. His 1,852 passing yards and 104.0 passer rating are also fourth in the league.
Though both Goff’s Rams and Wentz’s Eagles are tearing up opposing defenses, Wentz’s experience and skill as a game manager gives him the edge over Goff at the moment despite what Philadelphia’s own Donovan McNabb said this past week when he labeled Goff as possibly the best quarterback in the National Football Conference. On Monday night, Wentz showed why when he heaved a pass 62.8 air yards to Mack Hollins for a touchdown, the longest of any pass in the last two seasons.
After enduring worrisome seasons by their supposed franchise quarterbacks, the Rams and Eagles are back on track in 2017 with two of the most potent offenses in the league. The two rising stars will face off on Sunday, Dec. 10 in Los Angeles in a game that will almost certainly have huge playoff implications.