Eagles

Carson Wentz is tone-setter for unselfish Eagles

Carson Wentz is tone-setter for unselfish Eagles

At some point this week, Carson Wentz, the hunter, will be in his element, dressed in his camo gear, hiding in a tree stand or behind some brush. 

It's much harder for him to blend in on the football field. 

Because this season, Wentz hasn't just taken a step forward; he's leaped into the national spotlight and into the forefront of the NFL's MVP race. Wentz threw four more touchdown passes on Sunday and leads the league in touchdown passes with 23. 

And he couldn't care less. 

"At the end of the day, touchdowns [are] whatever," Wentz said on Sunday afternoon, quickly dismissing a question about his stats. "That’s all great, but being 8-1 is what it’s all about. I didn’t really know what to expect with stats and all that stuff, that doesn’t really matter."

On a team full of unselfish players, Wentz is the tone-setter. 

And he's on his way to becoming the NFL's most humble superstar. 

How are the Eagles able to keep all their receivers happy? How were they able to bring in a Pro Bowl running back without fearing backlash from the others? How are the coaches able to use rotations while not worrying about any disgruntled faces appearing in theirs? 

It all starts with Wentz. 

It's pretty hard to care about stats or playing time or accolades when the guy who is getting the most doesn't even care about them. The Eagles have been able to create a culture led by a "team first" mentality. Sure, Doug Pederson and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for that. But it sure does make it easier to do when the face of the franchise is the furthest thing possible from a prima donna. 

"I think that with Carson leading the offense and kind of being the face right now and getting a lot of the accolades, he's the most humble guy you come across," Pederson said. 

"He'll give it right back to the team. He understands that this is a team game. So everything that he's getting, he deserves by the way he prepares and studies. But I also think there are a lot of guys on this team that do the same thing that it might get overlooked, but by no means are with us in the building overlooking those guys."

For weeks, Alshon Jeffery wasn't putting up the numbers most expected, but he didn't seem to mind, even in a contract year. Torrey Smith is an afterthought most weeks in a year where he wanted to prove his worth in the NFL; he's still all-in. LeGarrette Blount was having a great season, but knows he'll probably lose his starting job to Jay Ajayi; he hasn't caused a problem. 

And when rookie Corey Clement scored three touchdowns — an incredible feat — on Sunday against the Broncos, this was his response: "It was three? I was just playing football." 

Sound familiar? 

There's a reason Wentz's teammates named him one of five team captains this season and it goes beyond his being the quarterback. The Eagles noticed those leadership characteristics in Wentz from the time they started falling in love with him at the 2016 Senior Bowl. 

Wentz is focused on one thing: winning. Sure, he'd be mad at himself if he didn't perform well in a win. But stats? Doesn't care. He also doesn't care about whether pundits are drooling over his performances or critiquing him as they try to pump the brakes on the hype. 

Doesn't care. 

After he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October, Wentz was asked if the honor came with any kind of physical manifestation like a certificate or plaque. He had no idea, but told a reporter if he found out, he'd let him know. Even if one comes in the mail, don't expect Wentz to run home and nail it to the wall in his South Jersey home. 

He doesn't care about the accolades or the stats. He cares about winning. He'd wear that camo all the time if they'd let him. 

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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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

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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.