There’s no mistaking Carson Wentz for Michael Vick or Randall Cunningham or even Donovan McNabb.
But No. 11 knows how to use his legs too.
While Wentz has uncharacteristically been one of the more inaccurate quarterbacks in the NFL through the first quarter of the season, he has become a real threat to run the ball. And it’s helped the Eagles plenty in the last two weeks.
“I think he's made great decisions using his legs so far this year and it has really helped us stay on the field on a third down situation and obviously the nice run for the touchdown the other day was really a special play by him, making the guy miss,” Doug Pederson said on Wednesday.
“It's just something that he's comfortable doing. We're comfortable putting him in that situation. We don't want to do it too much, but as long as he protects himself and we can help him do that then we're OK.”
Sure, there are some rare times when the Eagles call a play designed to let Wentz run for a few yards. But, for the most part, Wentz’s rushing yards have come from scrambles.
If a play isn’t there, Wentz has had a knack for breaking free of collapsing pockets and finding some green grass in front of him.
“Yeah, I mean using my legs always just comes down to instincts,” Wentz said.
Here are some pretty impressive stats about Wentz’s rushing ability so far this year:
• In the last two games, Wentz has 16 rushing attempts for 102 yards (6.38 per attempt). That’s the highest two-game total in his NFL career.
• On the season, Wentz has rushed for 12 first downs this season and 10 in the last two games.
• Wentz actually has more first-down runs than Lamar Jackson. The only two QBs in the NFL who have picked up more first downs on the ground than Wentz are Cam Newton (15) and Kyler Murray (13).
• Wentz is the first Eagles quarterback to have a rushing touchdown in three straight game since Michael Vick did it back in 2010. The only other QBs in Eagles history to have a longer rushing TD streak are Vick, McNabb and Cunningham. They all reached four games straight.
Against the 49ers, Wentz’s first-quarter touchdown was a thing of beauty as he juked safety Jimmie Ward to the ground.
“It was great,” said Greg Ward Jr., who was a true dual-threat quarterback at the University of Houston before making it as an NFL receiver. “Made the guy touch the ground.”
When asked if Wentz’s ability to run can get him into a rhythm otherwise, Pederson said he wasn’t sure if it translates to the passing game. Even if it doesn’t help him turn the passing game around, rushing for 12 first downs has at least given Wentz extra chances to throw his way out of a slump. So from that standpoint, it absolutely can help.
Now, of course, the Eagles didn’t draft Wentz to be a running back. They didn’t sign him to a $137 million contract to scramble. Eventually, he’s going to need to improve his accuracy and get back to being the quarterback he was in previous seasons.
But in the meantime, Wentz ought to keep running the ball and doing whatever he can to help the team win. And once his accuracy improves, he’ll have added the threat of his running to his repertoire.
“We still have to be smart in the run game and some of the things that we do with him,” Pederson said. “But it's a little bit of a conscious effort to get him more involved in the run game as a runner because he is big, strong and powerful. Why not utilize that when we can?"