Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Carson Wentz Effect
Dorial Green-Beckham walked back to the huddle after dropping a pass late in the first quarter during the Eagles’ win over the Steelers. Once he got back, Carson Wentz gave the receiver a slight nod of encouragement along with a hand shake, just before the two connected for a 19-yard completion on the next play.
Wentz’s gesture may have made little impact on Green-Beckham, but in between those two plays was a reminder of how much a quarterback’s job has nothing to do with throwing a football. Great quarterbacks increase the level of play of those around them, and although the rookie quarterback is still a just a novice in this league, teammates say Wentz is already doing that with the Eagles.
“This kid is inspiring me,” Brent Celek said. “He’s adding youth to my game just by the way he’s acting, being in the huddle [and] taking command. It’s beyond impressive. It’s great. We have to keep it going. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the greatest team, but I’m excited with how he’s playing. He’s elevating everybody else’s play by the way he’s handling it.”
Josh Huff noted how Wentz constantly communicates with his receivers in game situations and practice settings alike to ensure his targets feel good, are relaxed and are prepared. Wentz likes to find a way to get back to his receivers who had a bad snap to help get their confidence back up, which has helped him evolve into a leader in the eyes of his teammates.
“Three weeks ago when I named Carson the starter, there were obviously some eyebrows raised. But now these guys have bought in,” Doug Pederson said. “They have bought in. They’ve got the leader of the football team. You saw it yesterday. You watch the tape and you see it on film. These guys — these veteran players — have really embraced it. They will do anything they can for a guy like that.”
Kenjon Barner explains how he was confident in Wentz after the Eagles traded Sam Bradford because of the work the 23-year-old put in during OTAs and training camp. The running back acknowledges how changing your starter quarterback just a week before the regular season is a “major change,” before quickly adding how it was “a great change.”
Pederson notes how Wentz’s personality is “infectious” as players “have gravitated” toward the North Dakota State product, while Jason Kelce insists the quarterback “has really elevated this whole offense to another level.” Wentz has played just three games, but in that time he’s been “the most consistent player,” according to Kelce, whose performance has been “incredible” because of what he brings on and off of the field.
“You have to bring that energy, you have to get the guys going, get them to rally around you,” Wentz said. That’s something that I really pride myself on — trying to elevate the play for everyone else around you. That’s something as a team collectively we are doing a really good job of.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles worked out six players yesterday.
“I don’t want to put labels on guys, but that’s how Peyton [Manning] prepared.” Doug Pederson compared Carson Wentz to one of the best quarterbacks of all time.
Take a look at photos from Sunday’s game, courtesy of Jeff Fusco.
“The sky is the limit when you truly believe in each other.” The Eagles are a much different team than what many predicted at the start of the season.
“He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.” After three weeks, Wentz continues to impress many throughout the NFL.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Entering the bye week, Doug Pederson wants to get his team away from football this week, writes Zach Berman of the Inquirer.
Pederson gave the players the whole week off. He brought them in on Monday and plans to practice again next Monday, but he’s not having any team activities until then.
“The message is just get away,” Pederson said. “Get away from football and kind of free your mind a little bit. It’s been a long, hard training camp . . . right into the regular season. They’ve had three physical football games already. Get healthy, rejuvenate, rest and come back ready to go. Because we’ve got 13 straight weeks and it’s one at a time.”
Pederson said he learned the challenge of remaining humble amid success. He knows that teams alive in January arrive there different ways. In the last 10 seasons, 48 teams have started 3-0. Thirty-six of those teams have made the playoffs, but 12 finished their seasons in Week 17. For some of the players in the locker room, they only need to remember 2014, when they started 3-0 but collapsed in December.
“Twenty-two years in the National Football League, you’ve seen a lot of ball,” Pederson said. “You have been on teams that have started fast; you have been on teams that started slow. It’s just how you stay the course. You can’t substitute preparation, hard work, for anything.”
Although he injured his ankle on Sunday, Ryan Mathews will still be the starting running back, pens Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.
Pederson said Mathews’ left ankle — originally injured in July, before training camp even began and then aggravated in the season opener against the Browns — is still bothering him.
“With that thing, that ankle, it’s something that for him it never loosened up (Sunday) and was stiff and so again (we) just opted on the side of caution more than anything else,” Pederson said.
Mathews gained minus-five yards on two carries in the first quarter and didn’t play again.
He’s rushed for three touchdowns this year but is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry — 36th out of 40 backs with 20 or more carries this year.
Meanwhile, [Wendell] Smallwood is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, eighth-highest in the NFL, and [Kenjon] Barner, with just 14 carries, has four runs of 14 yards. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry but doesn’t have enough to qualify for the league leaders.
Although Barner has the 58th-most carries in the NFL, only LeSean McCoy and Isaiah Crowell have more runs of 14 or more yards.
We’ll have more analysis of Sunday’s game.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.