PHILADELPHIA − It’s easy to remember how the Rams and the Eagles used the top two picks in the 2016 NFL Draft to select what they believed would be franchise quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
Six years later, both are in the equivalent of QB Siberia — Goff with the Detroit Lions, whom the Eagles face Sunday in the season opener, and Wentz, on his third team in three seasons, with the Washington Commanders.
Meanwhile, the Eagles have much higher expectations this season with Jalen Hurts at quarterback.
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There is a lesson, but it’s not that the Eagles and Rams made mistakes drafting Wentz and Goff. Both quarterbacks achieved the goal of such a high draft pick – taking their teams to the Super Bowl.
Both did it within their first three seasons. If Eagles expectations are to be believed, Hurts could do just that this season, his second as a starter and third overall in the NFL.
Wentz did it in his second season in 2017, though you have to add the caveat that he tore his ACL in Week 14. But Wentz had led the Eagles to an 11-2 record when he got hurt and was on pace to emerge League MVP.
Goff led the Rams to the Super Bowl the following season, although they lost to New England in the championship game 13-3.
The lesson came later because both quarterbacks had to be paid. That’s just a fact for a quarterback on a rookie contract leading his team to the Super Bowl.
So the Eagles made Wentz the highest-paid QB in the NFL in June 2019, signing him to a four-year extension worth up to $128 million. A few months later, Goff surpassed him when the Rams gave him a $132 million extension.
Hurts just happens to be one season away from his contract year.
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Hurts won’t be making the nearly $50 million per year that players like Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray are now getting. But Hurts took the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season as a starter. If the Eagles go even further this year, it’s possible we could see Hurts get something similar to what Wentz and Goff got.
The lesson, then, is not to get too hung up on a big-contract quarterback. Both the Eagles and Rams quickly moved on from Wentz and Goff, although it was costly for both teams.
The Eagles, after all, hold the NFL record for most “dead money” when Wentz counted $34.7 million against their 2021 salary cap despite playing for Indianapolis.
But that money was off the Eagles’ books last spring, when the Eagles used it to trade and sign wide receiver AJ Brown, signal pass rusher Haason Reddick, cornerback James Bradberry. Just last week, they traded for safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
The Eagles did all of this while Hurts figures to be just $1.6 million in salary cap space. Hurts will count $1.9 million next year, the final year of his contract.
Perhaps Wentz provided the impetus when he requested a trade after the 2020 season in which he was benched for the final 4 1/2 games. Wentz was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating that season. He tied for the most interceptions in the NFL despite playing only 12 games.
Goff, meanwhile, regressed after the Super Bowl season. His passer rating went from 101.1 in 2018 to 86.5 in 2019. He wasn’t much better in 2020. The Rams saw an opportunity to upgrade with Matthew Stafford, so they traded Goff and two first-round picks to the Lions . And they ate $22 million in dead money.
Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in his first season in LA, while the Lions are coming off a 3-14 season. That included a 44-6 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 31.
Sure, the Lions and Goff should be better this season, but it’s hard to see them contending for the playoffs.
“The more you’re with certain coaches and certain players, the more you’re going to get better,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I have a lot of respect for Jared Goff and the things he’s done in this league.”
But so is Hurts, in his second season under Sirianni. Hurts is not consumed with expectations. This is what he calls “rat poison”.
“Nothing matters but us,” Hertz said. “To make strides as a football team, we just have to go to work every day. We don’t want to make it harder than it is.”
This also applies to the future.
I don’t hit the ‘hard knocks’
The outgoing Campbell was the star of HBO’s annual summer series, “Hard Knocks,” as viewers got an inside look at the Detroit Lions through training camp.
However, Campbell said he did not watch the show. Sirianni certainly did.
“We’re watching everything,” he said. “We’re going to listen to the media coverage of what the Lions are doing. You do everything you can to turn over every stone to see if you can get an advantage. The parity in this league is so tight and so small. And the margin error is so small.”
But that wasn’t the only place where the two coaches parted ways.
Campbell is a firm believer in hitting in practice and playing his first games in preseason games. That backfired somewhat when former Eagle right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai aggravated a back injury in the preseason finale and went on injured reserve.
“When you’re talking about a 17-week season in pads, you have to get in some kind of shape,” Campbell said. “You can’t go from not hitting and only getting 20-30 reps in practice, and all of a sudden you played 75 (snaps) the first two weeks. I think you’re asking for an injury.”
Sirianni, meanwhile, had no live snaps outside of joint practices with the Browns and Dolphins. And he only played for one series in the first preseason game.
The Eagles enter the game with everyone on the roster healthy enough to play.
Which way is better? We’ll find out on Sunday.
During the offseason, the Lions added defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 pick in the draft and signed DJ Chark in free agency.
They’re bringing back the wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who had 912 receiving yards as a rookie, was just four yards shy of DeVonta Smith in his rookie season with the Eagles.
Is that enough to overcome last season’s 44-6 loss against an also-improving Eagles team?
“We’ve recognized in our players that this is a team that can make you look stupid because they did it to us last year,” he said. “If we don’t get into the details and play with effort, we’re going to be embarrassed because that’s what Philly can do.”
No, the Eagles won’t win 44-6. But with Brown making his debut on offense, and a much more talented defense, the Eagles should win rather easily.
Score: Eagles 34, Lions 17.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: Jared Goff, Carson Wentz provide lessons for Eagles with Jalen Hurts