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. 

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

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AP/USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Donnie Jones
Roob: Jones turns 38 before camp starts and goes into his 15th NFL season out of LSU next year. Jones, who hasn't missed a game since 2004, is as reliable as ever. Including the postseason, he had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line and just six touchbacks. In five years here, he's established himself as the greatest punter in Eagles history. His 45.3 average and 40.6 this past year were very good. They'll drag a guy in to compete, but Jones is still terrific.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jones is 37 now but he's a punter and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Before the 2016 season, Jones said he wasn't interested in retiring any time soon and there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to stop yet. He had another good season in 2017. Of course, the Eagles proved that no one is immune from the business of the NFL when they decided to go with Rick Lovato over Jon Dorenbos in 2017, but Jones is still a really good punter. During Super Bowl week, Jones got a kick out of hearing he was the only Eagles player who was able to have a legal drink when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. Jones joked that's probably what he was doing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Sidney Jones
Roob: 
It'll be fun to see what Jones can do with a full healthy offseason and training camp. Along with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, he's a big part of the most talented young stable of cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had. Where does everybody fit in next year? We'll see. But I expect Jones to be here and playing at a high level for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It was probably a pretty good thing for the young corner to get some experience toward the end of his rookie season. Fans should be excited about Jones if he really is back to being the player he was before his injury. Because before he tore his Achilles at the Washington pro day, Jones might have been the very best cornerback in a deep cornerback draft. The Eagles have a little logjam at the cornerback position; what a great problem to have. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

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USA Today/AP Images

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Tim Jernigan
Roob:
 Jernigan had a very good first half, an OK second half of the season and really didn't do a lot in the postseason, and there's no doubt the Eagles would like to see him maintain his level of consistency throughout the season. But he's certainly not going anywhere, not with $11 million in dead money vs. a $5 million cap hit. Jernigan's talent is undeniable. He just needs to find a way to keep it going through the year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was a little surprised about how little Jernigan played in 2017. He played just 48 percent of the Eagles' snaps and in the playoffs, he played about as much as Beau Allen. Now, I know Jernigan dealt with an ankle injury throughout most of the year, so maybe that played a role. But for a guy who signed a four-year extension worth $48 million during the year, I really didn't see enough. He started off the season really strong, but then seemed to level off some. Maybe the ankle had something to do with that. In any case, he's now signed through 2021. The Eagles need more out of him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson 
Roob:
 We finally saw what Lane Johnson could do with a full season, and it was impressive. Johnson was named first-team All-Pro and made his first Pro Bowl team, and he deserved all of it. Johnson, suspended two of the last three seasons for testing positive for banned substances, was a beast at right tackle. He's not going anywhere for a long time.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: That was the season we've all been waiting for from Johnson. He was a dominant right tackle in 2017 and finally made it to his first Pro Bowl roster. He deserved it. For a long time, there's been a stigma about playing right tackle and that makes sense on its face. Protecting the quarterback's blindside has historically been more important, but defenses have adjusted. That's why guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa generally rush against right tackles. Johnson shut down those guys and more last season. It's a big reason why the Eagles didn't move him to left tackle when Jason Peters went down. That was the right call. 

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson
Roob: Johnson stuck on the active roster all year and got into 10 games, catching five passes for 45 yards. But wide receiver depth is certainly one area the Eagles will try to upgrade this offseason. Johnson will get a long look with the other young receivers in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He's got good speed, size and athleticism, but can he put it all together and catch the ball consistently enough to stick around another year? We'll see.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The young wide receiver had a great spring and summer a year ago to earn his spot on the roster. He really worked his tail off to get better and the Eagles rewarded him with a roster spot. From there, he carved out a role on offense. He was the Eagles' receiver in their 13 personnel (three tight ends) package for much of the early season. But then in late November, Johnson lost his active spot to Shelton Gibson, who didn't play as big a role on offense but was a better special teamer. That was a shock to Johnson at the time. He'll have a shot to make the roster this year, but losing his job on Sundays in 2017 isn't a good sign. 

Verdict: GOES