1st-rounder Derek Barnett making Eagles look smart

AP Images

1st-rounder Derek Barnett making Eagles look smart

After blocking a field goal and recovering it on Sunday, Derek Barnett was probably a little too hard on himself. 

He thinks he should have scored. 

"It was all green grass in front of me," Barnett said. "But next time."

Barnett ended up going eight yards after he scooped up the loose ball. He got it after Jalen Mills and Malcolm Jenkins failed to corral it.  

Seconds earlier, Barnett sliced through the 49ers' line to get both paws on the 27-yard field goal attempt off the foot of veteran Robbie Gould in the fourth quarter. Barnett said he was confident he was going to block the ball once the call was made. It was the first field goal block of his football career. It was also the first time Gould has ever missed a field goal inside 30 yards — he was previously 93 for 93.

The Eagles scored on the ensuing drive and beat the 49ers 33-10. 

Aside from special teams, Barnett is starting to look like the guy the Eagles hoped they were getting when they drafted 14th overall in the spring. 

After a two-sack game last week, Barnett chipped in on Sunday with two tackles, two QB hits and a tackle for loss that came against former Pro Bowler Joe Staley. 

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Barnett said. "I feel like the game is slowing down for me now. I am just focusing on every play and not doing too much with my job. If I do my job and focus on my assignments, the plays will come to me. At first, a lot of the old heads told me I was doing well, to be patient, keep on working, it's gonna come. Now it is starting to come because I am doing the techniques they are teaching us and everything will fall into place."

On that tackle for a loss against Staley, Barnett pretty much threw the 6-foot-5, 315-pound left tackle to the ground before taking down Carlos Hyde for a one-yard loss in the second quarter. 

It's a play he might not have made earlier in the season. One of the biggest adjustments he's been trying to make since arriving in the NFL is being more powerful in his rushes and "not trying to finesse everything." He's learned that relying on his speed rush like he did in college won't be enough in the NFL. Switching up his rushes has been Barnett's primary focus so far during his rookie season. 

Veteran Chris Long has been on the second unit with Barnett all season. And he doesn't think the rookie's solid play is anything new. 

"I thought he had things figured out early in the year," Long said. "He went out and had two sacks last week so everybody says, 'Oh, now he's a different player.' He's been winning rushes all year. It goes back to the sacks thing. That kid's been playing well all year. I'm glad it's coming to fruition for him statistically so people on the outside can see what a good player he is and what he's gonna be. So I'm excited for him."

Barnett didn't pick up his first NFL sack until he was credited with half of one against Carolina a few weeks ago. He didn't get his first solo sack until last week against Washington. Before then he showed flashes, but it seems like he's becoming more and more consistent. 

Because of Long and Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, it went kind of unnoticed for weeks that Barnett hadn't gotten his first sack. It seems like thanks to the play of the starters in front of him, there's less pressure on Barnett than some other first-round picks. 

That's now how Barnett sees it. 

"I wouldn't say it takes the pressure off of me," he said. "I put pressure on myself. But having those guys in front of me, I get to learn a lot. Vinny and BG, they're two good defensive ends, solid. They can rush the passer and they can stop the run. In practice, even if I'm not in that moment, or in games, I can watch those two guys to see what they're doing. If they make a mistake, I can learn from their mistakes so I won't make the same mistakes as them. It's been a blessing for me to come in and be in a position ... we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in front of me. I'm just learning a lot more. I feel like I'm learning the game a lot faster."

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

USA Today Images

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.