Eagles President Howie Roseman and coach Doug Pederson don’t have a timetable for when quarterback Carson Wentz will be cleared to return from the torn ACL he suffered last December.
Wentz, who injured his left knee on a goal line dash against the Los Angeles Rams and missed the final three games of the regular season and then the Super Bowl run, has targeted the team’s season opener on Sept. 6 at home against the Atlanta Falcons as his first start.
Regardless of whether the third-year QB is ready to sling passes in the NFL Kickoff game on national TV or must wait until, say Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings, there will be one resonating question hovering inside the NovaCare Complex – and throughout the entire Delaware Valley.
What can we expect on the field from Wentz less than a year after he underwent knee surgery?
Will we get the pre-injury Wentz, who took the league by storm in his sophomore season with an accurate and strong arm, nimble legs, and was on track to probably win the league MVP?
Or, will we get a scaled-back version who is tentative in the pocket and significantly less mobile, and thus, less dangerous?
To get a more educated answer, we have gone the clinical route and also broke down data of how quarterbacks performed the year after they came back from a torn ACL.
The good news is that medically-speaking the 25 year old should look, and feel, relatively normal.
“From a passing perspective, I think you will see more pocket play since he will not want to risk getting injured again,” said Miltiadis Zgonis, who is an Orthopedic Sports Medicine surgeon at Penn Sports Medicine. “He will be throwing off his [non-injured] back leg more. It will be more from his hips and waist. So, I don’t think the injury will affect his passing ability.”
“He will have less mobility – and will be coached along those lines,” said Zgonis, who added Wentz will probably wear a brace. “I think it comes down to protecting that leg. When you look at quarterbacks [who have had a torn ACL], they are not as mobile the next year."
Statistics support Zgonis’ opinion.
Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford, and Robert Griffin III are all starting quarterbacks who have suffered a torn ACL. Aside from Griffin, every other player either equaled or improved their passing numbers in the first season back under center.
Mobile quarterbacks, in the same mold as Wentz, did not fare as well, though.
In 2006, McNabb rushed for 212 yards on 32 attempts (6.6 yards per carry average) in 10 starts before he got hurt. The next season McNabb finished with 236 yards on 50 carries (4.7) in 14 games.
Griffin led all QBs in rushing in 2012 with 815 yards on 120 attempts (6.8) in 2012 but dipped to 489 rushing yards on 86 carries (5.7) in 2013.
Last year, Wentz completed 62% of his passes for 3,296 yards and 33 touchdowns and ran the ball 64 times for 299 yards (4.7) in 13 games.
So, what can we expect this season? Which Wentz will the Eagles get – the MVP candidate or the timid player?
If expert medical analysis and on-field history are any indication, Roseman, Pederson, and Eagles fans can likely take solace in expecting a season closer to the former.