Eagles

The biggest silver lining from Carson Wentz's long rehab

The biggest silver lining from Carson Wentz's long rehab

Obviously, no one wanted Carson Wentz to get hurt last season. No one wanted the franchise quarterback to go through 9½ months of grueling rehab. And, of course, it would have been much better if he stayed healthy and got to play in the playoffs and in the first two games of the 2018 season. 

But there’s a bright side to all of this. 

Going through this rehab is going to make Wentz an even better player. And I’m not talking about physically. 

Sure, during the past nine-plus months, Wentz’s upper body has gotten stronger, but I think the area in which he’s going to improve even more is his ability to use what he’s learned on the sideline and in the film room and apply it on the football field. 

Here’s what head coach Doug Pederson said about that possibility: 

I think it can only help him. It can sort of enhance his game a little bit.

I think sometimes sort of big picture you get a chance to see everything and take everything in from that view. It's a different view and it's a positive view.

So, that's why moving forward, I'm excited to see where he is at in that progression of his game.

Think about it. Wentz hasn’t been able to play in a football game since Dec. 10, so when he wasn’t working on his physical rehabilitation, he was either watching film or trying to help Nick Foles get ready to play. That’s a lot of hours logged in the film room or just thinking about football without being able to play. 

Maybe for some players, that wouldn’t account to much, but it’s not like Wentz is watching film and then forgetting everything he sees. His coaches — Pederson included — have marveled at his recall. Pederson back in 2016 even said he thought Wentz had a photographic memory. 

"We can obviously see it on the pictures, on the tablets on the sideline, and then when he goes back out there, he can remember that defense,” Pederson said in the fall of 2016. ”If he sees that front or that coverage, that look again, he knows exactly what's coming defensively, and he can put us in the right play."

Wentz is just 25 years old, but he was already way ahead of schedule as a cerebral quarterback last year. It’s scary to think about what this extended time in the film room could do for his game. His ability to see things pre-snap shouldn’t be overlooked. Remember in his rookie season when he was being compared to every great quarterback to ever play the game. This is the part of his ability that was the most Peyton Manning-like. 

Even Wentz thinks getting to view the game from a different perspective will help: 

Without a doubt. You see things. I know last year when I did get hurt and threw the headset on, you almost see things as a coach. You see things from a different perspective. 

But then also, to not take it for granted. I think when you get caught up in the middle of a season, you’re just going through it, you can take the opportunities for granted. I’ll always remind everybody, myself included, to never take a play for granted or take a game for granted because you never know when it’s going to be your last.

This is the most significant injury of Wentz’s football career, but it wasn’t his first. In college and even in high school, he learned how to rehab and get better even when he wasn’t able to play.

We might see some rust from Wentz on Sunday. We might see a guy who looks like he hasn’t played football in over nine months. What I do know is we won’t have to worry about the mental side of the game. In fact, he’s probably even farther along than the last time we saw him.

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JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Josh McCown, T.J. Edwards earn high grades in Eagles' preseason loss to Ravens

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Josh McCown, T.J. Edwards earn high grades in Eagles' preseason loss to Ravens

The Eagles’ third preseason game may have ended prematurely, but not before a group of players was given a chance to shine.

Josh McCown, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and T.J. Edwards were among the Eagles’ standouts in a 26-15 loss to the Ravens on Thursday — a game which was cancelled with more than 11 minutes remaining because of the weather (see Roob's observations).

But not every unit received high marks, even if it looked like the Birds were on the cusp of staging a comeback before the game was called. Let’s just say lightning wasn’t the only thing that lit up the sky at Lincoln Financial Field.

Quarterbacks

Josh McCown: 17/24, 192 YDS, 2 TD

McCown’s night started with a fumble, three straight incompletions and a sack. It ended with a 70.8 completion percentage, 8.0 yards per attempt and back-to-back scoring drives, cementing his role as the Eagles’ backup — if there was ever a debate. Cody Kessler was ineffective in two series.

Grade: B+

Running backs

Corey Clement: 7 ATT, 25 YDS

Better game from Clement than the numbers would indicate. The third-year ball carrier looked spry in his return to action, and the extended first-half look suggests the Eagles might have plans for him this season. Josh Adams added 18 yards on seven rushes and an 18-yard reception.

Grade: B

Wide receivers and tight ends

JJ Arcega-Whiteside: 8 REC, 104 YDS, TD

Monster game for Arcega-Whiteside. The rookie wideout reeled in all but one pass that came his way, including a 20-yard score and a 35-yard catch-and-run. Greg Ward impressed again with four receptions for 45 yards, and tight end Alex Ellis pitched in a nine-yard touchdown.

Grade: A

Offensive line

The starting O-line sans Lane Johnson looked like to be in midseason form, with Halapoulivaati Vaitai notably coming along at right guard, and Jordan Mailata largely solid filling in at right tackle. Pre-snap penalties were an issue for the backups, though the unit rebounded some in the second half.

Grade: B-

Defensive line

Daeshon Hall: 2 QBH

Quiet night for Hall compared to previous weeks, though he was the only Eagles defender credited with a quarterback hit for the entire game. Treyvon Hester did have a sack erased by a Shareef Miller facemask, but the pass rush was nonexistent otherwise. Opposing running backs were limited to 2.3 yards per carry against a stout front, however.

Grade: C

Linebackers

T.J. Edwards: 7 TKL, 1 TFL

Edwards led the Eagles in tackles but was far from the only linebacker heavily involved in the action. L.J. Fort was good for four tackles, including two tackles for loss, while Alex Singleton notched a TFL as well.

Grade: B+

Defensive backs 

Rodney McLeod: 3 TKL, TFL

Good to see McLeod healthy, flying around the field and playing aggressively, but the secondary took its lumps, especially when the backups came in. Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley completed 16 of 24 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns in the first half, picking on Eagles cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon early and often.

Grade: C-

Special teams

Boston Scott: 4 KR, 21.5 AVG

The Eagles’ average starting field position in the first half was their own 23-yard line. Some of that was penalties, and some of it was Scott’s pedestrian kick returns. Even more concerning was Jake Elliott’s missed field goal from 41 yards.

Grade: C-

Coaching

Agree or disagree with the decision to hold Carson Wentz out of the preseason entirely, all that matters is none of starters got hurt.

Grade: N/A

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Carson Wentz sits again, Josh McCown and JJ Arcega-Whiteside shine in Eagles' lightning-shortened preseason loss to Ravens

Carson Wentz sits again, Josh McCown and JJ Arcega-Whiteside shine in Eagles' lightning-shortened preseason loss to Ravens

BOX SCORE 

One quarterback was impossibly bad and another was impossibly good. And another one is just healthy.

Here’s your 10 instant observations from the lightning-shortened Eagles-Ravens preseason game Thursday night at the Linc, a 26-15 Ravens win that was called with 11:43 to go in the fourth quarter.

1. Best thing about this game? Carson Wentz didn’t get hurt. I know a lot of people think Doug Pederson should have played him at least a few series, and I understand the concerns about rust. But honestly, what’s the point? He hasn’t missed a snap in training camp, he just got two really strong days of work against a terrific Ravens defense in joint practices and he’s healthy and looks great. Remember, Wentz didn’t play in the last three preseason games his rookie year and then threw for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no INTs in his NFL debut against the Browns. After not playing in a month. As a rookie. If he’s rusty for a series or two against the Redskins — and I doubt he will be — it’s worth it to guarantee that he’s 100 percent healthy going into the game. Completely, absolutely worth it.

2. I would have cut Cody Kessler after he got sacked on 4th-and-3 in the first quarter. Doug Pederson gave Kessler every imaginable chance to succeed and to atone for his disappointing performances against the Titans and Jaguars, giving him the start with most of the starters. But a fourth-year quarterback — really no quarterback — can't let himself get sacked on fourth down. You have to have enough court awareness to at least throw the ball somewhere and give a receiver a chance to make play. Letting yourself get sacked is just giving up. Which is what the Eagles need to do now with Kessler.

3. Josh McCown got off to a little bit of a slow start, understandable for a guy who just came out of retirement and didn’t have OTAs or a training camp. His first five snaps were a fumble, three incompletions and a sack. But after that, holy cow. After that slow start he was 17-for-21 for 192 yards and two TDs — a sweet 20-yarder to JJ Arcega-Whiteside and 9 yards to tight end Alex Ellis. The 40-year-old McCown really saw the field well, made smart decisions and put the ball where he wanted. Considering that a week ago he was coaching high school football in Charlotte, it was a remarkable performance.

4. Put together instant observations Nos. 2 and 3, and there is absolutely no reason on Earth for Kessler to still be on the roster by the time you wake up Friday.

5. This is why I’m concerned about Jake Elliott. We know he has a huge leg — he’s made 52- and 53-yard field goals this preseason — but he’s also missed from 40 and now 41 yards, and those are kicks you just have to make. This is his third year with the same snapper and holder. Calm night. There’s just no excuse. Elliott got off to a slow start last year — he was 11-for-15 through the Carolina game — and then went 15-for-16 the rest of the way. So we’ll see. I’m not saying cut him or bring in other kickers for workouts. Just concerned. Just something to keep an eye on.

6. What Arcega-Whiteside did Thursday night — 8-for-104 and a terrific TD catch — is what he’s been doing every day since the start of OTAs. I know conventional wisdom is that with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson he won’t play on offense. But knowing Pederson and having seen what this kid can do, I’m telling you, they’re going to find a role for him, even if it’s just situationally on third down or in the red zone. The kid can flat play.

7. Josh Adams has virtually no chance of making this team. But I give the kid credit. He’s gotten better. He’s made huge strides as a receiver, and instead of looking at Adams as a guy who led the Eagles in rushing last year but won’t make the 53-man rister this year, look at him as a 22-year-old second-year undrafted running back who’s getting better. Another year on the practice squad wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Bucks County native.

8. Forget Corey Clement’s rushing numbers. They were OK (7-25). More important than the stats, he looked quick, strong and healthy. Pederson doesn’t gameplan in preseason games, the Eagles had no passing game to speak of in the first half and the Ravens pretty much knew when he was running, so throw out the numbers. The main thing is he looked fine in his 2019 preseason debut, his first game since he tore his ACL last December. I know a lot of people don’t think Clement will have a major role on offense or that he is even in jeopardy of getting cut. Wrong and wrong. With his ability to block, run and catch — and play special teams — he’s going to have a role.

9. All Greg Ward has done since camp started is catch everything. He’s done it at practice, he’s done it in games, and to me he’s earned a roster spot. The Eagles obviously like the former Houston quarterback. This is his third training camp here. Here’s the thing: Mack Hollins is a better special teamer, and the biggest priority for a fifth wide out is special teams. But if a couple receivers get hurt, you’d rather have Ward available than Hollins. Then you see the Eagles acquire Rudy Ford on Thursday, and the third-year safety has played nearly 500 special teams snaps over the last two years, so that’s a move that’s made with special teams in mind. Also keep in mind that Hollins is an outside receiver and Ward is mainly a slot, and because of Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles have more of a need for a backup slot. Hollins and Ward have value but in different ways. Interesting call for Pederson and Howie Roseman.

10. Did I forget to mention how bad Cody Kessler was?

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