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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Eagles Week 7 report card: Someone has to get an 'F'

Eagles Week 7 report card: Someone has to get an 'F'

The Eagles looked amazing for three quarters before a fourth-quarter collapse that led to a 21-17 loss to the Panthers. That made grading players difficult, because it was almost like watching two different games.

Somebody had to take the blame, though, and take a great, big ‘F’ in this week’s report card.

Quarterback

Carson Wentz: 30/37, 310 YDS, 2 TD, 119.6 RT

Wentz was phenomenal for over 58 minutes, but nothing less than abysmal the final 71 seconds. After completing 85 percent of his passes for almost nine yards a pop, he threw a ball that should’ve been intercepted, then another into double coverage before getting sacked and fumbling on 4th-and-2 in Panthers territory. Took too many sacks, too.

Grade: B-

Running backs

Wendell Smallwood: 9 ATT, 32 YDS

This won’t convince the Eagles they’re set at running back. Smallwood ran hard – he also had a 15-yard run and 51-yard catch wiped out by penalties – but Corey Clement carried six times for eight yards with a fumble.

Grade: C

Wide receivers/tight ends

Zach Ertz: 9 REC, 138 YDS

Dominant performances from both Ertz and Alshon Jeffery, who added seven receptions for 88 yards with an 11-yard touchdown, plus drew a 48-yard pass interference penalty. They made difficult catches look easy all day. Dallas Goedert also had a big day with four catches, 43 yards and a one-yard touchdown.

Grade: A

Offensive line

The Panthers were credited with just five quarterback hits on 41 dropbacks – can’t keep him much cleaner than that. Impressive considering Jason Peters (biceps) and Lane Johnson (ankle) are both injured. On the other hand, Eagles runners only averaged 2.4 yards per attempt, and there was heavy pressure on the offense’s final play.

Grade: B

Defensive line

Michael Bennett: 2 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.0 SK, 3 QH

The momentum turned when the Eagles’ pass rush evaporated. The unit was disruptive for three quarters, then nothing. Bennett was by far the most productive up front, with as many quarterback hits as Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Trayvon Hester combined. Including sacks, the group accounted for just four stops in the backfield.

Grade: C

Linebackers

Jordan Hicks: 7 TKL, 1 TFL

Too often, Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill were chasing the ball from behind. The Panthers use a lot of misdirection, which seemed to have the desired effect on the Eagles linebackers. One positive, the unit was able to limit the quarterback’s mobility.

Grade: C

Secondary

Malcolm Jenkins: 7 TKL, 2 PD

The Panthers had 68 yards passing through three quarters. They had 201 yards and two touchdowns through the air in the fourth quarter alone. Ron Darby broke up three passes, but was slipping and sliding in the end zone on an 18-yard score, while Jalen Mills was beaten for multiple big gains on the game-winning drive.

Grade: C

Special teams

Jake Elliott: 1/2 FG, 2/2 XP

The wind played hell on kickers in the north end zone, but after missing a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter, Elliott came back and nailed a tough extra point in the third quarter.

Grade: B

Coaching

Eagles’ record: 3-4

Usually, when there is a collapse like this, it’s because the team took its foot off the gas pedal and failed to make adjustments. Doug Pederson was guilty of the former with his play-calling, while Jim Schwartz is to blame for the latter when the Panthers were carving up his defense and no changes were made. Brutal job – the type that could get people fired were the Eagles not coming off the Super Bowl.

Grade: F

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The worst Eagles loss Fletcher Cox can remember

The worst Eagles loss Fletcher Cox can remember

Fletcher Cox didn't even hesitate. 

In his seventh year in the NFL, Cox called Sunday's 21-17 loss to the Panthers at the Linc the worst of his career. 

"We was up 17-0 at some point," Cox said, "and they came back and kicked our a—."

The Eagles' defense was dominant for three quarters on Sunday. They entered the fourth rolling. The Eagles were up 17-0 and on the verge of pulling off a statement win to put themselves back into the top tier of the NFC. 

They made a statement alright. 

After playing shutout ball for the first 45 minutes of Sunday's game, the last 15 were a complete disaster. While the offense certainly sputtered in the fourth quarter too, the Eagles' defense allowed that three-score advantage to disappear as the Birds fell to 3-4 on the season. 

Just look at how bad this collapse was: 

"We're not going to make it more than it was," Malcolm Jenkins said. "It was a dominating three quarters and one bad one."

One really bad one. 

This is just the third time in Eagles history they've lost a game after leading by 17 or more points heading into the fourth quarter. It's just the third loss in 156 such instances. 

The Eagles are also just the third team in the last 12 years to blow a 17-point fourth quarter lead and lose. 

This wasn't a collapse. This was an all-time choke job. 

"I mean, you know going into the fourth quarter and you're up pretty big and had control of the game," Jenkins said. "To kind of just starve completely as a team was just disappointing."

The biggest play of the game and the most important play in the fourth quarter happened on 4th-and-10 with just 2:06 remaining. The Eagles' pass rush forced Cam Newton up in the pocket, but Torrey Smith got open to pick up a first down and 35 yards. That's the second time the Eagles have given up a 4th-and-long in a crucial situation this year. Good teams don't give up plays like that. 

Aside from the final kneel down, the Panthers scored on all three of their fourth-quarter drives. Those drives went for 80 yards, 87 yards and 69 yards. 

This is the first time the Eagles have given up three touchdown drives of at least 69 yards in a second half since 2012. 

"Margin of error in this league is tight, especially against a good team like the Panthers," Jenkins said. "So we have to be able to finish that game." 

The Eagles' players claimed their game plan didn't change when they were up big in this game, but it certainly looked like a different team out there in the fourth quarter.  

For three quarters on Sunday, the Eagles' defense pitched a shutout. Then one quarter made it one of the worst losses in recent memory. 

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