September 11, 2016
If you thought Carson Wentz looked good in his NFL debut for the Eagles on Sunday, you are far from alone. And there's good reason for optimism following the 29-10 win over the Browns. Fans should be enjoying the win -- and it seems they are, based on their Twitter reactions to Wentz's performance.
But it won't always be sunny in South Philly. There will be growing pains. Losses. Ups. Downs. This is just the first of 16 games for the rookie, and they aren't likely to face a worse opponent the rest of the way.
That's not meant to dampen your spirits. It's just the facts. Had Wentz looked totally out of his element on Sunday, I'd be the one talking you off the ledge, reassuring you that one game does not a career make. It's hard to project based on the sample we have from the 23-year-old quarterback. Just know that if he doesn't look as good next Monday night against the Bears, it hardly means Wentz has regressed. After all, less than 10 days ago we didn't even think he'd be active in Week 1 -- and a year ago, he was playing FCS football.
Enough with the disclaimer; it just seemed necessary to balance out the effusive praise that's below. Following his 278-yard, two-touchdown performance, Wentz's teammates and coach -- and even the opposition -- had nothing but good things to say about the rookie out of North Dakota State.
But before we hear from those involved in the game, the NFL was kind enough to put together a video of every single one of Wentz's pass attempts against Cleveland. Enjoy (unless you're a Browns fan).
Wentz wasn't the only rookie playing a crucial role in the Eagles win. Doug Pederson also did pretty well for himself in his first NFL game. So let's start with the head coach's assessment of Wentz.
How impressed were you with the way QB Carson Wentz handled himself out there?
“It's not surprising, because of us and myself being around him for so long now, and just knowing the maturity level that he has and the things that I was trying to get across to the fans, to the media: This is who he is. This is his DNA. And he really handled himself great all week long. He prepared like he was a five-, six-year veteran and obviously he played that way. Just so happy for him and his family and then the team. They are so excited to get this first win but again with Carson, how he handled himself with the maturity level was outstanding.”
What was your pregame interaction with Carson like? Seemed like you had a couple light moments on the field pregame.
“Yeah, I was just trying to lighten it up. I don't know if that was more for me or for him. My nerves were a little high, as well. I was a little jittery at going out. I just wanted him to relax and take a look around and just see this; this is a great feeling before the football game, and everything that went on and just to soak it all in. And then once the ball was teed up and kicked off, it was business as usual. Try to keep it as light as possible and just let him know that we're also here to have fun.”
What did you tell him after that first drive?
“I said, hey, we're going to stay this way all day. Let's just keep this mind-set, this mentality going. It's the first drive. There's a lot of football left. You know, it's the first time these guys have played a full 60-minute game. It matters now that when you not only score on your first drive but how well you can bounce back those next two, three series. We kind of struggled right in there a little bit and had some opportunities. Missed a kick, made the kick. So you know, we had chances. Those are things we've got to look at and clean up and make the corrections going forward.”
Seemed like Carson was audibling quite a bit during the game. How much did he actually change the call?
“You know, again, it's by design. We give him in the play call, we'll give him, for instance, a run right, run left, for instance and he uses his cadence to see what the defense is going to do and from there, it's either we leave the original play on or we check it or kill it to the other play. It's just things that most teams do nowadays. You get so many multiple looks on defenses that you've got to put your quarterback and your offense in those positions and he handled those very well.”
On Wentz throwing into tight windows:
“I knew it was coming. It’s a man play on the front side, and I’m on the back side finding the middle void. But if they don’t go man coverage and go zone, the corners stayed under me and the safety was coming over top. I knew the ball was coming so I just kind of slow played it and let him read the front side. I knew it was going to end up coming to me. I couldn’t even see Carson, I just saw the ball. That’s just another play where he’s going through his reads and breaking down coverages. Most of the time if you’re on the backside the ball is not coming to you.
"All week he said if they go zone, it’s coming to that backside dig. We never throw that in practice, but in the game that’s what we saw and he hit it. That’s just another testament to his maturity and his ability to go out and implement things that he saw in practice and go on to do it in a game. “
“Believe it or not, Carson was calm before the game. ... What he did today was display to the world what he displays to us on a daily basis." -- Eagles RB Kenjon Barner
On receiving a lot of targets:
“It’s just part of the game. I was put in a position to go out there and make plays, and Carson put it on me. [WR Nelson Agholor] went out there and had a great game. I think every catch [TE Zach Ertz] had was a conversion. It was 4th and 4 before Nelson caught his touchdown.
"That’s a huge play. That’s what you need your tight ends for. We had a slant on the money for a first down, now we go out and take a shot and score. It’s a whole unit and a group of guys that have one identity. It’s like the Spurs, you don’t know who is going to score but we all have to go out there and make plays for the guy calling the show.”
On his relationship with Wentz:
“I really like music. I don’t really get into TV. I was like ‘What do you all listen to out in North Dakota? I don’t know any rappers from North Dakota’. He said his favorite album was from Jason Aldean. I went to school in Nashville so I heard of Jason. It was the ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ album. I thought if I’m going to learn this guy’s mindset, I have to listen to his music. I listened to the whole album and it was pretty good. There’s a song on there called ‘Fly Over States’, and it made sense because where he lives is a ‘fly over state.'
"I’ve never been to North Dakota so I got a feel for who he is. He’s a humble guy from North Dakota and I’m a humble guy from Alabama. The bottom line is that I got to know him a little bit through that. I told him that if I listen to Jason Aldean, he has to listen to a Kanye [West] album. You have to know who I am. We’re trying to grow off the field as well as get better on the field.”
On Wentz's success in debut:
“All he does is work his butt off. He believes that he is going to make plays and that’s what happens.”
On Wentz not being affected by big hits early in game:
“You just made an analysis that I had no idea about. I don’t watch it from that end. All I know is that he is a great football player and he is a great competitor. That’s what comes down to being poised like that. He understands what the game is going to be. He is going to take some hits and he is going to make some great plays. And he is ready for that moment.”
On Wentz’s poise in his first NFL game:
“He was unbelievable. The thing that everyone doubted us on was whether or not he was a good quarterback, but we knew what we had in the building all along with Carson. He is a special, special player. He didn’t play like a rookie today by any means. To go out there in your first start with pretty much eight days’ notice and to not have any turnovers speaks volumes about his play.”
On what makes Wentz a special player:
“He is extremely confident in his abilities, not that he is cocky by any means, but no stage is too big for him. People think, ‘Oh he is playing in Philadelphia from North Dakota, so the stage is going to be way too big.’ But that is not the case by any means. He is very confident in his abilities and he is very confident in us as well. I think that gives us a lot of confidence, and he played great today. There are not enough good things I can say about him, and the guys are really excited to play with him.”
On Wentz’s overall play:
“I thought he did great. I mean [his] first game as a rookie, I don’t know how you can do much better than that. We’ve got to win, that’s all that really matters. He made great decisions. It was calm in the huddle. It was awesome.”
Whether Carson’s play will allow the offense to expand the playbook:
“I don’t know, that’s up to [head coach Doug Pederson]. But I think he did a good job. Even when things broke down, even when he had a bad snap [and] the ball was rolling around on the ground, just seeing him being calm [and] trying to throw it to a guy or throwing it out of bounds. That’s the kind of poise we need from a guy at quarterback. I think Carson did a great job of when things weren’t going right, to make it right.”
"I’m no good on evaluating quarterbacks, but all I can say is that it didn’t seem like he played like a rookie ... he was pretty impressive." -- Browns LT Joe Thomas
On Wentz's poise:
“Believe it or not, Carson was calm before the game. You guys don’t get to see him on a daily basis like we do, but he is a confident guy. He believes in his ability and God has truly blessed him. What he did today was display to the world what he displays to us on a daily basis.”
On how Wentz handled himself during the game:
“I have said this before: I think what was really impressive as a rookie, he had so much poise today. I think there were a lot of things that the defense did. They didn’t hold back anything obviously. They were coming after with some blitzes, some situations with some exotic stuff, and he didn’t let that get to him. I thought it was tremendously handled; the ups and downs of the game. He did a really good job for us.”
On his communication with Wentz:
“It was good. I mean on the field sometimes, we don’t get it right. We get on the sideline and we make sure we iron it out so the next time we get it, we make corrections. Everything wasn’t perfect obviously, but we did a great job of recognizing things that didn’t go well the first time; making corrections on the second time. We did a great job making sure that it doesn’t happen again. That is the mark of a guy who is poised enough to not let things get him.”
On if his season outlook changed following Bradford trade:
“No, because I’ve seen Carson and I knew he was a good quarterback – a starter. When Sam got traded, I knew Carson could step up and make plays for us.”
On Wentz having played at an FCS school:
“It doesn’t matter. That’s why he was drafted in the first round. The guy can play and you saw that today. He’s only going to get better.”
On Wentz dealing with pressure and making throws:
“He is a big, strong guy: 6-5, 240 or whatever. He can handle it. He is a big boy. I am proud of him for the way he handled it. There was a lot on his plate today and it feels good to get the win.”
On when he noticed the pressure wasn’t too much for Wentz:
“It was just in OTA’s. It was the way he carried himself. He wasn’t cocky, but he was confident in himself. He goes and works real hard, so when situations do come like this, he’ll be ready.”
On Wentz not carrying himself like a rookie:
“I think he took the team by the reins and it’s his team now. He did a good job for the first week. I am proud of him and it is onto the next one. It feels good to get the first win of the season.”
“I think he played with a lot of energy. I said earlier in the week that there is just something about that kid. I think he’s going to be real special in terms of how he handles things and plays with poise. He just lived in the moment this week.”
“He was impressive. It is hard for any rookie at any position to come in in this league and play right away. The quarterback position is, without a doubt, the hardest position to play in this league, and he came out in his first game in the NFL and played great from start to finish. He showed a lot of poise and leadership and made a lot of great decisions.”
“I think he did good. I think he handled himself well. I think when the blitzes came he hung in there and took a couple hits that a lot of elite quarterbacks do. I just like what I see. I’m just happy that he’s going to get better each week. That’s that preparation. He’s been here every day at 5 o’clock. I see him because I’m usually the first one. Him and [QB] Chase [Daniel], I don’t know how early they’ve been here before me because I’m here at 6 o’clock.”
“I thought he did a good job. I thought they did a good job for the most part protecting him and he made some plays. And again, he won. So I thought he did some good things and it looked like he had some poise and was able to lead them to victory. But again, I thought we had our chances. In the scoring zone, we can’t just kick field goals. We have to score. We have to score the ball. We had some opportunities there and we didn’t make them. You can make it a little harder on the quarterback if you can score touchdowns and get ahead by a little bit, but we weren’t able unfortunately to do that today, unfortunately.”
“I’m no good on evaluating quarterbacks, but all I can say is that it didn’t seem like he played like a rookie. He was standing back there even when he had pressure in his face getting hit and throwing the ball on target and moving the ball all over the field. I can tell you he was pretty impressive.”
On Wentz's overall play:
“I think he did a really good job. He was more advanced than I expected him to be. He is a good quarterback. He stands in the pocket, he is able to make all the throws, very patient, and does not take off running all the time. He looks down the field and picks his receiver that he wants to throw to.”
On what stood out the most on the play of Wentz:
“His patience. I was expecting when his first read was not there, he would be taking off running. He did a really good job when his first read was not there, looking for the second read. He is really elusive back there and he just did a good job being patient and reading the coverage.”
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin