Eagles

Stellar performances have become the norm for Carson Wentz

Stellar performances have become the norm for Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz completed 23 of 36 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Eagles' 31-3 beating of the Bears Sunday afternoon (see Roob's observations). He had a passer rating of 109.4. 

Wentz had another stellar performance, keeping his name near the top of the list of favorites to win the NFL MVP award. 

Ho hum. 

"This is just Carson being Carson," head coach Doug Pederson said. 

Pederson said that as he finished answering a question asking if he ever anticipated this type of performance jump from Wentz in his second NFL season. Pederson said he didn't but that he prayed his team would be able to "do some of the things that [they've] done." 

Carson Wentz is answering those prayers. 

Aside from his touchdown totals, Wentz's numbers aren't staggering. He hasn't thrown for over 300 yards in a game since Oct. 8, but he's doing absolutely everything the Eagles need. He's making crucial plays at crucial times. And he's been doing it all season. 

At this point, the Eagles expect this from Wentz. 

"Yeah. And he expects it for himself," running back Corey Clement said. "He puts in the hard work and effort. I don't think it's anything surprising to him because if you work hard enough, good things should come. I don't think anything has come by luck. It's happened for a reason. Because he's putting the time and effort in."

The Bears hadn't gotten a chance to face Wentz since last Sept. 9, 2016, in Chicago. That was his second career game. The Eagles won that Monday night, but Wentz had a pretty modest showing. 

He's not a rookie anymore. 

"The difference between who we played last year and what he was today, the margin is crazy," Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "He is just so much better than he was."

Sunday was Wentz's fifth game this season with three or more touchdown passes. He's one game shy of Norm Snead's franchise record of six, set in 1967. 

Wentz leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 28. He's just four shy of Sonny Jurgensen's team record of 32, set back in 1961. 

He's also just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw 28-plus touchdowns and no more than five interceptions through 11 games. The other two to do it are Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. 

So Wentz hasn't just been good. He's been historically good. And he's been even better than the statistics indicate. 

Time and time again this season, Wentz has pulled a Houdini move to escape from a would-be tackler. He did it again early in the second quarter Sunday afternoon. With Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller barreling down on him, Wentz somehow pulled a spin move to his left and scampered for a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-9. 

It wasn't quite the magic trick he pulled against Washington, where he escaped from a pile, but this one was pretty good too. 

"It's week in, week out," Nelson Agholor said. "I love my dawg because that's what he does. He's very mobile. He's just tough too. Outside of the ability to juke defenders, he's just tough. If somebody is hanging up on him, he's trying to shed them off and make plays. A lot of respect for him."

The only plays more impressive than the ones when Wentz avoids hits are the ones when he takes them. There have been countless times this season Wentz has stared down pass-rushers and delivered throws knowing a hit was coming. 

He did the same thing Sunday against the Bears. 

"You cannot deny his toughness," Agholor said. "He's second to none with that."

With every game, it's becoming more and more possible that Wentz will become the first Eagles player to win the league MVP award since Norm Van Brocklin won it in 1960, also the last year the Eagles won a championship. 

"The things that we saw in him looking at him before the draft or the things that we're starting to see now," Pederson said. "He's such a competitor, and his will, his determination to make things right and the way he can elevate the play around him, meaning the guys around him, has just been incredible."

Wentz had another Wentz-like performance Sunday to the surprise of none of his teammates. 

Ho hum. 

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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USA Today Images

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."