When the Philadelphia Eagles travel to North Englewood, Md., for a meeting with the Washington Commanders on Sunday, an intriguing subplot is the quarterback battle between Jalen Hurts and Carson Wentz.
But haven’t we seen this movie before?
In the pandemic-riddled 2020 season in Philadelphia, Hurts and Wentz were pitted in a divisive battle for the starting job which divided Eagles players, coaches and fans.
Now as they oppose each other for the first time, both are off to promising starts to the season. Hurts ranks No. 2 in the NFL in combined yards passing and rushing (723) for the 2-0 Eagles, while Wentz is No. 2 in the league in passing yards (650) and is tied for the lead in touchdown passes (seven) for the 1-1 Commanders.
It’s a long way from a dreadful 4-11-1 year in Philadelphia, when Wentz, three years removed from helping the Eagles to the Super Bowl, fell out of favor with fans while dynamic rookie Hurts won many over with his dual-threat potential.
Chatting with reporters on Wednesday, Wentz revealed no animosity toward his former home while downplaying the revenge angle.
“We had a lot of success there,” Wentz said. “Winning the Super Bowl up there was pretty special. Being a part of that was cool. It’s quite the city, quite the fan base, quite the experience. I definitely cherish my time there.”
The often-repeated narrative of that 2020 season is that the challenge from Hurts shattered the confidence of Wentz, even though he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016 and Hurts was selected in the second round in 2020 to perform backup duties.
But Hurts has proven to be more than an insurance policy. He had perhaps his finest performance as a pro Monday night at home in a 24-7 win over Minnesota. Hurts completed 26 of 31 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 57 yards and two scores.
“I don’t think I know what his ceiling is yet,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “I’m not surprised by anything that Jalen does on the football field because I’ve seen him doing this all offseason, all training camp, practices, the meeting room. I see his growth consistently all the time.”
Both quarterbacks have been bolstered by new wideouts. A.J. Brown (15 receptions, 224 yards), acquired in a trade with Tennessee, gives the Eagles a dimension they’ve been lacking. At Washington, first-round draft choice and Penn State product Jahan Dotson has three touchdown grabs.
The teams have recent late-season history. Last year, during a four-game winning streak, Philadelphia beat Washington in Weeks 15 and 17 to secure a playoff berth. In 2020, Washington topped Philly in the regular-season finale to clinch the NFC East.
The Eagles listed linebacker Haason Reddick (knee), cornerback Avonte Maddox (back) and wideout Quez Watkins (illness) as questionable. All but Watkins practiced on Wednesday.
The Commanders placed starting center Chase Roullier (knee) on injured reserve this week and signed veteran offensive lineman Nick Martin.
Also listed as questionable are linebacker Cole Holcomb, guard Trai Turner and tackle Saahdiq Charles. All practiced on Wednesday. Reserve defensive linemen Casey Toohill (concussion), Daniel Wise (ankle) and Shaka Toney (illness) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.
Washington will welcome back starters Kam Curl (thumb) at safety and Wes Schweitzer (hamstring) at center. Both missed last week’s 36-27 loss at Detroit.