What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Plenty of Carson Wentz news, and where do the Eagles start in the power rankings?

Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. (Jeff Fusco)

Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. (Jeff Fusco)

With the return of the NFL tonight, let’s take a look at some of the top stories surrounding the Eagles as they prepare for their season opener against the Browns:

Carson Wentz has impressed his fellow teammates and his coaches. Now can he do it in the regular season? Jeff McLane of the Inquirer has more.

Even when fractured ribs sidelined Wentz for three weeks of the preseason, the Eagles were not deterred. In fact, it was during that period, specifically a workout with receiver Jordan Matthews before the Colts game, that convinced [Howie] Roseman that Wentz was ready. He called it a “turning point.”

The drills were designed mostly to gauge Matthews’ recovery from a knee injury. Eagles coaches were in attendance, but Wentz ran the show.

“He was telling Jordan the route, he was telling Jordan the play, he was telling Jordan the formation, and it was so natural and it was so easy,” said Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations. “I remember Jordan coming up at the end of the workout saying, ‘I’m ready.’ And the second part was turning and flipping me the ball and going, ‘So’s he.'”

Matthews has been on the Wentz bandwagon since their first practice together in the spring, telling his girlfriend and anyone else who couldn’t attend the Eagles’ early practices that he was the real deal.

“The development and the technical stuff — the coaches all worry about that. I look at the dude and say, ‘OK, does this guy got it?’ He got it. He just has it,” Matthews said. “I love watching him. I love being around him. I like to see how he interacts with guys. He’s cerebral, but he don’t think too much. He’s a leader but he ain’t trying to lead.

“There’s something about him, bro, that when you’re around him you can tell that he’s a winner.”

Wentz will be named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, opines Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for Wentz and have been since I saw him torch Sam Houston State in the semifinals of the 2014 Division I-AA playoffs. He’s like one of those Pecos Bill tall tales. Here’s this kid who was 5-foot-10 in high school and had a 7-inch growth spurt in college. He apparently never has gotten a B at any level of school, and he graduated with a 4.0 GPA from NDSU. Add in the fact that he has a rocket for an arm, reportedly was well ahead of Sam Bradford in learning the playbook over the summer and was lying in a cornfield hunting geese when he found out the Eagles got rid of Bradford over the weekend and, well, that’s Sidd Finch-type stuff. But I’ve seen him. In the flesh. At the Senior Bowl. At the Combine. And at Eagles camp. He’s the real deal. And if he can learn to avoid big hits, Wentz can do big things in Philly right from go. All bets are on Ezekiel Elliott. Give me Wentz.

After the Browns didn’t see Wentz as a fit for their team, Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com writes the Eagles have the chance to prove the Browns wrong.

Cleveland’s reasons for passing on Wentz weren’t unorthodox. Indeed, at least part of the criticisms shared by Browns evaluators resonated inside other franchises. So what were they? A sizable component of Cleveland’s doubt in Wentz came down to game film, a source close to the Browns’ decision to pass told Yahoo Sports. When film rolled, evaluators were looking across the line of scrimmage in North Dakota State games and rarely saw opposing players with even fringe NFL talent. That was a significant concern.

And while Wentz played at a high level in college – and had many of the intangibles coaches look for in quarterbacks – the Browns didn’t see a franchise-changer who was consistently scorching a trail through his season. Often, when evaluators review an NFL prospect at a lower level of college football, they want to see dominance. And if that quarterback is going to be seriously considered for the No. 2 overall pick, they want to see something like Steve McNair at Alcorn State. Wentz was good, but he wasn’t that. He had some injury concerns from college, too.

Wentz will be fun to watch, but Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com questions how long he can stay healthy.

No one can question the Eagles’ faith in Wentz. His ascension to the starting job is a matter of circumstance (a first-rounder for Bradford!) and zealot-like belief. It’s not like the Eagles have seen Wentz perform in game situations. He missed nearly the entire preseason with broken ribs and was still in pain last week. During his one preseason outing, he fumbled, threw a nasty interception and averaged under four yards per attempt with shaky ball placement. Wentz also displayed the ability to make unblocked defenders miss like a young Russell Wilson. This is going to be fun to watch, but how long can he last?

One scout on SI.com thinks Wentz is overrated, while Cox is underrated.

Underrated: Fletcher Cox

Some people questioned his massive six-year, $103 million pay day, but if you listen to football people, they know he’s worth it. The key is that he plays with relentless tenacity and he is a really quality interior pass rusher.

Overrated: Carson Wentz

People talked about all the winning that he did in college, but he was really only a two-year starter. He sat on the bench for three years, and it’ll be a huge leap from where he was at North Dakota State to where he needs to be as the new starter of the Eagles in 2016. Philly fans are going to be tough on him. How will he handle that adversity? He has a hitch in his delivery where his elbow flares out, and he’s kind of a rigid guy in the pocket—mechanical is the word that comes to mind. Everybody talks about how smart he is, but that doesn’t always translate. Alex Smith is a classic example—as smart as he is, he does not make quick decisions on the field.

Extra Point

When you trade away as much as the Eagles did, you leave yourself without a ton of depth. They don’t have a whole lot of options at linebacker and in the secondary, and they are thin at running back as well. They may be two years away from getting back to a competitive level of play.

Our old friend, Tim McManus of ESPN.com, writes how Roseman used another big quarterback trade from a few years ago to set the price for Sam Bradford to the Vikings.

In need of some family time, talks resumed on Thursday. Given that the Philadelphia Eagles were just eight days out from their regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns, and the Vikings were inquiring about their starting quarterback, Roseman decided to cut to the chase.

“For us to do that, it would change the NFC North, it would change the NFC East, it would change the NFC as a whole. It puts our coaches in a really tough position. That’s going to be a situation that’s gotta be a no-brainer for our team. And I said, so what does that mean? I said, well, the Carson Palmer trade was like that and it was a one and a two,” Roseman recalled. “And [Rick Spielman] was just taken aback. And he said, ‘Well, that doesn’t make any sense.’ And I said, ‘No, it does.'”

The trade Roseman referenced came in October 2011 when the Cincinnati Bengals sent an unhappy and “retired” Palmer to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-round pick in 2013.

The Eagles ended up getting close to that in return, as Minnesota gave up a first-rounder in the upcoming draft and a conditional pick in 2018 that can become as high as a second-rounder, depending on how the Vikings perform with Bradford.

McManus also writes how the Eagles have traded the most players since Roseman assumed his role of general manager back in 2010.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Eagles have traded away 35 players since 2010 — the year Roseman assumed the role of general manager. They are tops in that category by a mile.

It should be noted that Chip Kelly was given full control in 2015 when four of those player deals were done, but the Roseman-led Eagles were still far-and-away the leaders in this category.

The two next closest teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers at 16 players traded each, have moved less than half as many since 2010.

While the Seahawks have demonstrated that a power can be built while going fairly trade-heavy, two of the more stable and successful franchises in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers (3) and the Green Bay Packers (4) are near the bottom of the list. The New York Giants have traded just one player over that period of time, per ESPN Stats & Information.

In the first week of power rankings, Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has the Eagles 26th in the league.

This ranking is indicative of where the Eagles are right now, not a commentary on the Sam Bradford trade. Heck, they made out like bandits in that deal with the Vikings. Philadelphia never would have received a first-round pick, much less a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick (which can become a second- or third-round choice), for Bradford six months ago. The 49ers got a second-round pick for Alex Smith in 2013, and I’d much rather have Smith than Bradford. As for the Eagles’ offense … well, we won’t go there. Second overall pick Carson Wentz barely played in the preseason, and veteran quarterback Chase Daniel averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, about 2 yards lower than where he should be.

Vinny Curry is poised for a breakout season, pens Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus.

Pigeonholed as an interior lineman in the Eagles 3-4 scheme, Curry was undersized, and as such, too much of a liability against the run to see any snaps outside of designated passing situations. Now playing defensive end in Jim Schwartz’ 4-3, Curry’s run issues are alleviated, and he’ll see far more than his career-high 433 snaps from a season ago. Curry’s 11.2 pass-rushing productivity trailed only Bengals DT Geno Atkins, Texans DE J.J. Watt, and Rams DT Aaron Donald last year among interior players.

You should start Ryan Mathews this week in fantasy football if he’s on your team, says Adam Meyer of FoxSports.com.

RB – Ryan Mathews, PHI (vs. CLE)

Rookie Carson Wentz will likely start for Philadelphia in the opening week, which is a good thing for Mathews. The offense will now revolve around the running game. He’s already benefiting from DeMarco Murray‘s departure and will now face a weak defense to begin his 2016 campaign. Last season, the Browns allowed their opponents’ RB to rush for at least 90 yards in seven of the first eight games.

Steven Means was the best edge rusher during the preseason, according to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus.

With 17 total pressures, Means tied for the league lead in the preseason, and unlike Detroit’s Kevin Hyder, spread them across his four games, rather than racking a dozen of them up in a single outing. Means had two sacks, four hits, 11 hurries, a batted pass and three defensive stops in his 131 snaps of preseason action.

Kelly is the most hated villain for Eagles fans, according to CBS Sports.

Marc Farzetta of CBS Sports Radio’s 94WIP in Philly has the perfect explanation as to why Eagles fans are still fuming about Chip Kelly.

“It’s easy to hate a person that plays against you, but what about a person that poisons from within?”

Kelly, unceremoniously dumped in December, is already onto his next NFL gig with the 49ers, but Farzetta said Eagles fans — and back-in-sway Howie Roseman — won’t soon forget the mess he made.

“Chip Kelly dealt away a franchise wide receiver (DeSean Jackson) and running back (LeSean McCoy), then traded for a mediocre quarterback (Sam Bradford),” Farzetta wrote. “He’s tried to reinvent the wheel, but when you do that, you can’t come back with a square. Kelly allowed it to all blow up in his face. Now Eagles fans have to watch the clean-up.”

Michael Strahan explains on The Tonight Show why he loves Eagles fans and how they would moon him.