Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz Continues To Look Special
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Not this soon, at least.
If not for Teddy Bridgewater suffering a highly unfortunate knee injury in late August, Carson Wentz was merely going to be the Eagles’ third string quarterback this season. He was going to be inactive on game day.
But that all changed.
Sam Bradford is gone and now it’s Wentz show. And the rookie quarterback is off to an unbelievable start. The 23-year-old passer from North Dakota State is a big part of why his team is 3-0. He’s yet to throw an interception despite logging 102 attempts through three games. He’s thrown five touchdowns in that span and the truth is he should have a few more if not for some poor drops from his wide receivers.
Wentz’s early success has come as a surprise to many. But not to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.
“You know, you just put on his college film,” said Pederson when asked about Wentz’s quick development. “Just watch him. We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”
The play Pederson references here was breath-taking to watch in person. It was third-and-eight and Wentz had a rusher bearing down on him. But the rookie did not panic. Instead, he improvised and threw a touchdown.
“I was reading the other side of the field, somebody stepped across my face from the Steelers, and I just stepped up and turned into scramble mode,” Wentz explained. “I came out and saw Sproles and he just turned up the field. Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it.”
And Sproles brings the ZOOM.
73 yards! #FlyEaglesFly https://t.co/UMO0f3SyE6
— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2016
These are the kind of plays the Eagles must have envisioned when they made the bold decision to trade a large package of assets to move up to the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. These are the kind of plays that make one think the team has finally found their next true franchise quarterback.
Yes, it’s only been three games. But it’s been a very, very impressive three games. Forget the stats for a second. The kid from North Dakota just looks special out there on the field.
Wentz went toe-to-toe with a legitimate Super Bowl contender and potential future Hall of Fame quarterback on Sunday. He bested his competition with ease as the Eagles defeated the Steelers by a final score of 34 to 3. In the process, Wentz raised the expectations for himself and his team as a whole. One can only wonder how far Philadelphia can go with Wentz playing this well.
What’s undeniable is that there’s a palpable buzz in this city. The scene as fans were leaving Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday evening was nothing like it’s been in recent history. Fans and stadium staff alike were celebrating as everyone was leaving the stadium. It was an energy that hasn’t been present in quite some time.
There are a number of legitimate reasons to be excited about this Eagles team; Wentz isn’t the only one. Jim Schwartz’s defense looked outstanding in shutting down an elite Steelers offense. Pederson has shown serious head coaching chops.
But having a franchise quarterback changes everything. Wentz doesn’t only provide optimism for the 2016 season. This is just the beginning.
There’s hope in Philadelphia again. Hope that can last.
WHAT YOU MISSED
10 things we learned from the Eagles’ big win.
Observations from the Eagles’ 34-3 dominating win over the Steelers.
Check our Open Thread in case you missed anything from yesterday’s game.
The Eagles did not have Zach Ertz and Leodis McKelvin for the second straight game.
We made some picks for beating the spread in this week’s set of games.
Dale Lolley of the Observer-Reporter answered some questions about the Steelers.
All the info you needed for Sunday’s game.
“Come on, man. Fool’s gold.” Bart Scott wasn’t buying Carson Wentz‘s success in his first two games.
Which college football players did we keep an eye out for this weekend?
Were our game predictions for Sunday’s blowout win correct?
All-22: Why Jason Kelce struggled during the first two games of the season.
Ertz, McKelvin, and Isaac Seumalo should be fine for Week 5 against the Detroit Lions.
“You can put Trey [Burton]anywhere and he could go out there and play.” How the tight end will continue to contribute on offense even when Ertz returns.
Brandon Lee Gowton, John Barchard, and Adam Hermann discuss the Eagles’ big win over the Steelers on BGN Radio.
Listen to BLG and the BGN Radio crew live on SportsRadio 94WIP on Saturday evenings from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. ET.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Inquirer’s Bob Ford thinks Carson Wentz makes the Eagles a contender right now.
This isn’t supposed to happen or at least not this quickly. There have been other rookies with strong arms and good minds. There have been very few, however, who can pull off what he did at the start of the second half when he felt pressure, stepped up through a hole in the pocket, and had to decide between running and throwing to Darren Sproles on a wheel route. The linebacker covering Sproles took one step toward Wentz, the computer whirred, and the rookie drifted a touch pass over the linebacker that Sproles gathered and took to the end zone. That’s not a play rookies make. [Doug] Pederson said there’s more to come.
“He’ll get better with every rep he takes,” Pederson said.
This game, this outcome, doesn’t change everything, but it changes a lot. Wins over Cleveland and Chicago were nice, but this win against Pittsburgh is a course correction. It means that the Eagles, heading into a bye week, are legitimate postseason contenders. Three weeks ago, that would have been a ludicrous thing to say.
“Am I surprised? A little, but I know this locker room and I know what they’re building. They’re coming together as a team,” Pederson said.
Sunday’s game makes it difficult not to look ahead. This season had been all about the future, but it figured to be about the distant future. Wentz has pared the distance between then and now. Like objects in the side view mirror, the future is a lot closer than it once appeared.
“We saw this game as kind of a respect game, an offense of that caliber going against a defense like us?” safety Rodney McLeod said. “It was a matchup to see and we came out victorious. But it doesn’t end here. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Steelers hadn’t lost by 31 points since a 41-10 loss to the Bengals in 1989. And they had never lost by 31 points to an NFC team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
“We still can be better,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We can grow. We’re not comfortable. That’s what I think of this team.
“Nobody is comfortable or patting themselves on the back. We know we can be better. We will go and watch the film (Monday). I’m sure there were a lot of mistakes, including myself, to correct. Everybody stays focused.”
Doug Pederson will speak to the media around noon.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.