Carson Wentz's Stellar Sophomore Campaign Could End with MVP Honors

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystOctober 24, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass against the Washington Redskins during the first quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

It's healthy to keep your giddiness in check while watching an impressive performance in a Week 7 NFL game, knowing the tectonic shifts that can take place throughout a season and the pitfalls possibly lying ahead.

It's healthier still to keep MVP chatter to a whisper with over half a season left to play. But Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is making those hushed claims impossible.

Wentz continued his rapid second-year emergence during a 34-24 Monday night win over the division rival Washington Redskins. It was a win that further established the Eagles as an NFC powerhouse, and at 6-1, they're now separating from the pack in a chaotic conference.

The defining moment wasn't a beautiful sailing throw by Wentz, though he did connect on plenty of those. No, the instant that swung the outcome of Monday's game in Philadelphia's direction is best shown through an image.

It's the same freeze-frame that should be displayed on stage if Wentz continues his brilliance and is named the 2017 MVP. Amazingly, it's an image where Wentz isn't even visible:

That should be a picture of Wentz taking a sack, and a potentially crippling one.

The Eagles faced 3rd-and-8 early in the fourth quarter, right after Washington had scored to cut their lead to seven points. They were also on their own 27-yard line, so forcing a punt would have given Washington quality field position, fueling their comeback attempt.


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There's an alternate timeline for this game where that scenario plays out, and the Eagles crumble under late-game pressure. That has to be true, because what happened next had no business being possible.

Wentz was in a large human sandwich, with both his own offensive linemen and Washington's pass-rushers toppling around him. On the live broadcast, it looked like a routine sack, and the very definition of a collapsed pocket.

Then, like the Kool-Aid Man bursting through a wall, Wentz somehow squirted free. While watching the replay, ESPN color commentator Jon Gruden spoke for all of us when he asked, "Where did he go?"

Where he ended up was 17 yards away. His pinballing kept the drive alive, and Wentz followed that up with his fourth touchdown pass of the game.

A 10-yard pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor was also Wentz's 17th touchdown toss of the year. That set a new Eagles record for touchdown throws over the first seven games of a season. It was also a pass that set Wentz's temperature to white hot.

The Eagles now stand alone with the NFL's best record, a perch they've reached via a sizzling quarterback who has now chucked 11 touchdown passes over his last three games. Wentz has thrown just two interceptions over that stretch, and only four overall on the season.

The tentative rookie version of Wentz seems to be a fading memory. Rotoworld's Nick Mensio notes his recent run:

His roasting of Washington's secondary ended with 268 passing yards, a mark he reached with an astronomical average of 10.7 yards per attempt.

The 24-year-old passed deep with the sort of precision that was only a dream at times during his wildly inconsistent rookie season. It seems so long ago now when Wetnz was averaging only 6.2 yards per attempt, and poor decision-making led to 14 first-year interceptions.

Now there's a sense of comfort that oozes from Wentz. He's able to diagnose what's coming before the snap, and then react accordingly. And when he does launch a deep ball, it usually lands softly in the hands of its desired target.

That happened on his 46-yard throw to tight end Zach Ertz to set up a second-quarter touchdown. But a 64-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mack Hollins was when the party really started.

Prior to that throw at the 3:19 mark of the second quarter, Wentz had recorded only 30 passing yards. He was getting pressured relentlessly, and as a result, the Eagles stumbled through nearly the entire first half while converting on just one of their first four third-down attempts.

The ability to forget has so much value at the quarterback position. Without it, stress and anxiety build, and a poor start snowballs. But with it, a savior emerges ready to bounce around more while weaving, dodging and then winning.

That's been Wentz through the Eagles' five-game win streak. No amount of pocket chaos seems to break him physically, or hurt his accuracy. The latter trick is especially impressive, and it's what sets him apart.

If the third-down run is the perfect illustration of his athleticism, then a nine-yard touchdown throw while leaping and getting whacked best shows his toughness:

Wentz pushes the memory of his rookie season filled with a few peaks and many cavernous valleys further back with each completion as he's clobbered.

Those questions about his future and murmurs of the draft-bust label are laughable now, especially since he's added another dimension to his game. Through seven weeks in 2017, Wentz has already run for 196 yards, 46 more than last year.

Wentz is now in the business of creating new, and much happier memories with his hold on the league's passing touchdown lead. That's put him on an early path to the league's highest individual honor.

More importantly, Wentz has his team marching toward contention for an even more coveted trophy. You know, the silver one that gets awarded amid falling confetti in February.