Weekend Reading: Reactions To Wentz’s Debut

Plus: How is the special teams unit experimenting with the new touchback rule?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

After the Eagles’ win against Tampa Bay on Thursday, here’s this weekend’s roundup of some of the national stories regarding the Birds:

Carson Wentz was impressive in his debut, writes FoxSports.com’s Dieter Kurtenbach.

He has ‘it’

Anyone can watch North Dakota State film or the scouting combine and think they’ll know what Wentz will be at the NFL level, but until he goes against NFL competition, no one has any idea.

Thursday’s game didn’t exactly put Wentz up against first-string guys, but there should be no concern that he won’t be able to adapt to the speed of the NFL game in due time. Wentz showed exciting athleticism, some fearlessness, and perhaps most importantly, toughness. In short: He looked the part.

The average-at-best numbers — 12 of 24, 89 yards, no touchdowns and an interception — can’t all be chalked up to Wentz. While the rookie did overthrow a few receivers, the Eagles offensive line was a sieve and their receivers were unable to get open all night. The interception came because his arm was hit on the play. Could the ball have come out sooner? Probably, but there aren’t many NFL quarterbacks who avoid that turnover. Ultimately, Wentz showed the ability to make big plays Thursday, and while the numbers might not reflect that, the potential should get Eagles fans excited.

NFL.com’s Marc Sessler also came away with more positives than negatives for Wentz.

His final numbers — 12-of-24 passing for 89 yards — were far from fantasy gold, but forget the statistics. Wentz calmly ran the offense and even sampled the zone-read during a fourth-quarter scamper that saw him flip over a defender just short of the sticks.

The rookie was done after a late, fourth-quarter march that ended on downs. That final drive was capped by a devastating hit that left Wentz lying face down on the unforgiving grass.

He got back up, though, walking off the field to ponder an NFL debut that wasn’t perfect — but offered a glimpse of why the Eagles view Wentz at their quarterback of the future.

Although Wentz provided some hope, there were times when he didn’t get enough, pens Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk.

Playing behind a sketchy set of offensive linemen and in an offense that lacks playmakers in the starting group, the second pick in the draft had a decidedly so-so debut.

Wentz was 12-of-24 passing for 89 yards and threw an interception, which taken without context is a pretty shabby stat line. But he also was the victim of several drops, moved the Eagles downfield well (before the pick in the end zone), and flashed some athleticism, though his attempt to hurdle a Buccaneers defender led to him flying upside down. There were also the requisite chants of “We Want Wentz” from the ever-patient Eagles fans, though they’re going to have to wait.

“It was fun,” Wentz said in quotes distributed by the team. “The first opportunity I had I’m running the two-minute drill, so I enjoyed that. I hadn’t had a ton of reps of it in practice, but it was fun out there. I was finally able to take some hits. It’s been

“I was finally able to take some hits. It’s been a while since that’s happened. Overall, I had a lot of fun out there and there are definitely some things to improve on for myself and as a team. But it was enjoyable.”

Could Wentz take over as the No. 2 quarterback? Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus doesn’t think so just yet.

Daniel didn’t have a great outing last night against the Bucs, completing just five of the 12 passes he attempted, with no completions traveling more than 10 yards downfield. He wasn’t great under pressure, finishing the game with a quarterback rating of 39.6 on plays where the Tampa Bay defense got to him.

So the stage was set for Wentz to impress—and potentially put pressure on Daniel—as the No. 2 quarterback. The Eagles gave him plenty of work, with 21 passes attempted by the former North Dakota State signal-caller, but Wentz wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunity. He completed just one pass traveling 10 yards or more downfield, but it was under pressure where he really struggled. The Buccaneers got pressure on 11 of Wentz’s dropbacks, with the QB scrambling on one; he completed just three passes on the other 10. Adding an interception, he had a quarterback rating of 0.0 on throws under pressure. Bradford is the starter, but at least for now, Wentz hasn’t done anything to elevate himself to the primary backup job.

Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus gave out high marks for some of the rookies on defense, while it was the opposite for the offensive line.

Offense: I know they trotted out a myriad of backup offensive linemen, but yikes, this was a rough performance. Rookies Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Darrell Greene all took in on the chin for most of the game, while free-agent acquisition Stefen Wisniewski was equally ugly. The closest thing to a standout was running back Kenjon Barner, who made Kwon Alexander miss on a flat route for a first down and had multiple nice cuts in the run game.

Defense: The Philly D made the opening kickoff a statement for the remainder of the game. Eagles LB Najee Goode stripped Bucs WR Kenny Bell of the football on the opening play, and their ensuing drive was capped off by a five-yard Ryan Mathews touchdown run. The defense combined for four sacks, 14 hurries and the three interceptions. FS Jaylen Watkins, Oregon rookie LB Joe Walker (five apiece) led the team in tackles, while DI Beau Allen racked up a sack, a hit and a hurry in only 16 plays against the pass. Florida rookie DE Alex McAlister also chipped in with a pair quarterback pressures of his own.

Sam Bradford has been really good during training camp, writes Albert Breer of the MMQB.

My understanding from those around the Eagles is Bradford has been outstanding—looking healthy and impressing with his accuracy and anticipation. That’s good, of course, because it’s good to have a good quarterback. But it’s also important because it’ll give the Eagles time to work with Carson Wentz away from the bright lights of game day. One thing scouts pointed out about Wentz pre-draft is that it looked like everything came a little slow (release, ability to process, decision-making, etc.) with him on tape—and that was at the FCS level. The ability’s there, but Wentz needs to be sped up, and it’ll be easier to that do that in an environment where he won’t be tempted to revert.

It’s an idea that Doug Pederson seemed to confirm when he talked about the rookie after Monday’s practice with the Philly media. “It’s all mechanics,” Pederson said. “It’s all about the mechanics, but it’s also a decision-making process in the information, and seeing what he’s seeing relatively fast. And in this game, lanes are tight. Just being able to get the ball out on time sometimes can affect how a quarterback throws.” So Bradford’s progress, and Chase Daniel’s work staying on his tail, should give the Eagles the type of flexibility they coveted this offseason. If Bradford crushes it? Well, that’s the beauty of the two-year deal the Eagles signed him to. The option would then be there to deal him early next year, and recoup some of the draft capital they lost in trading for Wentz.

With Chase Daniel and Wentz behind Bradford, the Eagles have the best backup quarterback situation in the league, opines Field Yates of ESPN In$ider.

The pipeline of quarterback talent behind starter Sam Bradford includes Chase Daniel, a hand-picked addition this offseason who knows the offensive system new coach Doug Pederson will run, plus Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in 2016. Bradford will likely be a stopgap leading to Wentz, the former North Dakota State QB who is the future for the Eagles.

Our old pal Adam Hermann over at the Daily News reports on how Dave Fipp, along with kickers Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis, are experimenting with the new touchback rule.

Both Parkey and special teamer Trey Burton pointed out another key part of the team’s short-kickoff strategy: angle toward a corner.

“You’re really just trying to get under the ball a little bit and aim it,” Parkey said. “You want to go either left or right with it, try to push them in a corner and make it hard for them to get out. On some kicks you’re still going to kick it deep, and on some kicks you’re going to be asked to kick it shorter. The goal is to make them not know what you’re going to do. I try to line up the same time and make it different for them.”

Burton said the team was definitely trying to force the Buccaneers’ receivers into returning the kickoffs Thursday night.

Next week’s game in Pittsburgh against the Steelers will be a preseason game to watch, according to Cameron DaSilva of FoxSports.com.

Eagles QB Sam Bradford will be the regular-season starter, but that doesn’t mean his job is completely safe. Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz, both of whom should play plenty in this Week 2 duel, could push Bradford for the starting gig if he struggles early in the season. The Steelers boast one of the league’s top offenses, and they’ll get to see what life without Le’Veon Bell – who’s facing a four-game suspension – will be like when he’s on the bench.

The Eagles have the 10th-best fanbase in the league, opines the NFL writers over at CBSSports.com.

As a member of the media, I’m contractually obligated to mention the time that Eagles fans booed Santa. We’re not going to hold that against them though because sometimes Santa deserves to be booed, and also, that booing incident happened almost 50 years ago. We could also bring up the time they cheered after Michael Irvin suffered a serious injury or the time time that an Eagles fan stole a prosthetic leg from a homeless guy, but there’s no need to. Our panel has spoken and our panel says the Eagles have the 10th-best fan base in the NFL.

Famous Eagles fan you should know: Bradley Cooper. Anyone who’s willing to dress up as a mascot is clearly serious about their team.

Highest Eagles ranking: 8 (Breech, Wilson)
Lowest Eagles ranking: 23 (Dubin)