Eagles

Carson Wentz gives fans glimpse of future in Eagles' preseason opener

Carson Wentz gives fans glimpse of future in Eagles' preseason opener

It wasn't long before fans at Lincoln Financial Field erupted into chants of "We Want Wentz" during the Eagles' preseason opener. Finally, with 1:19 remaining in the second quarter Thursday night, the franchise's quarterback of the future entered the game.

For those hoping to catch just a glimpse of Carson Wentz's potential, he did not disappoint. The second overall draft pick impressed with his toughness and decision-making, and tantalized with his athleticism and arm strength.

"It was fun," Wentz said of his NFL debut with a beaming smile. "First opportunity I had, I'm running the two-minute drill, so I enjoyed that. I hadn't had a ton of reps lately in practice, but it was fun out there. I finally got to take some hits, it's been a while since that's happened.

"There are definitely some things to improve on for myself and as a team, but it was enjoyable."

Wentz completed 12 of 24 pass attempts for 89 yards and an interception in addition to running three times for 15 yards in the Eagles' 17-9 win over the Buccaneers (see Instant Replay). While the numbers might not amount to much, the 23-year-old was also victimized by four drops and wisely threw two balls away.

It was certainly a learning experience for the rookie signal-caller, but by and large, his first game was a success (see 10 observations).

"I thought some plays were made," Wentz said. "There were still some plays that needed to be made that were left on the field. The interception in the red zone is something you never want to do. That ball sailed on me.

"Overall, there's a lot of good things to build on and as a team, we're walking away with a win, so at the end of the day, that's a positive."

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was generally pleased with what he saw as well.

"By no means is he perfect or was anybody perfect tonight," said Pederson. "But pleased for his first outing and we’ve just got to continue to work with him on a daily basis and get him where he needs to be."

The turnover stands out as a negative, although it was arguably his lone mistake of the night. With the pocket collapsing and Wentz unable to follow through on the pass, he misfired for wide receiver Pat Turner and instead found Bucs safety Isaiah Johnson for the pick. Granted, the quarterback was getting hit as he threw, but taking a sack might've been a better decision.

Otherwise, Wentz was calm and collected under pressure. He stepped up in the pocket when there was space, but also showed tremendous ability to escape the rush when necessary and deliver the ball accurately while on the move. The play of the night was when rookie center Bruce Johnson snapped the ball early and the rest of the line didn't move, allowing the pass rush to get a free run at Wentz. He rolled to his right away from a defender and fired a strike to Turner down the sideline for a 10-yard gain. 

Mobility and his ability to keep his eyes downfield were arguably the best attributes on display for Wentz on Thursday night.

"Some of those things were [naked boot legs], designed plays, some of them were just improvising," Wentz said. "But I feel confident on the move and I know that was something we wanted to get on tape a little bit.

"We were running the ball all right and I thought we had some good plays off the naked, so we'll see on the tape."

After the game, Wentz agreed mobility is one of his strengths.

"I think it's just my athleticism," Wentz said. "I feel comfortable making plays on the run. Sometimes the play was breaking down and I had to make a play, sometimes we snapped one early and the D-end was rushing."

Yet Wentz flashed more than talent. Playing behind a bunch of reserve offensive linemen, the North Dakota State product showed he was willing to stand back there and take a hit, even seeing and adapting to the defense's blitzes.

Wentz gave Eagles fans bit of a scare in the fourth quarter on his second-to-last play of the game, taking a shot from Bucs linebacker Micah Awe as he was throwing the football. For a moment, it looked like Wentz might have to exit the game, but shook it off and stayed on the field.

"Got one in the ribs," Wentz said. "It was hard to breathe there for a second, but all good."

It was not the only time Wentz escaped serious injury. On one called quarterback keeper, he failed to leap over a tackler and wound up getting flipped in the air, fortunately landing on his behind.

"Hope I don't land on my neck," said Wentz of what was going through his mind while airborne. "I landed fine though. I was good, but a lot of guys were like, 'Hey, you gotta get your butt down,' and I'll learn from that."

Pederson was hoping Wentz would clear the tackle. If he had, he might still be running.

"Kind of loved it," said Pederson. "Wish he would have hurdled the guy instead of taking one in the legs. You know the guy is going low on a big quarterback like that. They're usually not going to stay up. I wish he would have hurdled. The fact he'd done a lot of that in college, that was a no-brainer for me."

Count Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford among those that admired Wentz's toughness as well.

"It's probably good to take a couple of those hits to realize you're going to get back up, that it's just like in college, but he did a great job standing in there," Bradford said. "It's not easy to stand in there when you're getting hit like that."

As far as the NFL being just like college, you don't have to tell Wentz. Aside from the speed of the game being a bit faster, he never gets nervous, especially on the football field, where he proved he was comfortable even in his pro debut.

And it showed.

"It was a little different, but it still felt like a football game," Wentz said. "I was still out there playing ball, taking hits. It was all kind of similar, just new offense, new facility, a lot of new things going on, but it's still just a football game and I had fun with it."

Film shows Derek Barnett came up big vs. Colts

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NFL

Film shows Derek Barnett came up big vs. Colts

Despite the addition of Michael Bennett this offseason, the Eagles have made Derek Barnett a starter in his second NFL season. 

Now, of course, that doesn’t matter as much with this defense and the rotation they implement, but it’s still saying something that Barnett — not Bennett or Chris Long — is starting games. 

Barnett had an OK rookie season, picking up five sacks in limited playing time, but the team is expecting a nice jump from him in Year 2. He had a pretty quiet summer, and aside from a few big plays in the run game, a pretty quiet first two games. 

But he did have a really nice game against the Colts on Sunday. And after the game, head coach Doug Pederson had some effusive praise for Barnett.

“It just seems like somewhere in the game, 96 is going to show up on make a play,” Pederson said after the game. “And he did that several times today.”

Then Pederson doubled down the next morning on WIP: “He’s all over the field. He’s a relentless player right now.” 

All of that is high praise from a head coach. So with that high praise in mind, I took a closer look at Barnett’s game as a pass rusher on Sunday. Doug’s right. He made some plays. 

We’ll start with what was really the play of the game, which means we’re jumping ahead to the fourth quarter for this one. It’s 4th-and-3 and the Colts are four yards away from the end zone and a lead with just 1:19 on the clock. The Eagles need a play. 

Barnett is at RDE and he’s going against Colts LT Le’Raven Clark. 

This is why the Eagles drafted Barnett: his bend. Barnett gets a nice jump off the ball and quickly bends around Clark, who was a little slow out of his stance. 

Clark probably should have held Barnett, mauled him on this play. That was his only chance to save a sack. Barnett uses that bend to get around Clark and get a straight shot on Luck. Luck desperately wants to deliver the football, but where? There’s nothing open. 

Now, Barnett has to do a better job of getting Luck to the ground here. I know the rules protecting the QB are in the back of everyone’s mind, but Luck is a big QB and if he’s able to stay on his feet and buy some time, it could have been deadly. 

Still, though, a big play from Barnett when the Eagles desperately needed one. This is his first full sack of the season. 

Now, that we have that full sack out of the way, here’s a play where he picked up a half, along with Fletcher Cox. 

It’s 2nd-and-11 just after the two-minute warning in the second quarter. Barnett just got back in the game and is at RDE. 

I like this play from Barnett because he gets off the ball quick and shows that he’s going to use his bend to try to get around Clark. Clark has to honor that; he’s expecting it. But instead of using finesse, Barnett is about to use a power move. 

Because Clark wasn’t expecting a bullrush, he doesn’t have great leverage and leaves too much space between him and Barnett. And Barnett is now about to put him on roller skates. 

Cox gets there at the same time and he goes through two blockers to do it. But this isn’t a review of Cox, who we already know is really damn good. This was a nice play from Barnett and a good sign that he was willing to switch up his pass rush here to catch the tackle off balance. 

We’re now in the third quarter and it’s 2nd-and-8. On the play before this, Barnett tackled the running back for a short, two-yard gain. It was a nice play, but I want to focus on Barnett’s game as a pass rusher. He’s been really solid against the run so far this year, but they drafted him to hit quarterbacks. 

Barnett is at RDE again and this time he has Haloti Ngata next to him. Ngata has been quiet through three games, but at times, does demand double teams. That’s going to happen here. The LG and LT double Ngata, which leaves Barnett a 1-on-1 vs. the TE. He better beat him. 

 

No games here. Barnett just tries to overpower the tight end and pushes him back. Honestly, it would be ideal for Barnett to overpower him even more, but this will do. 

Barnett helps collapse the pocket just quickly enough. Luck can’t step into this throw and tosses a floater out to T.Y. Hilton that should have been intercepted by Rodney McLeod. 

This next play is in the third quarter, right after Carson Wentz threw an interception to give the Colts the ball in the red zone. The Eagles’ red zone defense was huge on Sunday and this is one play that really helped. 


The jump Barnett got on this play was incredible. I’ve watched it about a thousand times and still can’t tell if he left a split-second too early. I don’t think he did. 

But because of that jump, combined with his unique bend, Clark has no choice but to hold him and drag him down to the ground. 

This play resulted in a 10-yard penalty and eventually the Colts settled for a 31-yard field goal to take a three-point lead. In a four-point win, this play helped keep four Colts points off the board. 

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Barnett is just 22 and he isn’t yet a dominant pass rusher. It’s too early to tell if he’ll ever get there. And playing against left tackles in this league isn’t easy. But we finally saw some really good things from Barnett against the Colts. 

It’s just one game, but it’s something really solid to build on for the rest of the season. 

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Record-setting tight ends and more in this week's Roob Stats

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USA Today Images

Record-setting tight ends and more in this week's Roob Stats

Eagles tight ends making history, unprecedented defense, a record Andrew Luck probably doesn't want and a remarkable Eagles running game stat! 

It's all in this week's edition of Roob Stats!  

Record-setting tight ends

Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on Sunday became the first pair of Eagles tight ends with 70 or more yards in the same game since Dec. 5, 1965, when Ray Poage [5-142] and Pete Retzlaff [6-118] did it in a 21-19 loss to the Cowboys at Franklin Field.

Goedert makes history

Goedert became the first Eagles rookie tight end with 70 yards in a game since L.J. Smith had 97 yards against the Falcons in a 23-16 Eagle win at the Georgia Dome in 2003 and the first with 70 yards and a touchdown since Keith Jackson did it twice in 1988.

Ertz climbing fast

Ertz now has 342 receptions in 78 career games. Only six tight ends in NFL history had more in their first 78 career games:  

421 … Kellen Winslow Sr.

377 … Jimmy Graham

374 … Rob Gronkowski

372 … Kellen Winslow Jr.

345 … Jason Witten

344 … Antonio Gates

342 … Zach Ertz

Long drive, it’s outta here 

The Eagles’ game-winning drive Sunday lasted 11 minutes, 17 seconds. It’s the Eagles’ longest drive in at least 20 years, or as far back as the Pro Football Reference drive finder goes. Their previous longest drive on record lasted 10:26 against the 49ers in that 42-3 win at the Linc in 2005. It ended with a six-yard TD pass from Donovan McNabb to Greg Lewis.

Home cooking

The Eagles have held seven straight home opponents to 16 or fewer points. That’s the third-longest streak in franchise history. They held eight straight to 16 or fewer in 1942 and 1943 as the Steagles and also eight straight over the 1977 and 1978 seasons.  

Third-down defense

The Colts went into Sunday not only with the NFL’s No. 1 third-down offense at 60.6 percent but with the best in the NFL after two games since 2011. But the Eagles held them to 16.7 percent on 2-for-12, lowest by any Eagles opponent since the Giants in 2014 (2-for-14, 14.3 percent).

You’re not scoring here 

In their last nine home games, the Eagles' defense has defended 105 drives and allowed just eight touchdowns. Only three of those touchdowns have come in the second half ... and only one of those with the starters on the field.

Dak Prescott making history 

Here are Dak Prescott’s stats in his last five games: 

34 attempts, 181 yards

30 attempts, 179 yards

29 attempts, 170 yards

25 attempts, 160 yards

34 attempts, 168 yards

Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have had longer streaks of games with at least 25 attempts and fewer than 200 yards: John Brodie, Rick Mirer, Steve Walsh and Ken O’Brien.

Rushing dominance

Sunday’s game was the first in which the Eagles rushed for 150 yards as a team without any individual reaching 60 yards since a 17-3 win over the Cowboys at the Vet in 1990, when they ran for 178:

54 … Randall Cunningham

37 … Anthony Toney

34 … Heath Sherman

27 … Keith Byars

23 … Thomas Sanders

3 … Jim McMahon

Out of Luck

Andrew Luck’s 164 passing yards against the Eagles are the second-fewest in NFL history by a quarterback completing at least 25 passes. Joe Montana was 25 for 36 for 163 yards for the 49ers against the Bills in 1980. Luck’s 164 yards are also the fewest ever vs. the Eagles by a QB throwing 40 passes. Previous low was Jay Cutler’s 171 in the Eagles' 24-20 win at Soldier Field in 2009.

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