Eagles

Doug Pederson: Carson Wentz felt Eagles asked too much of him at times

Doug Pederson: Carson Wentz felt Eagles asked too much of him at times

Carson Wentz felt too much was resting on his rookie shoulders last year, head coach Doug Pederson said this week.

Pederson, in an interview with Comcast SportsNet's John Clark, said he hopes to "take a little bit off" Wentz's plate in 2017.

Wentz threw 607 passes last year, second most in NFL history by a rookie and more passes than Kurt Warner, John Elway, Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb or Joe Montana ever threw in a season.

Or all but 20 quarterbacks in NFL history.

The Eagles' leading receiver had just 816 yards. Their leading rusher had just 661 rushing yards. Their star right tackle missed most of the season because of a suspension. Their Pro Bowl center struggled much of the season. Their only two reliable pass catchers missed time with injuries.

With a shaky running game and one of the weakest groups of wide receivers in recent NFL history, it all fell on Wentz. He was forced to carry the offense — and the team — on many occasions.

In fact, he threw an astonishing 422 passes from Week 7 through the end of the season, the seventh-most passes in NFL history over the last 10 weeks of a season.

The Eagles finished 7-9 after a 3-0 start and Wentz finished with 3,782 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

But the Eagles went out and added numerous offensive weapons — veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, rookie draft picks Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson, veteran running back LeGarrette Blount and rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey.

Pederson has said he would like to run the ball more next season and be more balanced, but his admission that Wentz felt like too much was asked of him a year ago was a first.

“I think you can take a little bit off of Carson," Pederson said when asked what he'd like to change in 2017. "What I mean by that is I don’t think you have to load his plate every Sunday. I think now with the addition of LeGarrette Blount in the running game and the receivers we have, I think now that you have opportunities to take a little pressure [off].

"Everything doesn’t have to fall on Carson’s shoulders and I think sometimes a little bit last year he felt that way and things had to fall his way a little bit to make a play and I don’t think we have to do that this year."

Wentz threw 35 or more passes 10 times. No rookie in NFL history has ever had more games with 35 or more passes.

But it's not just the number of passes Wentz threw that Pederson would like to reduce. He also just thinks all the new weapons will alleviate some of the pressure on Wentz to do it all himself.

"I think we can be patient," Pederson said. "We still want to be ball-control like we were last year, but I think now with the opportunities we have, that he has, creating plays I think it will just benefit Carson and the team as a whole."

Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

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Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kamu Grugier-Hill's career as an NFL kicker got off to a rather inauspicious start. 

After Jake Elliott left the game with a concussion, the linebacker began to warm up his right leg on the Eagles' sideline in the first half of the 37-9 win over the Cowboys (see breakdown)

His first kick sailed wide right, missing the net and soaring into the stands. 

"Oh yeah," fellow linebacker Najee Goode said with a smile. "He definitely hit somebody. He hit a fan and the fan stood up."

Before that practice kick, punter Donnie Jones offered to move the net closer to Grugier-Hill, but the emergency kicker declined. 

That was a mistake. 

"I was like, 'Oh this is going to be a little rough,'" Grugier-Hill said about that miss. "After that, I kind of got a hold of it."

After that first bad attempt, Grugier-Hill settled down and actually had a decent showing as a kicker (see Roob's observations). He practiced some in the dark during a Jerry Jones ceremony at halftime. 

He didn't attempt any field goals or extra points, but he did kick off after four touchdowns and even got a touchback on one of them. 

Grugier-Hill, 23, practiced kicking just one time this season. Chris Maragos had been the Eagles' emergency kicker until he went down for the season with a knee injury. Fipp made Grugier-Hill practice it once. 

Despite practice time, Grugier-Hill was confident in his kicking abilities. He played soccer through sophomore year in high school and said he was an All-Conference and second-team All-State punter in high school in Hawaii. 

"I knew he could kick," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "We call him the Flying Hawaiian. He can do it all."

The Eagles were able to joke about Grugier-Hill's kicking prowess in the winning locker room, but for a while, they were in a precarious situation. 

Coming out after halftime, they were trailing 9-7 and had to play the rest of what looked like a close game without a kicker. 

Goode said it was obviously a blow, but noted the Eagles' offense was able to help out because they can put up points (see report card)

It did change the game because the Eagles didn't try any field goals after Elliott left the game and they went for two on all four of their second-half touchdowns. They converted on three of four. 

"I don't even know if everybody on offense knew right away," Carson Wentz said. "I was in the know, but I don't even think everyone knew. It is what it is. We executed I thought pretty well on those two-point plays. That's why you have a lot of those plays dialed up. You don't think too much about it." 

While the Eagles didn't announce when Elliott suffered his concussion, it's likely it happened on the opening kickoff. Return man Ryan Switzer took the kickoff 61 yards, but Elliott was there to greet him on the sideline to help prevent a touchdown. It looked like Elliott took a shot to the head. 

He continued to play, but after missing a 34-yard attempt was taken inside to get checked out. 

After Elliott went inside, Grugier-Hill began to practice kicking. It was an unusual situation for him, but he claimed he wasn't nervous. 

"Everyone expected me to do bad anyways," he said, "so I [didn't] have anything to lose."

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Eagles 37, Cowboys 9: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For a while, it looked like the Eagles' winning streak might come to an end in North Texas. 

It didn't come close. 

In the first half, Carson Wentz didn't quite look himself, the run defense wasn't playing to form and the kicker went down with a concussion. 

Didn't matter. 

Eventually, Wentz pulled through, the defense tightened up enough and a backup linebacker showed he can actually kick off. 

The Eagles beat the Cowboys, 37-9, Sunday night at AT&T Stadium to remain the top team in the entire NFC (see Roob's observations). They were just the better team.

The Eagles have now won eight straight games. 

With the win, the Eagles improved to 9-1 on the season for the fifth time in team history. The Cowboys fell to 5-5 on the season. The Eagles are now 4-0 in the division. 

This is the fifth time in team history the Eagles are 9-1 after 10 games (2004, 1980, 1960, 1949). They are just the 51st team in the Super Bowl era to start with nine wins in their first 10 games. Of those previous 50, all made the playoffs, 23 went to the Super Bowl and 11 won it. 

The Eagles started off the game with a brilliant first drive after a Cowboys field goal. They cruised down the field to score a touchdown without even facing a third down. But then the offense sputtered the rest of the half. 

The Cowboys took a 9-7 lead into halftime. It was the first halftime deficit the Eagles had faced since Week 2 in Kansas City. 

Turning point 
After a bizarre first half, the Eagles came out on the first drive of the second half and went 75 yards on eight plays to take the lead. The Eagles converted two huge third downs on the drive. The first came on a screen pass to Brent Celek, the next came on a beautiful pass from Wentz to Alshon Jeffery. 

Key stat
This is the first time the Eagles have scored 30-plus points in four consecutive games since the 1953 season. 

Offensive stud
Wentz didn't have his best performance, but when it mattered, the Eagles' franchise quarterback made plays (see report card). Forget the stat line, Wentz did his job and made some tremendous plays in the process. 

The Eagles' running game was also great Sunday. They rushed for a season-high 215 yards. 

Offensive dud
Zach Ertz's first catch didn't come until very late in the first half and it went for just two yards. He wasn’t a very big factor. 

Defensive stud
Ronald Darby had a great return to action. He started at right cornerback, made a few big plays and even grabbed an interception. 

Defensive dud
The Eagles' run defense, which has been the best unit in the NFL, gave up plenty of yards on the ground Sunday. After giving up an average of 66.4 rushing yards per game coming into Sunday, the Cowboys rushed for 112. 

Key plays
• Chris Long got a strip sack in the fourth quarter. Nigel Bradham picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone to put the Eagles up, 35-9. The two-point conversion made it 37-9. 

• Wentz completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery on 4th-and-5 in the fourth quarter to put the Eagles up 29-9. The Eagles didn't convert the two-point conversion. 

• Wentz hit Torrey Smith for an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter and then hit Jeffery for the two-point conversion to put the Eagles up 23-9. 

• Jay Ajayi broke off a 71-yard run in the third quarter. It was the longest of his career. It was the longest run from an Eagle since Brian Westbrook had a 71-yarder in 2006. 

• Wentz delivered a huge third-down pass to Jeffery on the first drive of the second half. Corey Clement scored a touchdown and then caught a pass for the two-point conversion. The Eagles had to go for two without kicker Jake Elliott (see Rookie Report)

• After starting the game 0 for 5 on third downs, the Cowboys converted three in a row before Mike Nugent hit a 47-yard field goal to give the Cowboys a 9-7 lead with 55 seconds left in the first half. 

• Near the end of the first quarter, Malcolm Jenkins tipped a pass and Darby hit the receiver as the ball got there. That's when Rodney McLeod picked off the pass and took it down to the Dallas 15-yard line. But then Elliott missed a 34-yard field goal. 

A little later, Darby got a pick and the Eagles' drive resulted in a punt. 

• Darby had a big pass breakup against Dez Bryant in the end zone late in the first quarter. It forced the Cowboys to settle with another field goal, cutting into the lead 7-6. 

• Kenjon Barner made a spectacular catch on the sideline for a 22-yard gain and then finished off the 75-yard drive with a touchdown run to put the Eagles up 7-3 in the first quarter. 

• Ryan Switzer returned the opening kick 61 yards, which led to a 48-yard field goal from Nugent to put the Cowboys up 3-0. The Eagles' defense shut down the Cowboys' offense to minimize the damage. 

Injuries 
Jeffery (ankle) was active after being listed as questionable heading into the weekend. 

The Eagles lost Elliott in the first half because of a concussion (see story)

Up next
The Eagles return home for a matchup against the Bears (3-7) next Sunday at 1 p.m. After that, the Eagles head to Seattle for a game on Dec. 3, before staying in California for the week leading into the game against the Rams.