Jay Cutler Empathizes With Carson Wentz

Plus: Which positions are still a weak spot for the Eagles?

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

Photo by: USA Today Sports.

In this week’s edition of Weekend Reading, here are the best Eagles links from around the web as the Birds prepare for their Monday Night Football showdown against the Chicago Bears.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler can relate to Wentz as a fellow first-round pick, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com.

Unlike Wentz, however, Cutler had the good fortune of watching from the sidelines until the final five games that year.

“I mean I had the luxury of being able to sit and watch Jake Plummer,” Cutler said. “I was on a really veteran team and I was able to sit for most of the season and kind of learn and kind of figure it out and then got thrown in there later on. To play right off the bat coming in, these guys that get drafted — they’re probably a little bit better prepared than we were 10, 12 years ago. They see more looks. The whole predraft process is so involved now, but you still have to go out there and strap it up and play and it’s not easy.”

Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan exercised some patience with Cutler, but expectations were still high. Denver drafted Cutler to be their quarterback of the future, and the same line of thinking applies to Wentz, who went second overall to Philadelphia out of North Dakota State, where he led the Bison to back-to-back NCAA Division I FCS national championships.

From that perspective, Cutler knows exactly what Wentz will encounter on a daily basis.

“It’s difficult,” Cutler said. “I think he’s in a good spot. I think [Eagles coach] Doug [Pederson] understands that position really well and you can’t lean on that guy that much early on. It has to be a team sport. You have to put him in position to be successful and you have to hope that your offense is going to grow together for two or three years, because changing coaches, changing offensive coordinators is hard on a young quarterback.”

Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes the Bears hope to give Wentz a taste of reality in the NFL.

“He’s pretty damn impressive,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “It looks now like Philadelphia is going to be very well rewarded for the risk they took on draft day, giving up a lot of (picks) to get this guy. He looks like he’s going to be, long-term, a hell of a quarterback.”

After Fangio dissected video of Wentz’s debut, he appreciated many of the traits that prompted the Eagles to trade up to draft him — big arm, mobility, poise and command of the offense.

They’re the same things Bears cornerback Deiondre’ Hall learned about Wentz playing against him twice in college.

“He has a cannon for an arm,” said Hall, who played for Northern Iowa at the FCS level. “And he was always a really smart quarterback. He reads defenses very well from my experiences against him. Plus, he’s not afraid to run if he gets in trouble.”

The Ringer’s Claire McNear writes about the second act of Howie Roseman with the Eagles.

Imagine getting fired. Imagine if HR forgot to walk you out of the building and confiscate your key fob, and you just kept showing up every Monday and coming to meetings anyway. Imagine if you did this until your new boss fucked up, and then suddenly you cleared your throat and sent a RED EXCLAMATION POINT IMPORTANT EMAIL to the whole office announcing that you bought donuts for everyone, and by the way you’ve been going through last year’s invoices and have thought of some really innovative ways to cut down on third-quarter costs. And then, voilà, you’re back in charge. This is basically what Roseman has done.

So now Roseman once again holds the reins in Philadelphia. He promptly set about dismantling the [Chip] Kelly regime and rekindling, sort of, the [Andy] Reid era, bringing in Doug Pederson, Reid’s longtime protégé, to coach. The Eagles fired Ed Marynowitz, Kelly’s vice president of player personnel; Roseman traded away [DeMarco] Murray, [Kiko] Alonso, [Byron] Maxwell, and other cornerstones of the Kelly roster. This time around, Roseman promised good, old-fashioned football; there would be none of the splashy, expensive acquisitions that landed the Eagles in trouble — or at least mediocrity — before.

But, see, here’s the thing about good, old-fashioned football: It’s boring. It’s really boring, and no way to make a name for football’s formerly youngest GM, the man who endured a purge long enough to carry out his own, the boy who dreamed of leading a front office and now has been given a second chance to do so. So Roseman traded up, and then up again, in this year’s NFL draft — and now there is Wentz, a quarterback out of FCS North Dakota State, taken at no. 2 overall. Days before the season, Roseman sent Bradford, with whom the team inked a two-year, $36 million deal less than six months ago, to the quarterback-starved Vikings, prompting a collective what.

If you have Jordan Matthews or the Eagles defense on your fantasy team, you should start them, according to Michael Fabiano of NFL.com.

Jordan Matthews vs. Chicago Bears

This might be a case of chasing the fantasy points, but I’ll bite because Matthews has a solid matchup ahead against the Bears. Last week, Chicago surrendered almost 30 fantasy points to Houston’s wideouts (including two touchdowns). Couple that with his rapport with Carson Wentz, and Matthews is now on the WR2/3 radar for Week 2.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears

The Eagles put up an impressive 11 fantasy points in last week’s win over the Browns, and another favorable matchup awaits against turnover-prone quarterback in Jay Cutler and the Bears. Philadelphia’s defense is still a free agent in more than 70 percent of NFL.com leagues, so fantasy fans who like to stream are in business.

But stay away from Ryan Mathews this week, opines Matthew Berry of ESPN.com.

Ryan Mathews, Eagles: Mathews is averaging just 3.39 yards per carry in his past six games, so you’ll need a touchdown and volume to make him work this week. To which you say, yeah, I know, so what’s the issue? Well, the Bears actually possess a decent (not great, but not terrible, either) run defense, as they given up just nine rushing touchdowns since the start of last season. Yes, Lamar Miller had a huge day against them last week, but look closer. It took the Texans 35 carries to get to 129 rushing yards last week, just 3.7 yards per carry. I can’t see the Eagles committing to the run like that, especially in a game they could easily be trailing. Not a top-20 play for me this week.

The Eagles still have major holes to fill that carried over from last season, pens Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus.

The answer here is really the same as it was a year ago: wide receiver and cornerback. Unfortunately, those are arguably the two most important position groups after quarterback in the modern NFL. Jordan Matthews put up great numbers against Cleveland, but he still had two drops and well, it was against the Browns. Having a No. 1 receiver play primarily in the slot is rare in the NFL, as the Eagles are still without a true top wideout. At cornerback, Nolan Carroll is far more a starter by circumstance rather than anything he’s done in the past, and on Sunday he gave up 114 yards to Browns receivers. Much like Philadelphia’s receivers, there is some talent at corner, but in no way do they have a true No. 1 that you’d feel comfortable matching up with an elite wideout.

Without the services of Zach ErtzTrey Burton will probably play a pivotal role in the Eagles offense against the Bears, from Zach Berman of the Inquirer.

[Brent] Celek said the Eagles “need” Burton on Monday. He added that the plays Burton’s made in practice and the preseason are not by accident, and Celek doesn’t expect anything different in the game. Burton had seven catches for 48 yards and one touchdown in three preseason games.

Ertz was a valuable player for the Eagles in the opener. He’s one of the NFL’s best pass-catching tight ends, and caught six of seven targets that Wentz threw in his direction.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews said the Eagles are “not just going to replace” Ertz, and the responsibility falls on all the pass-catching options. The Eagles used two-tight end sets often last Sunday, but they could play more three-receiver sets against the Bears to get Dorial Green-Beckham or Josh Huff on the field with Matthews and Nelson Agholor.

The Eagles could also use more multiple-running back sets and utilize Darren Sproles as a receiver. Sproles would be valuable as a replacement for Ertz’s role as a safety valve last week, but that doesn’t belittle the presence Burton will have in the offense. Because for the first time in his career, Burton can go into a game as more than a core special teams player.

Wentz and Pederson are the only two Eagles ranked in the MMQB 100.

No. 74: Carson Wentz

The No. 2 overall pick’s entry into Philly’s starting lineup in 2015 was inevitable. That inevitability was recognized sooner than expected after Sam Bradford‘s unexpected trade to Minnesota. Despite coming out of FCS school North Dakota State, some of the most respected NFL analysts in the business declared Wentz the most pro ready rookie QB since Andrew Luck. He played well in a season-opening win over Cleveland. We’ll see how he fares against better defenses.

No. 58: Doug Pederson

Doug Pederson spent seven seasons working alongside Andy Reid with the Eagles and then the Chiefs. The Andy Reid Way is the only way Pederson really knows, which was not lost on the Eagles when they hired him to be their rookie head coach. He faces so many questions in a tough media market: Was making Carson Wentz the starter the right move? Did the front office do enough to improve a porous defense? When will this be a playoff team again?

GQ’s Jeff Vrabel takes a look at Connor Barwin’s weekly diet.

Monday and Tuesday: Total body heavy workout. “That’s where I’ll really put the load on,” he says. “Bench press heavy, squat heavy, power-clean relatively heavy. You need to feel that weight on your back, get used to pushing it.”

Wednesday and Thursday: “It’s more of an explosive lift. The weights cut back a little bit.”

Saturday: “I prime the system about 24 hours before the game. A lot of the new science says you can’t sit around the day before playing. On Saturdays, we’ll run around a little bit—hit close to top-end speed—to wake the body up.”

Game Day Breakfast
Barwin’s Sunday eats are an expanded version of his normal breakfast. “You’ve gotta have a balance,” he says. “It’s a lot to eat, but you don’t want to feel bloated.”

• Oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries • English muffin with cream cheese and honey • 2-3 hard-boiled eggs • 30-oz. protein shake with fruit and veggies (especially spinach and avocado) • Pasta and/or chicken breast (sometimes)