Eagles are winners after rolling the dice on Wentz
Allen Park – In April, the Eagles made a bold decision to trade five picks to the Browns to acquire North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Eagles doubled down on Wentz and opted to trade veteran Sam Bradford to the Vikings prior to the season.
So far, it’s a move that has paid off.
Wentz, 23, has led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, including a 34-3 drubbing of the Steelers in Week 3. The Lions host Wentz and the Eagles on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Through three games, Wentz has completed 64.7 percent of his passes (66-for-102) for 769 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His 103.8 passer rating ranks fourth among starters with at least 100 pass attempts, behind the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (126.3), the Raiders’ Derek Carr (104.6) and the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (104.5).
Greg Cosell, an NFL analyst and senior producer at NFL Films, compared Wentz’s physical traits to Colts’ Andrew Luck, when Wentz was coming out of North Dakota State. Now, everyone is getting to see what Cosell saw: a 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback who can throw with velocity and touch.
Physical attributes aside, Cosell said the Eagles’ plan to use quick passes to get Wentz comfortable and into a flow early in games have led to his success. He added the one trait that stands out is Wentz’s pre-snap awareness.
“That's something that's really important in today's NFL,” Cosell said. “It's a process but this is something he did in college. He was responsible for all the run checks at the line of scrimmage. He was responsible for all the pass protection calls when a pass play was called, so he's been through this process before and I think that's the one thing about his game that has carried over.”
Eagles first-year coach Doug Pederson said when he and his staff traveled to Fargo, North Dakota, and spent time with Wentz before the draft, they came away feeling “very comfortable” with his intangible skills.
“His leadership ability, the way he prepares, the way he studies. Those are all things we saw back in April,” Pederson said earlier this week. “That just gave us the confidence going forward that after we made the Sam Bradford trade to Minnesota that, ‘Hey, it’s time to go.’
“I kept saying all along and throughout camp, that I was OK with Carson being the No. 3 (quarterback) and let him learn. Let him learn the city of Philadelphia, let him learn the media, let him see a veteran quarterback in Sam Bradford and how he leads. Obviously, it changed pretty much overnight, and made the decision that we’re going forward with him. The future is now.”
Wentz is one of several budding quarterbacks ages 25 and under who has put the rest of the league on notice, along with fellow rookie Dak Prescott, second-year men Trevor Siemian and Jameis Winston, and third-year pros Blake Bortles and Carr.
* Prescott, 23, has led the Cowboys to a 3-1 start by completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,012 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 98.5 passer rating.
* Siemian, 24, hasn’t cracked under the pressure of replacing future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. While he left last week’s game early with a shoulder injury, the Broncos are still 4-0 and Siemian has thrown twice as many touchdowns (six) as interceptions (three).
* Winston, 22, has shown flashes with the Buccaneers (1-3) and is tied for the fifth-most passing touchdowns with eight. He’s been prone to turnovers, though, with eight interceptions and two lost fumbles.
* Bortles, 24, has made strides each year with the Jaguars (1-3) and heads an emerging offense. He’s thrown for 1,050 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
* Carr, 25, has been sensational for the Raiders (3-1). He’s completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,066 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
According to Pederson, teams aren’t putting everything on their young franchise quarterback’s shoulders to win games. Instead, the recipe relies on defense and special teams, in addition to taking care of the ball.
That’s particularly been the case with the Eagles. Philadelphia ranks No. 1 in scoring defense (nine points) and is tied for No. 2 in turnover differential (plus-six).
“Just the way (Wentz) prepares during the week, having a veteran -- Chase Daniel, too -- behind him has been very helpful for him on how to study, how to prepare at this level,” Pederson said. "That’s been very valuable to Carson, and he’s just been able to take it to the field.
“Nothing’s too big for him, he’s excited on game day, it’s just something special. We’ve just got to keep him grounded, keep him level-headed, keep him focused on the main thing, and that’s football, and take him one game at a time.”