WTS: Carson Wentz Is the ‘Leader’ For Offensive Rookie of the Year

Wentz and the defense have been the highlight of the team's first three games of the season.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Let’s take a look at what the national media are saying about the Eagles in this week’s edition of What They’re Saying:

Carson Wentz‘s touchdown pass to Darren Sproles early in the third quarter summarized the rookie’s early season success in the NFL, writes Peter King of the MMQB.

There was an innocence, an earnestness to Wentz—and [Doug] Pederson bought what he was saying. He hasn’t regretted it. When the Eagles left Fargo, GM Howie Roseman worked with Cleveland to deal from eight to two in the first round, and a week before the draft the deal went down.

One more deal had to be made to get Wentz on the field this month: the Vikings trading for prospective Eagles starter Sam Bradford. When I asked owner Jeffrey Lurie whether he was nervous when the Bradford deal was close with the Vikings early this month, he said: “No. Because of Carson.”

One play Sunday encapsulated Wentz’s early proficiency. On the first Philly drive of the second half, Wentz faced third-and-eight at his 27. Pederson called for a three-by-one formation: three receivers left, one to the right, Darren Sproles as a sidecar to Wentz in the shotgun. At the snap, Wentz stared left, trying to pick the most open option; but Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt burst through the line and pressured Wentz. “I just turned upfield,” Wentz told me, “and went improvise-mode.” He shook to the right a step, causing a lunging Tuitt to miss. No happy feet on Wentz here. While evading Tuitt, Wentz stared downfield and pressed forward, and then a few steps to the right while four Steelers chased him. Jogging right, he saw linebacker Ryan Shazier, covering Sproles out of the backfield, creeping up to join the chase, and Wentz, on the move, flicked a perfect ball to Sproles. The pass hit him in stride, and the dangerous lightning bug sprinted and bobbed and weaved for a 73-yard touchdown.

It’s just football.

Wentz has helped electrify the entire Eagles team, opines Chris Chase of FoxSports.com.

In the part of the game that mattered, Wentz was 21-for-28 for 277 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had been 26th in the NFL in yards-per attempt, suggesting a low degree of difficulty on his passes, but his total will shoot up this week. And, yes, you can say 73 of those yards came on a short pass and the YPA shouldn’t be as high, but that’s malarkey. And who cares? Wentz is 3-0. Anyway, if you want to get into that game, Eagles receivers have dropped at least three passes of 40-plus yards the past two weeks, including a possible 41-yard touchdown by Dorial Green-Beckham on Sunday.

So how good are the Eagles? They’re better than anyone thought Sunday morning but probably not quite as good as they’re being made out to be Sunday night. Wins over the Browns and Bears weren’t thought to be good predictors of what was to come, but apparently they were — and then some. And, to take nothing away from Wentz, the best part of this team is its defense, which has now given up 10, 14 and three points in its first three games.

The necessary “hold up” caveats apply, of course. Chip Kelly‘s offense looked great through three games and then the NFL figured him out. Robert Griffin III was a Rookie of the Year revelation and had a 14-0 playoff lead over the mighty Seattle Seahawks before getting hurt in 2012. Pittsburgh’s defense is not the Pittsburgh defense we’ve become accustomed to — it entered the game ranked 31st against the pass. And the other coach/QB duo to start 3-0 was Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. But those are reasons you shouldn’t put it in cruise control, not a justification to pump the brakes. Remember, this is no coincidence.

After three weeks, Wentz has been the shining star for the Eagles. But Will Brinson of CBSSports.com says to not go overboard with calling the team contenders just yet.

But here he is, clearly in the clubhouse as the leader for Offensive Rookie of the Year after helping the Philadelphia Eagles get out to a 3-0 start in 2016. Philly was hard to believe as a contender, even with a stout defense, having a looming suspension for their right tackle (Lane Johnson), a scary combination of running backs (Ryan Mathews is injury prone, Darren Sproles is older and small) and wideouts who struggle to get separation in man coverage (Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor).

Not to mention a rookie quarterback with no experience.

What makes Wentz so enticing is he has the look of a pitching prospect with multiple “plus” pitches. No one wants a quarterback who just pumps in fastball after fastball. Wentz has a curve, and he has a changeup. He has touch on his passes that weren’t there before he started taking professional, regular-season snaps.

The Eagles dominated in all areas during Sunday’s win over the Steelers, pens Adam Schein of NFL.com.

The rookie quarterback shredded the Steelers, spoiling the erroneous narrative that his success in Weeks 1 and 2 was somehow tainted, as he feasted on the weak Browns and Bears. Wentz treated the Steelers’ D like a high school unit, gashing them for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Wentz still hasn’t thrown a pick. Through three games, he boasts a sparkling 103.8 passer rating. Where are all those so-called experts who told me this guy wouldn’t be “NFL-ready” in Year 1?

The 3-0 Eagles dominated this game in all facets. The defensive line was incredible. Jim Schwartz has done a fantastic job with Philly’s defense. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times and picked once. DeAngelo Williams led the NFL in rushing through the first two weeks of the season. On Sunday, he picked up 21 yards on eight carries. If you’re still sleeping on this Philly team, you’re just not watching.

Speaking of Schwartz’s unit, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks the Eagles have the fifth-best defense in the league so far this year.

The Eagles were a respectable 17th in defensive DVOA last year, finishing 28th in points allowed because they were a Chip Kelly defense and faced 194 drives, trailing only the Broncos. And everyone suspected that the Eagles were likely to improve with Jim Schwartz’s arrival, given how he had been able to turn around the defenses of the Lions and Bills in recent years.

But this? This is insane. The Eagles have allowed 27 points in three games. They allowed as much in eight different games a year ago. This is tied for the 18th-best start on defense since 1990. And while you could have pointed to the quality of the opposition with their wins over the Browns and Bears, there’s no such argument with the Eagles holding the Steelers to three points. Washington couldn’t shut down the Steelers with Josh Norman; Philly’s top cornerback is probably Nolan Carroll, and while Antonio Brown got his 140 yards, the rest of the offense produced a grand total of 146 yards from scrimmage.

As was the case in his previous stops, Schwartz has managed to take the heat off of his secondary by creating pressure without blitzing. The Eagles blitz on just 15.0 percent of opposing dropbacks, the second-lowest rate in the league behind the Steelers, who are at 13.5 percent. The problem for Pittsburgh is they also don’t get any pressure without blitzing, while the Eagles are 11th with a 27.4 percent pressure rate. When you compare the Eagles to every other team when they’re not blitzing, Philly’s pressure rate is sixth best in the NFL.

NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling wants to make sure nobody forgets about Schwartz and his defense’s performance from Sunday.

2. Wentz’s scorching start has obscured the boffo effort by Jim Schwartz in his first year as Eagles defensive boss. After entering the game second only to Seattle in Football Outsiders’ defensive metrics, Philadelphia shut down one of the league’s most explosive offensive attacks. Led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and emerging edge rusher Brandon Graham, the front seven pushed the pocket all afternoon, stifling the Steelers’ prolific ground game and putting consistent heat on Roethlisberger.

One of the rare downsides of Sunday’s victory was Jalen Mills, who had one of the week’s worst performances, opines Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus.

Making a seventh-round rookie cornerback cover Antonio Brown is just not fair, and Mills was predictably not up to the task in Philadelphia’s win over Pittsburgh. Brown beat him for seven catches and 89 yards on the eight targets sent his way, but Mills also gave up a catch every time he was targeted when covering both Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers, surrendering a total of 164 yards in the game. The Eagles coaches really didn’t do Mills any favors.

Wendell Smallwood‘s performance against Pittsburgh could be the start of something bigger, especially in a fantasy sense, opines Tim McManus of ESPN.com.

The rookie running back had 17 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ rout of the Steelers. Smallwood got an increased workload with Ryan Mathews (ankle) ailing. The Eagles have a bye in Week 4, and Mathews has time to heal, but he has a history of getting injured, so there could be opportunity for Smallwood ahead. He’s worth stashing on your roster as a potential breakout candidate.