Jared Goff vs. Carson Wentz.
It's the storyline of the week — and for good reason. The quarterbacks were selected No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. Each team traded up to get their respective signal-caller. And now both Goff and Wentz are leading the highest scoring teams in the NFL, as the Rams and Eagles are tied scoring 30.1 points per game.
Goff and Wentz squaring off The magnitude of the matchup — with the Eagles currently No. 2 and the Rams No. 3 in NFC playoff seeding — only heightens its intrigue.
But when you ask Goff what it's going to be like to play against Wentz on the same field, he'll point something out.
"We won't be on the field at the same time. Actually, one of us will be on the sidelines and one of us will be out there," Goff said on Wednesday, smiling. "But, it'll be fun. It'll be good to see him, it'll be good to compete in the same game as him. but at the same time, we're focused on such different things."
"I think everybody has a tendency to say it's Jared vs. Carson," head coach Sean McVay said after Sunday's game. "But really Jared is going to be going against Philadelphia's defense and Carson will be going against our defense."
And it's true — the two quarterbacks won't be between the white lines at the same time. But given the position they play and how they were drafted, it's plainly understandable why the Goff and Wentz are the natural storyline this week.
"Yeah, obviously we'll be forever linked because of the draft and everything," Wentz said on a conference call with L.A. media. "And I think we're both excited for this game and just for those matchups in the future."
Goff and Wentz struck up a friendship last year during the pre-draft process — one that Wentz said feels like really long time ago. But ever since then, the two have kept in touch.
"[L]ast year and this year we've shot a couple texts back and forth," Wentz said. "We're good friends. We got along great during the pre-draft process, we share the same agent and everything."
And in many ways, each quarterback has kept up with the other's 2017 success. Both Goff and Wentz mentioned how they've watch the other play with the Rams' and Eagles' common opponents.
"A lot of our film has crossed over, so we do actually watch a lot of their offense," Goff said. "He's been tremendous this year. Everything he's been doing, especially his ability to extend plays and make plays outside the pocket —I know that's always something he was always really good at and is continuing to get really good at."
"I've seen him on film a handful of times and yeah, I've just been impressed with the year that he's been having," Wentz said. "I don't follow it too well, but seeing him on tape and everything you just see some of the throws he makes and some of the things they're doing offensively down there and he's having a great year and it's exciting for him"
McVay saw Wentz twice last year — though he didn't quit coach against him as Washington's offensive coordinator. But that tie to the NFC East gives McVay an appreciate for Wentz's progress from his rookie year to now.
"He was a mature guy coming out of college just watching the way that he handled himself, carried himself, exhausting his eligibility in college," McVay said on Wednesday. "I think just watching Carson immediately come in and be impressive as a rookie and then you watch from year one to year two, the growth has been extremely impressive to watch. It's why he's in consideration — he's talked about as one of the best in the league."
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Both Wentz and Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson credited a full offseason program and a second year with the same coaching staff as a significant factor in the quarterback's progression.
"I think just me and everybody along with me just being in the system more," Wentz said. "Working that tightly with coach all the way back in the offseason. Coach Pederson tweaking things here and there and just brainstorming different ideas. Both he and I get together a lot and just talk through things. … The thing that I think makes us tough to defend is just we can kind of just plug and play at the different positions. Receiver, tight end, running back and guys make plays. We just have a lot of versatility and a lot of depth at these positions. So that just makes my job so much easier."
"It's just the way he prepares, the way he studies, the way he pays attention to detail, his accuracy — his accuracy obviously has improved this season, a lot more accurate with his throws, decision-making, things like that," Pederson said. "So those are all things that we've seen and still has a lot of room to grow."
And with those aforementioned common opponents, Pederson has noticed just how well Goff has played in his first year under McVay.
"It's fun to watch quite honestly," Pederson said. "Just to see the growth in his play and all the things that we saw in him when we were scouting and working him out and evaluating all these quarterbacks a year ago — this is exactly what we saw. It's exciting. Obviously, he is well coached there, he's got some great minds on offense and really just putting him in a position to be successful. And quite honestly, that's kind of the formula that we try to take each and every week."
Going up against Philadelphia's strong defense will certainly pose a challenge for Goff on Sunday. The club is allowing just 17.9 points per game, and is tied for No. 7 with 33.0 sacks this year. Defensive end Brandon Graham is leading the way in that category with 8.5.
"They're really good. They're one of the top defenses in the league and for a reason," Goff said. "Upfront – those front four are four of the best we're probably going to play all year, so we're going to have to get prepared for them. But at the same time, our front five are pretty good themselves. It'll be a good matchup for us."
But it's all going to come back to that marquee matchup: Goff vs. Wentz. The two will certainly greet each other postgame, and perhaps pregame as well. And no matter what happens between the first and final whistle, that meeting will be full of mutual respect.
"At the end of the day they're a great football team and so are we right now, so there's a lot riding on this one just because we've got two good NFC opponents — so there's a lot more at stake than just me versus Jared and everything," Wentz said. "But, at the same time it's definitely exciting."
"I look forward to saying, 'Hi' and what not and chatting with him," Goff said. "Besides that, I just have a lot of respect for what he's done this year. I'm very happy for him and look forward to seeing him."