Eagles Wake-Up Call: Reviewing Wentz’s First Game
Facing third-and-6 on Tampa Bay’s 29-yard-line in the beginning of the fourth quarter last night, Carson Wentz thought he was going to score a touchdown. Instead of handing the ball off to Byron Marshall out of shotgun, the rookie quarterback recognized the defense was in zero blitz, so he thought he could reach the end zone if he got around the left edge.
Instead, Buccaneers cornerback Javien Elliott peeled off of a block and dove low at Wentz, prompting the second overall pick to do a somersault in the air, turning the play from a potential score into a learning experience, as so many were last night in Wentz’s first game.
“[I was thinking] I hope I don’t land on my neck,” Wentz said after the Eagles’ 17-9 win. “I landed fine, though, and I was good, but a lot of guys were like, ‘You have to get your butt down.’ I’ll learn from that.”
Still, the 5-yard run was yet another display of Wentz’s athleticism and play-making ability on the move. His numbers weren’t impressive — he went 12-of-24 for 89 passing yards and one interception — but he flashed his talent several times, while his teammates and coaches came away universally excited.
Because Sam Bradford was quickly pulled from the game after the Eagles’ opening touchdown drive and Chase Daniel received a large of first-half snaps, Doug Pederson plugged Wentz in at the end of the first half to see how the rookie would fare in the two-minute drill. Wentz sailed a couple of his early throws high and completed just two of his five pass attempts for 22 yards, but Bradford raved about the backup.
“I thought Carson did a great job out there tonight,” Bradford said. “I thought he did a great job in the pocket with his movement. He looked athletic and made some tough throws. He made some really smart decisions to throw the ball away when it wasn’t there. I was really impressed with the way he handled himself out there tonight in his first game.
“He had a great demeanor. He was really calm. Obviously, I think anyone would be nervous in that position. I know I was nervous before my first start. But he kept it light over there and he was positive. I was really impressed with the way he handled himself tonight.”
Wentz’s poise was universally praised in the Eagles’ locker room after the game, as was his mobility. He consistently eluded pressure, extended plays and kept drives alive because of his athleticism and ability to throw on the run. While some of those plays were designed naked bootlegs, other were simply improvisation.
Although Wentz’s playing time will likely decrease over the next two weeks as Bradford’s and Daniel’s combined snaps are expected to grow, he will probably play the bulk of the fourth preseason game, which is the next time he’ll be in the Linc.
“I love his toughness. You saw some of the shots he took tonight. He stood in the pocket and bounced back from some tough hits. You know, the fact that he was able to move the team. But I was pleased overall with what he did,” Pederson said.
“All (of his mistakes) are fixable; all things that are correctable. For a young quarterback, it was a tremendous opportunity to get the amount of snaps that he got. I just look forward to next week, again, playing another game.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“We’ve gotta be smart about it to have people ready to go if it is upheld.” Doug Pederson on planning for life without Lane Johnson.
Carson Wentz’s debut was the main event in last night’s preseason victory over Tampa Bay.
Some instant observations after the clock hit all zeros.
Check out our open thread from last night’s game and see what you missed.
A warrior by birth: The incredible 7,000-mile journey Destiny Vaeao made from American Samoa to Philadelphia, and all of the challenges that came with it.
What we were looking for in the preseason opener.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Jim Schwartz’s defense had an impressive debut, writes Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.
The starting defense took more snaps than anticipated, particularly in comparison to [Doug] Pederson‘s first-team offense – the majority of players were pulled after three plays. But Schwartz appeared to be countering the Bucs’ decision to play their starters for about a quarter.
He even used his first group of linemen – ends Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin and tackles Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan – deep into the second quarter against the Tampa’s second offense.
Graham flashed early against the run. He blew up one rush and stopped another ballcarrier at the line. Cox and Logan combined to sack quarterback Jameis Winston, who fumbled. Barwin notched a coverage sack later on.
If Schwartz can consistently get pressure from that group, he won’t have to blitz like [Jim] Johnson and he’ll be able to support suspect cornerbacks and linebackers on the back end. If the rush can’t get home – as was the case during the Bucs’ third series – there may be a lot of the Leodis McKelvins and Nigel Bradhams of the defense getting beaten in man coverage.
Byron Marshall and Cedric O’Neal are both undrafted free agents running backs with the potential to make the team, writes Paul Domowitch of the Daily News.
The pair made their NFL debuts Thursday night in the Eagles’ 17-9 preseason win over the Tampa Bay Bucs at the Linc.
Both Marshall and O’Neal entered the Bucs game very much in the hunt for a roster spot, despite their undrafted status.
Because of injuries to Ryan Mathews and rookie fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood, and the Eagles’ wise decision to limit 33-year-old Darren Sproles’ contact work, Marshall and O’Neal have gotten a lot of practice reps in training camp the last two weeks. Certainly a lot more than undrafted free agents normally get. And, for the most part, they’ve taken advantage of them.
Like most of the rest of the offensive starters, Mathews played just one series against the Bucs, rushing for 15 yards on two carries, including a beautifully executed 5-yard touchdown run out of a three-tight end set.
More from last night’s victory.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.