Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson reunite Sunday when the Washington Commanders host the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of a new era for each franchise.
Washington is playing its first game as commanders and with Wentz as the starting quarterback after trailing eight players in that position the previous three years, and coach Ron Rivera is banking on Wentz to get the team back to the playoffs.
Pederson is coaching his first game with the Jaguars, tasked with turning around the lowly NFL franchise after an ill-fated season with Urban Meyer in charge.
Less than two years from their time with Philadelphia, which included winning the Super Bowl in the 2017 season after the QB tore the ACL in his left knee in December, Wentz and Pederson go head-to-head. another to get his last job. a winning start.
“It’s going to be fun to watch him play,” Pederson said. “He’s on the other side and we want to win, but he’s a competitor. He’s going to do everything in his power to win this football game too, and I can’t wait to meet him.
In a cruel twist to scheduling, Wentz faces the Jaguars again after losing to them in the season finale with Indianapolis last season, when he turned the ball over twice and the Colts missed. their chance to qualify for the playoffs. After owner Jim Irsay questioned whether acquiring Wentz was a mistake, the Colts traded him to Washington — his third team in as many seasons.
Wentz called it a “funny story” for others, but said it was only week 1 for him.
“It’s another game of football,” Wentz said. “Last year was last year. It was another team. I was with another team. They were coached by another coach. Lots of new things, so for me it’s a entirely new script that we are starting and hopefully starting the right way.
Commanders have legitimate playoff expectations in Rivera’s third season as coach and chief football operations officer, particularly because they have what now appears to be a weak schedule. But that obviously hinges on winning games against teams like Jacksonville and Week 2 opponent Detroit, although everyone expects the Jaguars to improve under Pederson.
“They’re going to be trained differently,” Rivera said. “Their outlook and their approach will be different, they’ll be doing like we did a few years ago and trying to get away from who they were. Doug will do his best to get these guys heading into the good direction.
There’s not a lot of direction to go but after finishing last in the NFL each of the past two seasons, including a 2-11 record under Meyer last year before he was fired. One of the rewards for being in the league’s basement was the ability to select quarterback Trevor Lawrence and pass rusher Travon Walker with the top picks of the past two drafts.
Pederson can now try coaching Lawrence like he did with Wentz, although the situation is different. He coached the Eagles when they picked second Wentz in 2016 and was able to mold him early on and support Lawrence’s learning curve later in the process.
“Although we saw tremendous growth from Trevor, Year 2 for Carson with us, there was another step, another leap there,” Pederson said. “Those are things that we’re trying to bring Trevor to: that level with Trevor in our system. And you’re probably going to see that throughout the season, but I think time will tell.”
Time will also tell on Jaguars running back James Robinson, who is returning after tearing his left Achilles tendon late last season.
Washington changed its name as Commanders in February after dropping the Redskins name in the summer of 2020. The organization was known as the Washington Football Team for the past two seasons during the transition.
“It’s cool to be involved in something new,” Wentz said. “We’re looking forward to going there with a new sense of mission, so to speak, and a new purpose.”
Jacksonville will look to end two long losing streaks in Game 1. The Jaguars have lost 17 straight road games, tied for the ninth-longest slip away from home since the AFL-NFL merger, and have lost an NFL record 16 in a row against NFC teams.
The NFL’s record slippage involves two head coaches — Doug Marrone and Meyer — and seven starting quarterbacks. Lawrence went 0-5 against the NFC as a rookie last season. Gardner Minshew (0-4), Blake Bortles (0-2), Mike Glennon (0-2), Nick Foles (0-1), Jake Luton (0-1) and Cody Kessler (0-1) also contributed to the series.
Jacksonville’s last win against the NFC came at the New York Giants in the 2018 season opener.
GIBSON WORKS WITHOUT ROBINSON
Rookie Brian Robinson Jr. was expected to be Washington’s starting running back before he was shot twice in the right leg in a steal attempt Aug. 28. .
With Robinson out at least the first four games, it’s Gibson’s job again, and Rivera said the COs trust him and “are going to give him the ball.”
“I will go back to playing football and having fun,” Gibson said. “I still feel like one of the best running backs in the league and I have something to prove.”
Five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff says it’s “gonna be really weird” to return to where he spent the first seven years of his NFL career.
Scherff signed a three-year, $49.5 million deal to join Jacksonville in free agency, leaving behind a place he’s called home for nearly a quarter of his life.
“I had a lot of fun, a lot of memories, but it’s going to be different,” he said.
AP Pro Football Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville contributed.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL