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Eagles bench Carson Wentz; rookie Jalen Hurts to start at QB vs. Saints

Doug Pederson is making a necessary switch at quarterback.

Rookie Jalen Hurts will start Philadelphia's Week 14 game against the New Orleans Saints, the team announced Tuesday.

Hurts replaces Carson Wentz, who has struggled mightily in 2020 while playing behind a rotating cast along the offensive line. Wentz has been sacked three or more times in 10 straight games played, the longest active streak in the NFL and the third-longest single-season streak since the 1970 merger, per NFL Research. His numbers have suffered accordingly, with Wentz's passer rating falling sharply from 93.1 in 2019 to 72.8 in 2020.

"I have come to a decision and I am going to go with Jalen Hurts this week against New Orleans," Pederson said in an interview with the team's site. "We're not where we want to be as an offense. I looked at the whole thing and decided that for this week to look for that spark again to try to get the team over the hump, to try to get everybody playing better."

"Carson is like all of us right now, he's disappointed. He's frustrated," Pederson added. "He's been a professional through it all. He supports his teammates and that's what you want to see from him, the leader of the team. I know sometimes the quarterback gets a lot of the blame like the head coach does. It's the good with the bad. It's not about Carson Wentz. It's not about one person. We know we have issues on offense and it has been a struggle for us all season. That's where the frustration lies a little bit, but he's been a pro and would expect nothing less."

The rookie stepped in for Wentz in Sunday's loss to Green Bay and provided Philadelphia with an offensive spark not seen in weeks, throwing for 30 more yards than Wentz on three fewer attempts while also completing three passes of 20-plus yards and a touchdown pass for a rating of 67.7, more than 10 points better than Wentz's mark in the loss.

With Hurts in for most of the second half, Philadelphia more than quadrupled its points total (though six came on a punt return), more than doubled its total yards, and went from 16 passing yards through two quarters to 145 in the final two periods. The Eagles' yards per play also jumped significantly in the second half from 2.9 to 6.7, briefly bringing Philadelphia within a single score of Green Bay, and Hurts was 2 of 2 on deep passes for 66 yards and a touchdown, which came on fourth-and-long.

Ultimately, the spark couldn't sustain a winning fire, but Pederson has seen enough to deem the change necessary. Pederson has resisted such a decision for weeks, especially with Wentz's financial standing as the team's franchise signal-caller, but at 3-8-1 and with the coach feeling the heat, Pederson had no choice other than to make a switch.

Wentz's contract makes this switch far from the Eagles' final decision related to him. Wentz's fully guaranteed base salary is set for $15.4 million in 2021, and his dead cap number is astronomical at $59.22 million for next season, per Over The Cap, meaning the Eagles have no choice but to keep Wentz on the roster, even if Philadelphia no longer sees him as the franchise's future.

The soonest realistic exit window for the two sides doesn't arrive until 2022, and even then, the price to be paid is significant. If Philadelphia were to cut Wentz in 2022, it would carry nearly $25 million in dead cap, a large chunk of financial flexibility that is expected to be less than projected prior to the onset of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Simply, the Eagles are married to Wentz, even if the most action he'll see going forward is with him wearing a headset on the sideline. 

Hurts became the first Eagles quarterback to average nine or more yards per attempt (minimum five passes) in a game since Nick Foles in Week 16 of 2018. He'll face a steep climb similar to that of Wentz behind the NFL's worst offensive line in terms of sacks allowed per pass attempt (11.73 percent), and his performance under pressure (0 for 5, one interception) doesn't bode well for the Eagles. But with no other option other than defining insanity by keeping Wentz in and expecting a different result, Pederson has gone to the second-round pick with the hopes it will light a fire under his offense.

The Eagles could definitely use the warmth.

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