Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott add new element to Eagles-Cowboys rivalry
Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott are in their second seasons and are two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.
Carson Wentz knew the Dak Prescott question was coming. He quickly noted that the Eagles are playing the Cowboys – so it's not exactly Wentz vs. Prescott.
Consider it good practice, because he's going to get the question often in his career. It will usually come twice a year, maybe three times, and it could extend into the next decade. This is just Round 2 of a meeting between two of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL.
"We're playing the Cowboys," Wentz said. "That's plenty significant enough. Dak's a great player. It's exciting for this [division], this rivalry, this league. A lot of respect for him and what he's done, but at the end of the day, we have enough with it just being the rivalry week that it already is."
The Eagles-Cowboys rivalry didn't need any more fuel, but the Wentz-Prescott dynamic adds a new element. Both quarterbacks are in their second NFL seasons. Prescott had the better rookie season. He won rookie of the year and he didn't even need to play past the second quarter in the Week 17 Eagles-Cowboys game because the Cowboys had already clinched the division.
Wentz might be in that position this year because he's having the superior second season. The Eagles visit Dallas on Sunday holding the NFL's best record and a three-game lead over the Cowboys in the division. Wentz is even the frontrunner to win the MVP, evidence of the leap he has made in Year 2.
"I don't pay attention to comparisons," Prescott said by phone on Wednesday. "But it's hard when Carson's playing as well as he's playing and the Eagles are as hot as they are to not see and not pay attention to his stats and what he's doing. He's a great player. It's obvious. I noticed that through the draft process. …Looking forward to this Sunday and many years to come."
Both coaching staffs know both quarterbacks well from the 2016 draft. The Cowboys staff coached Wentz in the Senior Bowl and scouted him heavily for the No. 4 overall pick. The Eagles, in the market for a passer, brought a few of the top quarterbacks to the NovaCare Complex. Prescott was one of them. They coveted Wentz, jumping ahead of the Cowboys to the No. 2 overall pick for Wentz. The Cowboys took star running back Ezekiel Elliott and didn't add Prescott until the fourth round.
Both quarterbacks became unexpected Day 1 starters last year – Wentz because of the Sam Bradford trade, Prescott because of Tony Romo's injury – and have developed quickly into franchise players. The coaches weren't shy about their admiration for the passer they're facing. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Wentz showed them what was evident during the Senior Bowl weeks, with "all the physical traits that you want," "instincts and vision," and is "really playing at a high level." Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, "I don't know if I've ever seen a better thrower on the run than Dak Prescott."
In one 2016 meeting when both quarterbacks played the entire game, the Cowboys won in overtime with Prescott completing a game-winning touchdown pass. (It's hard to consider the Week 17 game a Wentz-Prescott matchup because Prescott was limited to 15 plays.)
In two seasons, Prescott has completed 66 percent of his passes for 5,661 yards, 39 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 519 yards and 11 touchdowns. He won 18 of his career starts. Wentz has completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 6,044 yards, 39 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while rushing for 361 yards and two scores. He won 15 of his career starts.
So based on the career statistics, Prescott might have the edge. But Wentz's 2017 season with upgraded weapons is hard to ignore. The comparisons will continue all week and likely through the nationally televised broadcast on Sunday.
"There is that little bit inside you that you know they're linked together," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "So that's natural, that's human nature. But I can assure you right now the only Cowboys that Carson is worried about or thinking about are those four guys up front and those secondary players. He's not at all thinking about what kind of game Dak's going to have."
It's good for the NFC East that they will play each other for years to come. Wentz has become well-versed on the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry since coming to Philadelphia. But he's spent most of time this week watching the Cowboys defense and figuring out how to stay hot against the NFL's 14th-ranked pass defense – one that he says includes a "dynamic front four." He'll let Schwartz and the defense worry about Prescott.
"I'm not playing Dak Prescott," Wentz said. "I'm playing the Cowboys defense. And as a team, we're playing the Cowboys. I don't really look into it too much. I just focus in on what we can do to beat this defense."