Carson Wentz still adjusting to being 'the man' in Philly

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Carson Wentz still adjusting to being 'the man' in Philly

What do we really know about Carson Wentz? He's a good quarterback. He loves to hunt and fish. He's very religious.

Honestly, that's about it.

He's been an Eagle for a year and a half and our knowledge of the would-be savior of the franchise remains a closed book. A mystery to everybody in Philadelphia.

So what about the real Carson Wentz? What about the guy who hasn't let us get to know him yet? What is Carson Wentz all about when he lets his guard down? Who is Carson Wentz beyond a devout hunter who throws a football far?

Wentz ponders the question for a second and then smiles.

"That’s pretty much all there is to it," he said. "I’m pretty simple."

We want to know everything about our quarterbacks. It's natural for a football-obsessed fan base. We knew all about Randall Cunningham's childhood, Donovan McNabb's high-profile college career, Michael Vick's stay in prison.

But Wentz?

The 24-year-old from Bismarck, North Dakota, says there's not much to really know. In a recent interview, he said he'll always keep his life private but admitted there's not much about him that people don't know.

“I feel like what I am and who I am is kind of out there," he said. "I do like being low-key, I do like being private, for the most part. I think this business, this world that I’ve come into, is really cool, but it can be a lot sometimes and sometimes it’s just nice to go home and be chill and be away from everything. But it’s cool at the same time.

"I definitely do enjoy it. There are perks of it. Honestly, seeing kids and stuff? That part’s really cool. Seeing how excited they can get. But at the same time, there are times I just want to go into Target real quick and or have something go on in my life so there’s those things.

"But honestly? What people know about me? That’s who I am and what I am and there's really not a lot more to it.”

Wentz knew what he was getting into when the Eagles drafted him. He knew how rabid the fans are here, he knew that the size of the market meant more intense scrutiny than most NFL cities, and he knew that the lifestyle he knew from small-town North Dakota and craved for himself as he moved on with his life would be very difficult to maintain.

To help isolate himself, he moved into deep South Jersey, where he can hunt and fish and get around with a large degree of anonymity.

But celebrity is impossible to avoid. No matter how hard you try.

"I was in the mall in Deptford in the spring," Wentz said. "I was literally talking to a guy for 20 minutes and there was a line of 20 people waiting.

"I said, 'Guys, I literally have to go. This isn't going to work.'"

Wentz got a taste of it in college. He was considered a god at North Dakota State and really throughout the Fargo area.

It prepared him for all this. But only a little.

"I did kind of have an idea that's what it was going to be," he said. "Back in Fargo even, before the draft, that's kind of what it evolved into. Even playing as a senior in college. In Fargo, Bison football is what it's all about.

"Just going to places in college, you kind of got that treatment to some extent. I was ready for it, but obviously, it's a bigger scale here. It's cool at the same time.”

Wentz said it's a nearly impossible challenge balancing his desire to just be a normal person and run to Target when he needs a few things while still maintaining his obsessive privacy.

“You kind of pick and choose, honestly," he said. "I know for me in the offseason, I wasn’t as reserved about things, like going public. It is what it is. But during the season I like to be focused on football and then go home and be insulated.

"So it’s kind of pick and choose and knowing when you’re comfortable with those things. But at the same time, it’s part of it, and I’m learning every time I go do something  — the reaction and everything. But honestly, just kind of learning on the fly.

"And like where I live, for example, I’ve gone to some places down there a number times where it’s starting to get normal a little bit where I can kind of be fairly casual for the most part."

Wentz said when he leaves the NovaCare Complex at night and heads home he likes to get completely away from football.

He spends time with his brother and his family, who live 10 minutes away in deep South Jersey, and likes to play with his dogs in his large backyard.

Wentz said he spends about 12 hours a day at the NovaCare Complex during the season, and when he leaves, he doesn't want to talk about or think about football. Being home is an important time for him to refresh and escape the game a bit.

So if you run into Wentz at the Deptford Mall, ask about his dogs, hunting or his favorite podcast.

Just don't ask about football. And that goes for family members, too.

“There’s times where I’ll be talking to my mom and she’ll be asking me football questions and I’ll be like, ‘Mom, I’m going to hang up,'" he said.

"Like, I’ll call you to see how you’re doing, but I don’t want to talk about football.’ Even my brother, who knows the game really well, will talk about it (but only) if I bring it up."

On Sunday, Wentz will become only the third homegrown quarterback in the last 40 years to start two straight openers for the Eagles, joining McNabb and Cunningham.

It feels like Wentz has already embraced the city and the fans more than McNabb ever did. McNabb, for all his success, never came across as someone who loved playing in Philadelphia.

Wentz has made that connection in a very deep way in a little over a year, and he's done it while still staying true to his North Dakota roots.

He's managed to stay true to his roots 1,600 miles away while still truly becoming a Philly guy.

"The things I like about North Dakota, that's who I am," Wentz said. "I'm not going to let the culture I live in and where I live kind of change me. I'm just going to keep being me.

"If other people embrace it, that's cool. If they don't, I'm OK with it because I'm comfortable with who I am. Like the hunting and all that stuff, I'm fortunate enough that I can do that out in New Jersey. I can kind of get that peace of mind to get away from the game.

"It's kind of just who I am and what I'm about. Not going to let where I live and the circumstances change that.”

All of this doesn't mean Wentz doesn't appreciate what makes Eagles fans unique. He does. 

He clearly gets it.

"My brother and I and his wife were going to dinner in the spring and some guy knew who I was and just kept walking by, but kept screaming, ‘You’re the (expletive) man,’ and started doing the Eagles' chant," Wentz said.

"Like the whole street was doing it. That’s Philly right there. That’s what they’re all about. It was hilarious.”

Miles Sanders chasing records and more in 10 Roob Stats

Miles Sanders chasing records and more in 10 Roob Stats

We've got some overall defense, some Zach Ertz and some Miles Sanders in this week's edition of 10 Roob Stats.

Yes, we can always come up with positive stats even when the Eagles lose!

—> The Eagles have held three straight opponents to 17 or fewer points and fewer than 300 yards. This is only the second time that’s happened in the last 11 years. They also did it against the Steelers, Bears and Browns — the first three games of the Doug Pederson Era. Only the Patriots and 49ers have also had such streaks this year.

—> Carson Wentz’s current streak of 13 straight games with a touchdown pass is 3rd-longest in Eagles history, behind Wentz’s 22-game streak over the 2016 through 2018 seasons and Randall Cunningham’s 18-game streak in 1987 and 1988.

—> Wentz played his 50th career game Sunday. Among all QBs in NFL history in their first 50 games, he ranks 9th in most TD passes, 9th in passing yards, 12th in accuracy, second in completions and 3rd in interception percentage and has the 4th-highest passer rating.

—> Zach Ertz’s nine catches Sunday give him 55 this year. He’s the first player in Eagles history with six straight 50-catch seasons. Keith Byars [1988-92], Jeremy Maclin [2009-14], and Brian Westbrook [2004-08] had five.

—> Zach Ertz now has 17 career nine-catch games. Only Tony Gonzalez [25] and Jason Witten [20] have more in NFL history among tight ends. The last two games mark the fourth time in his career he’s had nine catches in consecutive games. The only other players in Eagles history to do that once are Pete Pihos in 1955 Terrell Owens in 2005.

—> One more Ertz: He’s increased his career total to 492 receptions, 20th-most in NFL history by a tight end. He only needs 14 to pass six more tight ends and move into 14th place. At his current rate, he’ll be in the all-time top-10 by Week 3 of next season.

—> The Eagles allowed 14 TD drives of 60 yards or more the first six games of the season. They’ve allowed 4 the last four games.

—> They’ve also held six straight home opponents under 100 rushing yards, the 6th-longest streak in franchise history and 3rd-longest since 1955.

—> The Eagles are on pace to allow fewer than 1,400 rushing yards ad fewer than 3.8 per carry in the same season for only the second time since 1991 and the sixth time since 1955.

—> He didn’t have a huge game Sunday, but Miles Sanders did add 47 scrimmage yards to his 2019 total and now ranks second among all rookie NFL running backs with 688 scrimmage yards, behind only Josh Jacobs of the Raiders, who has 1,067 (and 97 more touches).

—> Sanders’ 688 yards are most ever by an Eagles rookie running back after 10 games (35 more than Lee Bouggess in 1970) and second-most by any rookie, behind only DeSean Jackson (732). Sanders needs to average 52 yards from scrimmage the rest of the season for 1,000. The only Eagles rookie to reach 1,000 scrimmage yards was Jackson (1,008 in 2008). The most by a running back was LeSean McCoy’s 945 in 2009.

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Why Mike Groh thinks it’s ‘probably not fair’ to say Nelson Agholor has regressed

Why Mike Groh thinks it’s ‘probably not fair’ to say Nelson Agholor has regressed

Despite some pretty clear statistical evidence and the benefit of the eye test, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Tuesday pushed back against the idea that Nelson Agholor has regressed this year. 

“I would say that that’s probably not fair,” Groh said. 

But through 10 games in 2019, Agholor has just 36 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He has four drops and has caught the ball on just 57.1 percent of his targets. That ranks 62nd in catch percentage out of 72 receivers with at least 50 targets this season. 

So why doesn’t Groh think it’s fair to say Agholor has regressed? 

I would say that over the last two years, he’s had to wear a lot of different hats in our offense due to the attrition at the position. One of his strengths is his mental flexibility and his ability to learn. He knows the entire system as well as everybody, so he’s able to handle a lot from that standpoint. The flip side of that coin is he gets moved around. 

“In 2017, he was able to really stay in one spot each and every week. We were healthy the entire year. We had the same three, four guys rotating and performing the same job. His job description has changed the last couple of years due to necessity and I understand the question, but to me, he’s still the same player.

Some of that is certainly fair. Agholor has been asked to do a lot more this season than he was in 2017, when he was strictly a slot receiver with a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith manning the outside receiver positions. 

But thanks to injuries this year to DeSean Jackson and Jeffery, the Eagles have been relying on Agholor. He’s left too many plays on the field. 

Even just from a statistical standpoint, he’s regressed. Look at his yards per game in his career: 

2015: 21.8 
2016: 24.3
2017: 48.0
2018: 46.0 
2019: 32.2 

The guy we’re seeing every Sunday in 2019 looks a lot more like the 2016 version of Agholor than the 2017 version. And the guy we’re seeing in 2019 is getting paid $9.4 million to do it. 

With that contract and with his role in the offense, it’s not unrealistic to expect Agholor to make some difficult catches, but he’s even struggled with routine ones at times this season. 

On Sunday, there were two plays that really stood out. Sure, he made a great leaping grab in the middle of the field, but failed to haul in two potential touchdown passes. 

The one that everyone keeps talking about was on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. It would have been a really good catch, but receivers are sometimes allowed to make really good catches. 

“On the last play, when they went zero (blitz) and we laid the ball out there, Carson was trying to give him an opportunity to make a play,” Groh said. “That’s a tough adjustment based on the direction and the target line we have him on and where the ball kind of fell back over his inside shoulder. He’s the kind of guy that would say he would love to make that play. But that wasn’t a routine play, that would have been a really, really good play. And two guys making a good play in the circumstances that called for, but we didn’t get it done.”

The other play came earlier in the game. It was an off-script chance at the back of the end zone and it looked like Agholor just lost where he was on the field.  

“That play was really designed for a different coverage structure,” Groh said. “And he had a completely — really a completely different assignment had they played the intended or expected coverage, and so he was really just reacting to the situation as the play got extended. And then the ball took him to the corner of the end zone on that one.”

Agholor is 26 now and in his fifth NFL season. He’s had a really strange career and it seems like he has now returned to the bottom of the bell curve. 

He’ll be a free agent after this season and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be back in Philadelphia next year. It’s even harder to figure out what his worth will be on the open market. 

But there are still six games left in this season and the Eagles would get a huge boost if Agholor can help out a little more. 

“Got a lot of confidence in Nelson Agholor,” Groh said. “He’s one of the reasons we’ve had success here and I know he’ll continue to be one.”

Groh might truly believe that, but it’s likely to be a hard sell for everyone else. 

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