Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham deserve equal credit for Eagles' hot start

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Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham deserve equal credit for Eagles' hot start

A lot of accolades are being distributed after the Eagles' gutsy road win over the Panthers. And there is a multitude of worthy recipients.

There’s Carson Wentz, whose skill and rapid understanding of the NFL game may be overridden only by his toughness.

Or the return of Fletcher Cox and the immediate impact he made from a calf injury that held him out the previous two games.

How about Doug Pederson, who continues to quiet the critics while he out-schemes opposing coaches on a weekly basis? 

Maybe you’re more inclined toward the rookie kicker who was plucked off the Bengals' practice squad and has gone 10 for 10 since his big left tackle threatened him?

When you start a season 5-1 with four of those games on the road, there is a lot of credit to be divvied up.

But how about a little love for those Eagles' linebackers? Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were everywhere against Carolina. The duo combined to register a whopping 17 tackles, including two for losses and two passes defended. This was despite, or perhaps because of losing Jordan Hicks in the first half of the game (see injury update).

The numbers alone don’t tell the story. Both players made game-altering tackles. The kind that stops the opposition from scoring a touchdown, like Bradham’s takedown of Christian McCaffrey just shy of the end zone on a 3rd-and-Goal in the third quarter. Instead of an 18-17 game, the Panthers settled for three points to make it 18-13. There were countless form tackles that prevented third-down conversions and forced punts. Game-changing plays.   

This really has been the case all season with this unit. Kendricks seemed destined for a ticket out of town after a couple of lackluster seasons in which his playing time had dwindled. But since training camp, he has been a man possessed and mirrors the playmaker the Eagles gave big bucks to in 2015. Bradham had a good year last season — his first with the Eagles — and despite a bit of a slow start this year, has come on strong of late. The two lead the Eagles in tackles this season. Not far behind on the list is Hicks, whose skill and versatility have never been in question, only his ability to stay on the field. This is a strong group.

Finding yourself near the end of the receiving line when it comes to praise — because there are so many other positive developments through six games — is a good problem to have. The kind of first-world problems Eagles fans would have signed up for on the spot prior to the season.

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.