Roll back to the disastrous 2020 season in Philadelphia and it’s hard to imagine Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts piloting two of the top-10 offenses in the NFL but that’s exactly what’s on the docket for Sunday at FedExField.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the entire NFL through two weeks by producing 470.5 yards-per-game and Washington isn't far behind with 393.0 YPG. When it comes to the bottom line, the teams are also top-10 with Philadelphia at No. 4 in points-per-game at 31.0 and the Commanders at 27.5.
You don't need the longest memory to remember Wentz signed the largest contract in Eagles history in June of 2019 as the face of the franchise and by December of 2020, he was benched in favor of then-rookie second-round pick in Hurts.
The twists and turns have been significant for both since Wentz forced his way out of Philadelphia after that season, but they will again intersect in Week 3 as the ex-Eagles quarterback will face his former team for the first time.
The sample size is small, but defenses have had difficulty stopping Wentz and a well-rounded group of weapons, including WR1 Terry McLaurin, a notorious Philadelphia killer, along with 2022 first-round pick Jahan Dotson, and two players returning from injuries: slot receiver Curtis Samuel and tight end Logan Thomas.
Samuel, who had most of his 2021 season wiped out by a groin injury, might be the key to it all as the traffic leader with 15 receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns. The Ohio State product is a very shifty slot receiver and a manufactured-touch threat that creates issues for the defense with things like jet sweeps or WR screens.
“Curtis can do a lot of different things,” Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “And just having him out there, He also brings energy too so it’s not just a schematic deal.”
The scheme part helps as well, though, because Samuel’s ability to move around the formation can cause communication problems on the other side.
“It creates uncertainty with the defense,” Turner said. “... It can change their run fits. They can have coverage adjustments so anything you can do to try to make the defense play a little slower than they normally do.”
Through the first two weeks, Wentz has been able to play point guard with six different targets amassing over 60 yards receiving, the aforementioned four as well as J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson.
“Carson’s also locked in,” said Turner. “... He’s done a great job of focusing on the task at hand and that’s getting ready for us to go play well, move the ball, and score points.”
Turner is aware this isn’t just another game for Wentz.
“Everyone is a human being,” Turner noted. “I’ve coached at different teams in this league and I know how I feel when I get ready to go against some of the teams I’ve coached for before. I can only imagine it’s (exacerbated) when you’re a player so I know there is going to be some of that.”
As for Hurts, the second-year starter is No. 2 among NFL QBs in total yardage (723), trailing only his former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, and he leads the league with an eye-popping 21 explosive plays over two weeks.
"He's always been very competitive," Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Hurts. "I think he's probably playing a little more polished at the position in terms of directing the offense and distributing the ball. They've done a great job surrounding him with playmakers and their offensive line is very talented."