Philadelphia Eagles 2016 season rookie review

How did Philadelphia Eagles 2016 draft picks perform this season?

The season is over and the Philadelphia Eagles will be watching the postseason from home. However, some of the Eagles rookies gave plenty of reasons to be excited about the not-too-distant future.

With the selection of a surefire franchise quarterback in the draft and the emergence of a talented rookie guard, it certainly seems this season’s crop of first-year pros could be one of the best the Eagles have seen in a long time.

Carson Wentz

Wentz has been a revelation for the Eagles this season. Wentz was originally considered the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel prior to the start of the season. But after trading Bradford to the desperate Minnesota Vikings for a first round pick, he assumed the role as the team’s starter and never looked back.

In 16 games, Wentz completed 62.4 percent of his 607 attempts for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also rushed for 150 yards and two scores.

Wentz is only the fifth quarterback in NFL history to attempt at least 550 passes as a rookie. The other four quarterbacks to do so as first-year players are Peyton Manning, Derek Carr, Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford. Wentz finished with the highest quarterback rating (79.3) of that group.

Wentz was named the Offensive Rookie of the Week three times in 2016 as well as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in September.

If there was any doubt at the beginning of the season, there shouldn’t be any now. The Eagles have finally found their franchise quarterback and Wentz still hasn’t come close to hitting his ceiling.

Isaac Seumalo

It took him a little longer to see the field than he had probably hoped, but Seumalo showed some terrific signs as a rookie offensive lineman. Seumalo displayed phenomenal versatility in his first NFL season, taking snaps at left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle. Versatility like that is hard to come by, especially from a rookie.

Following the 27-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15, Doug Pederson had some high praise for the rookie lineman.

“We got a great player in Isaac [Seumalo] and a versatile player that can play any of those positions now along the lines. Gives us a little more depth these last couple of weeks. He will definitely factor in.”

Though Seumalo only played in nine games this season, he showed serious flashes of potential and will likely play a huge role for the Eagles’ offensive line very soon.

Wendell Smallwood

Despite the occasional rookie misstep, Smallwood quietly had a very solid campaign for a first-year running back.

Before being placed on injured reserve following the Eagles’ Week 14 tilt against the Washington Redskins, Smallwood rushed 77 times for 312 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff 86 yards for a score in Week 6, also against the Redskins.

Smallwood’s best game of the season came in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he rushed for a season-high 79 yards on 17 carries and score his lone rushing touchdown of the season. Just prior to the touchdown, Smallwood dazzled the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field with a gorgeous spin move to help set up his score.

It’s very possible that Ryan Mathews could be wearing a different uniform next season. If that is the case, Smallwood will have an increased workload in the Eagles’ committee backfield.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Vaitai’s NFL debut came in relief of suspended right tackle Lane Johnson in Week 6 and will likely go down as possibly the worst game of his young career. Vaitai’s mediocre performance was largely responsible for the five sacks and 11 hits that Wentz was forced to endure in that 27-20 loss. However, Vaitai would rebound and become a steady presence on the offensive line.

Despite Vaitai’s improvement, there are still some holes in his game that need to be addressed before he can be considered a legitimate contender for a starting spot. Unless Lane Johnson gets injured or suspended (again), don’t count on seeing Vaitai in the starting lineup for a little bit longer.

Jalen Mills

Mills has become a popular member of the Eagles’ defense as a rookie. Pro Football Focus ranked Mills as the worst cornerback in the league this season, but his tape seems to suggest otherwise. Mills lined up across a couple of the league’s best wide receivers in Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. this season and, for the most part, held his own.

However, Mills still has a long way to go before he can be trusted with a full-time gig as an outside cornerback. His confidence is unrivaled, but he lacks the speed necessary to regularly cover some of the league’s faster receivers.

The Eagles will likely look to add a corner or two during the offseason. With the return of Ron Brooks in 2017, it will be interesting to see where Mills will line up in his second season.

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