Eagles Wake-Up Call: Doug Pederson Says Carson Wentz Is Playing Like A 10-Year Veteran
Given the way Carson Wentz has performed through the first two games of his career, it’s almost easy to forget he’s a rookie quarterback.
The 23-year-old passer has shown great poise and looks seasoned beyond his limited playing experience. Wentz once again impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in Philadelphia’s 29 to 14 victory over the Bears on Monday Night Football.
“I thought he played well,” said Pederson. “Obviously, well enough to win. Again, he took care of the football and stood in there and made some nice, tough throws.”
“Again, was it perfect? By no means was it perfect. At the same time, he’s seeing things really well. He’s commanding the huddle and the dialogue along the sideline with players and coaches with him is something that a nine [or] 10-year vet would do. It’s just shown his maturity and the ability that he has to play quarterback.”
The confidence Philadelphia’s coaching staff has in Wentz was apparent early on. Right after Jim Schwartz’s defense forced Chicago’s offense to a three-and-out on the opening possession, the Eagles got the ball back and engineered a no-huddle attack to get the team in scoring position.
“The throws were possession type throws,” said Pederson of the drive that ultimately ended in a 25-yard field goal. “They were throws that were out of his hand fast. Things we had seen on tape from Chicago in empty formations. Great way to get our quarterback in a rhythm early and kind of get him settled in.”
Wentz added that the Eagles intentionally planned to stay in the no-huddle if he made a completion early on. The rookie said it gave him confidence that carried over into the rest of the game.
There are times when Wentz looks a little bit too confident, however. Once again, he took a number of shots to his body, with some of them being completely unnecessary. For example, Wentz could have ran out of bounds after taking off running on one play but instead spun right into a defender and took a big hit. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich praised Wentz’s toughness earlier this week, but self-preservation is obviously important in the NFL.
“Yeah, after the first one, and then the second one, you just continue to talk to him about protecting him,” Pederson said. “We just had those conversations again on the sideline. He understands. It’s something that we just got to continue to keep talking. It’s not that I need that extra yard right now. I just need him to protect himself and get out of bounds when he can, throw it away when he can, and use that to his favor.”
One interesting aspect to Wentz’s success so far is that he hasn’t relied on his mobility in terms of picking up yards with his legs. Through two games, he has a combined 11 rushing yards. Instead of looking to take off running Wentz has done a good job of keeping his eyes down the field.
“That’s what makes him a good pocket passer,” said Pederson. “He’s been able to see the entire field that way. When guys are falling around his feet and the pocket kind of collapses, he’s always looking to make a play down the field. And even on some of those scrambles tonight he took some shots down the field. We didn’t capitalize on them, but it’s great to see he can see that part of the field.”
It’s only been two games, and the Eagles haven’t faced the stiffest competition, but it’s clear Wentz has shown signs of being a special player. The rookie quarterback is a big reason why the Birds are off to such a good start in 2016.
WHAT YOU MISSED
What we saw from last night’s impressive 29-14 win over the Bears.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
It was another great performance for Carson Wentz, pens Zach Berman of the Inquirer.
For Wentz, it was another performance that made him look more like someone who’s played eight seasons than eight quarters. He finished 21 of 34 for 190 yards and one touchdown, and he went another week without a turnover. He was helped by [Doug] Pederson‘s play-calling and a defense that has only allowed only two touchdowns in two weeks and has forced four turnovers. The leading receiver was Jordan Matthews, who had six catches for 71 yards. Tight end Trey Burton replaced the injured Zach Ertz and caught five passes for 49 yards and a score. Ryan Mathews also reached the end zone twice on 12 carries and totaled 32 rushing yards.
The Eagles turned a 9-7 halftime lead into a rout during the second half with a defense that devastated Chicago’s offense – and eventually sent Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to the locker room – and an offense that stopped settling for field goals and started finding the end zone.
It started with an eight-play, 68-yard drive late in the third quarter during which Wentz completed all three pass attempts and Mathews stayed on his feet to stumble into the end zone for a 3-yard score.
The Bears had possession for only one play. Cutler threw a short pass that Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham intercepted at the Bears 30-yard line and returned 28 yards to the 2-yard line. That was Cutler’s last play; he left with a hand injury suffered earlier in the quarter, when Eagles rookie defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao sacked Cutler and forced a fumble. Cutler tried to continue playing, but he was eventually relieved by Brian Hoyer.
Wentz made sure the Eagles had a bigger lead by the time Hoyer entered the game. He hit Trey Burton on a 2-yard touchdown pass on the first play after the turnover. Although Caleb Sturgis missed the extra point, the 21-second sequence changed the game. The score went from 9-7 to 22-7, and the Eagles showed no mercy.
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News gives high marks to the passing offense and the run defense.
Playing in his first NFL road game, Carson Wentz turned in another solid performance. Even though Zach Ertz, one of his go-to receivers, was sidelined, Wentz completed 19 of 31 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the first three quarters and played his second game without a turnover. Trey Burton, who replaced Ertz, had five of those 19 catches, including a 2-yard TD.
The Eagles shut down the Bears’ ground game. They held Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey to 8 yards on six carries in the first half. For the game, the Bears totaled just 64 rushing yards.
Playing on the road with a rookie quarterback and without two of their key players – cornerback Leodis McKelvin and tight end Zach Ertz – this is a game the Eagles easily could have lost. But Carson Wentz turned in another excellent effort and so did the defense.
Doug Pederson will talk to the media at noon.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.