Eagles flying high with Carson Wentz at the helm

Updated: September 26, 2016
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He’s a leader. He’s poised. He’s efficient. And most importantly, he’s a winner. These are traits that would normally describe a savvy veteran with a decorated background in the NFL. But, those characteristics define Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who’s off to a nearly flawless start to his career.

Even though he was the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Wentz wasn’t expected to begin the regular season as the Eagles’ starting QB. He was behind both Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the depth chart, and was possibly two years away from becoming the man behind center. Then the Eagles shook things up one week before the season started, and traded Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings for a first-round pick and a fourth-rounder (which could turn out to be a higher pick based on certain conditions).

This move gave the Eagles the chance to turn the offense over to their rookie, and Wentz has taken the torch and run with it. He’s been exactly what the Eagles thought he’d be, giving the team hope for the future and, quite frankly, aspirations for this season.

Wentz has helped lead the Eagles to an undefeated, 3-0 start. They’re one of only five teams who’ve yet to suffer a loss, including one of two teams in the NFC. Their first two games came against the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, both of whom are 0-3 after three weeks. Many, including myself, were still questioning whether Wentz and the Eagles were legit or not.

Well, they answered that question Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were dominant in their first two games, and a Super Bowl favorite for many. It was supposed to be the Eagles’ first true test of the season. But they punched Pittsburgh in the mouth, winning 34-3 in front of the home crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a lopsided victory, something no one expected heading into the week. Wentz was in total control of the offense, while the Eagles’ defense minimized Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ high-powered attack.

It feels as though the defense is stepping it up a notch because they know they have something special in Wentz on the offensive side of the ball. They’re playing inspired football under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. They’ve yet to surrender a passing touchdown this season, which is quite telling for a team that ranked among the bottom of the league in total defense last year. They have the second-ranked rushing defense and eighth-ranked passing defense. And they’re only allowing 9.0 points per game, ranking first in the NFL.

They’ve been lights out on both sides of the ball. But Wentz will continue to be the story. He’s a rookie quarterback, playing in a city that’s notorious for being overly-critical of any, and every mistake the team makes. However, Wentz is silencing any critics that he might’ve had before stepping onto the field.

He’s completing 64.7 percent of his passes, has thrown for 769 yards, five touchdowns and zero, I repeat, zero, interceptions. He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to begin a career with a touchdown pass and no picks in each of his first three games. And he trails only Dallas Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott, with 96 passing attempts without a pick.

Could the Eagles have asked for more? He’s accurate with the football, he makes smart decisions and he’s getting the most out of the weapons he has on offense. It seems season after season the Eagles are losing playmaking threats. DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy are all players that have been on the roster in the recent past, but ended up elsewhere. Many attribute that to former head coach Chip Kelly, but Doug Pederson, who was hired in the offseason to take Kelly’s place, has utilized the youth his team has on offense.

Jordan Matthews is becoming a top-flight wide receiver; Nelson Agholor is coming into his own; and rookie running back Wendell Smallwood and third-year back Kenjon Barner both proved their value Sunday, combining for 25 carries, 121 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers. Second-year wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, who was brought over in a trade from the Tennessee Titans, contributed Sunday with three catches for 33 yards.

The Eagles are maximizing the talent surrounding Wentz, with a rookie head coach running the show. Pederson and Wentz are the only rookie head coach-quarterback duo to start a season 3-0 since Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez did it in 2009.

“I think he’s going to be fine,” Pederson said, via ESPN. “It’s the number one challenge for all of us, and I speak for myself, too, when I say that we’ve got to stay humble through this whole thing. And the season is very young, only three games in, a lot of football left as you know, and we just take them one at a time.”

Peterson is right, there’s still a ton of football remaining this season. But the Eagles will head into their bye week drenched in confidence. If Wentz can continue playing at this pace, they have a real shot to do the unexpected and win the NFC East — with their top draft pick leading the charge.


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