The good news is that the Eagles are undefeated heading into the bye week and Carson Wentz has already exceeded the city’s — and the team’s — expectations in his rookie season.
The bad news is that we’ve run out of things to say about him! (Note: Not actual bad news.)
Through three games, Wentz has thrown 102 passes, completing 66 of them — a number that could be higher were it not for nearly 10 drops — with a passer rating of 103.8, seventh best in the NFL and second for quarterbacks with 100 or more attempts after play completed on Sunday.
“When you’ve prepared so much as a player, particularly at the quarterback position, and the game can sort of slow down for you, good things can happen,” head coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the game. “He continues to make plays and he continues to protect the football. He protected himself [against Pittsburgh]. Everything right now is going in the right direction.”
Wentz has five touchdown passes to zero turnovers and while he faced weaker defenses in Cleveland and Chicago to start his career, he completed 74 percent of his passes for 301 yards and two scores against Pittsburgh, a team some (read: me) thought could fight for the Super Bowl.
And so, as we’ve (almost) already run out of things to say about Wentz, here are seven things everyone will be talking about as the Eagles head into the bye week. Feel free to copy and paste these thoughts into your Wentz-centric emails, Tweets, IGs, IMs, DMs, Slacks and Snaps. Sorry if they’re getting repetitive.
‘The Wentz Wagon is getting full’
Call it what you will. Wentzadelphia. Wentzylvania. The Wentzaware Valley. Okay that last one doesn’t work, but what does seem to be working is everything Wentz is doing on the field through three games.
“Everyone’s starting to play kind of inspired football,” Wentz said after the game. “Everyone is believing in each other. It’s been three great team wins.”
Maybe a little too great.
‘Wentz is so much better than Bradford. But…is he?’
This is the major storyline for the Eagles to start the season. Frankly, in 10 years we may look back on this era of Eagles football and remember the move Howie Roseman made to trade Sam Bradford and start the Wentz Era earlier than anyone, including the team, anticipated.
What’s great is that not only is Wentz playing well, so is Bradford. The Vikings are also undefeated and, without Adrian Peterson, Bradford led Minnesota to a 22-10 victory on the road against the defending NFC-champion Carolina Panthers. Through two games, Bradford is 40-of-59 (67.8 percent) with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
It’s hard to think the Eagles would have started the season this way without Wentz, but Bradford is proving the Vikings right by making the deal that set this season in motion.
Who is better? It’s a different situation with vastly different expectations. Still, probably Wentz.
‘Wentz barely got hit. Phew…”
‘… But what about with Lane Johnson out?’
The bye week comes at a great time for Philly, as Lane Johnson will be out for 10 games, pending appeal on October 4, and won’t be eligible to play until mid December. Pederson can use the extra week to figure out his options, as Allen Barbre is expected to slide from left guard to right tackle, and rookie Isaac Seumalo will start at guard. The problem is, Seumalo has been sidelined with an injury the last few weeks and isn’t getting any reps. Stefen Wisniewski can play guard too, and Matt Tobin can play tackle, but none of those options are as good as Johnson being there.
Both Wentz and Pederson have lauded the offensive line for giving him time to throw, and develop on the fly. The next 10 games will be a much bigger test.
‘Do the Eagles have the Rookie of the Year and the Coach of the Year right now?’
There is no doubt, even with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott playing well in Dallas, Wentz is the leader in the Rookie of the Year contest after three games. Could Pederson be in line for some hardware too?
It’s extremely early, yes, but given the expectations of the team — and for Pederson back when he was hired — it’s amazing where the Eagles are right now. Pederson is the first Eagles coach in franchise history to start his career 3-0. He has the confidence of his entire locker room, especially his quarterback.
“Doug’s great,” Wentz said after the game. “Coach Pederson, just for me, the communication we have is so clear and it’s just an open line. He really respects my opinion on plays, if I’m feeling something. He instills a lot of confidence in me, and that’s huge, especially for a young quarterback, to have a coach as player friendly as he is, it’s been great so far.”
‘When you get the ball to 43, good things happen.’
Darren Sproles only ran the ball twice, for negative one yard, but he led the team with six receptions for 128 yards and that 73-yard touchdown scamper, which broke the game wide open.
When asked about the scramble and toss to Sproles, Wentz said, “I always want to be a thrower first. Even when a play breaks down I’m always looking, because that’s where the big plays are happening. You know, me scrambling, yeah I might get 5-10-15-20 yards. I’m not that fast, though. I want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they are there, and that’s what happened.”
‘The Eagles sure do spread the ball around…’
Four players scored touchdowns on Sunday, as 12 players made the stat sheet with at least one rushing attempt or reception. Wendell Smallwood led the team in rushing on 17 carries for 79 yards and seven different players caught passes from Wentz, each with at least three targets and at least two receptions.
Smallwood had 15 of his 17 carries and 67 of his 79 yards in the second half, when he helped the Eagles close out the game on the ground.
“He’s a big, powerful guy. He’s a downhill guy, Pederson said of the 5-10, 208-lb Smallwood. “He’s a one-cut runner. He did a great job for us. Darren and Kenjon…those guys stepped up and did a wonderful job. To get first downs — and the end of the game to be smart about it and get the first down and to stay in bounds for a rookie is tremendous. It’s a great step forward with his development. Very happy with what he did.”
‘Sure, Wentz and the offense is fine, but this defense might be (gulp) great.’
The Eagles are plus-6 in turnover margin through three games, with only Minnesota having a better mark. In three games, Jim Schwartz’s unit has surrendered just 27 points, less than the team has scored in each of those three games.
There are surely things the defense needs to work on. The secondary — specifically the corners — have gotten beat over the top several times this season. The front seven has been fantastic when the team has the lead and they can attack the quarterback, but they haven’t had to play from behind too much this year, and it remains to be seen how they will react to a prolonged ground attack.
Still, the start is impressive, mostly because of the way they’ve finished.
The Eagles have given up just 10 points in the second half this season, seven of which came on a punt return for a score by the Bears in Week 2. Through three games, the Eagles have faced 17 second-half drives and have surrendered just three points.
On those 17 drives, the Birds have forced five punts, three fumbles, two interceptions, four turnovers on downs and a safety. The second-best drive against the Eagles in the second half this season was probably when time simply ran out for the opponent.
Is this defense that good? Probably not. But early on, like Wentz and the offense, everything is clicking. And everyone is talking about the Eagles.