Fans can breathe a sigh of relief after a vintage Carson Wentz performance in the Eagles’ 32-27 win over Washington in Week 1.
Wentz eluded tacklers in the pocket. He threw accurately on the run. He converted multiple third-and-longs.
After back-to-back injury-shortened seasons for the Eagles’ franchise quarterback, there were finally signs Wentz is fully returned to his 2017 form.
“It looked like he was playing and wasn’t thinking about anything,” Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. “That’s really it. There weren’t any injuries in the back of his mind.”
Though Wentz was a statistically improved passer in several areas last season, he never quite looked like himself coming back from a torn ACL. His feel for the pocket, mobility and vision were inconsistent, and with the added stress of playing through a back injury, he never truly got comfortable.
For the first time in over a year, there were a handful of moments during the same game where Wentz showed what makes him so special. Sure, he completed a pair of 50-yard touchdowns to DeSean Jackson — but a five-yard score to Alshon Jeffery was arguably his most impressive throw.
Wentz dipped under a potential sack, stepped through the pocket, rolled to his right and threw an absolute laser to Jeffery in the end zone.
“I was feeling free being able to get rid of the knee brace and just go play ball,” said Wentz. “It’s been a blessing, and I’m thankful for the way that recovery went.”
There were several times Wentz was on target while throwing on the run. He was also uncannily precise on third downs, seemingly no matter the distance, dropping back eight times on 3rd-and-7 or longer, converting four times with two touchdowns.
During his MVP-caliber 2017 season, Wentz was money on third downs and in the red zone. The fact that he was able to replicate that on Sunday is perhaps the best argument he’s all the way back.
“A lot of teams give up on third-and-long and just take a screen,” said Wentz. “We’re going to just take what is there sometimes, but we’re going to try to push the ball down the field when we can and make plays. It was good to see that we were able to do that today.”
Wentz did get off to a bit of a slow start, completing nine of his first 12 passes for just 45 yards while the offense sputtered on its first three series. Of course, he also didn’t play a single snap in the preseason or since early December of last season, so some rust was to be expected.
He shook it off early enough to lead the Eagles to a win, completing 19 of his final 27 passes for 265 yards — a 9.8 average — with three touchdowns.
“I thought he played within himself,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I thought he really saw the field extremely well. Distributed the ball well. Made the checks that we needed him to make. He played well.”
If he plays like this every week this season, Wentz will once again find himself in the running for an MVP award, and the Eagles will be playing deep into January.
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