Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz was 22 of 37 for 278 yards and two highlight reel TD passes. Photo by Andy Lewis / contrastphotography.com
The Eagles front office is on a roll and the players in the locker room, and Eagles fans across the Delaware Valley hope their good fortune continues.
Under the president administration that features Howie Roseman as the executive vice president of football operations and Doug Pederson as the head coach, the team can’t seem to do anything wrong.
This offseason the Birds got rid of all the bad contracts, brought in free agents that seem to be impact-full then spent a lot, but moved up to the No. 2 spot in the draft and selected a raw talent in quarterback Carson Wentz
On September 3, 2016 the Eagles announced they had traded starting quarterback Sam Bradford to Minnesota for the Vikings first pick in the 2017 draft and their fourth pick on conditional terms.
If the Vikings make it to the Super Bowl with Bradford behind center that fourth pick turns into a second round pick.
Head coach Doug Pederson decided he was going to start rookie Wentz, and not the expensive backup Chase Daniel.
Most observers and fans – and even a few teammates – figured Wentz would struggle and the Birds’ record would as well.
Well, someone found a switch on the former North Dakota State’s back and turned it on as Wentz led the Birds (1-0) to a convincing 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns in the season opener at the Linc
Wentz shocked the world going 22 of 37 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in in the win. He was sacked twice.
Pederson said he wasn’t surprised Wentz played well.
“It’s not surprising,” the first year head coach said after the game. “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.”
The Eagles rushed for 133 yards as a team on 34 carries with Ryan Mathews leading the way with 77 yards on 22 carries and a score.
Left guard Allen Barbre talked about the team’s and Wentz’ effort.
“We came out and worked hard all week,” Barbre said. “We had some mixups in there today, and some of it was what they (Cleveland) did, but it’s a credit to the young kid, Carson, for coming out and playing hard. It was his first week, first start…we all saw some of the throws he made, that’s the talent they seen in him. He did a good job. He had composure. He did really well.”
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was asked if he was impressed with the rookie quarterback.
“I think he played with a lot of energy,” said Cox, who finished the game with four solo tackles (two for loss), two quarterback hurries and a sack. “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.”
Wentz was asked if he was nervous coming into the game.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” Wentz said. “I really don’t get nervous. I like to listen to worship music before the game to kind of calm my nerves. I just go out and have fun. It’s a game and I try to enjoy it. I had a lot of fun today and the turnout was good.”
Wentz was asked if Pederson talked to him before the game to calm his nerves and if he got the sense that Pederson might be nervous. After all, they are booth rookies.
“I did not, no,” Wentz said. “He seemed ready to go. Locked in. I thought he called a great game. I thought we did some really good things offensively. It was fun out there.”
Wentz also talked about his first NFL drive. It was a drive for the ages for a player stepping on the biggest stage of his sport for the first time.
The rookie drove his team 75 yards on on nine plays ending with Wentz hitting Jordan Matthews with a 19-yard touchdown pass and 7-0 lead they never gave up.
“It was huge,” Wentz said. “It gave me a lot of confidence. Going down, moving the ball, getting that 20-yard touchdown or whatever it was right away, right off the bat, was huge for my confidence and was huge for this team’s confidence. I know the people here were rocking, so it was a lot of fun and the turnout was good.”
The Eagles defense set the tone forcing three consecutive three-and-outs to start the game.
The Browns got their first first down with 12:01 left in the second quarter.
Defensive end Brandon Graham helped force Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III to take a safety in the third quarter after a bad snap by Cameron Erving.
The Birds defense held RGIII to 12 of 26 passing for 190 yards, one interception sacking him three times.
“It was just one of those games we were having a lot of fun,” Graham said. “Everyone was coming and indicating what they thought, we were helping the second group. I like our communication by the defense.”
Graham was asked about the safety. After Erving’s snap sailed over RGIII’s head and into the end zone, Graham blew by several Brown’s offensive linemen and put pressure on Griffin, forcing him kick the ball out of the end zone before Graham could pounce on it.
“Whenever that happens, I had the angle anyway to run outside,” Graham said at this locker after the game. “Usually when I’m running outside like that, a lineman’s not going to get me because he knows the quarterback is going to step up. He didn’t see the ball had gone back as far as it did. For me I was just trying to score my first touchdown, my first one at the Linc.”
Graham said Cleveland’s offensive line, that includes nine-time Pro Bowl Joe Thomas started to fade late in the game.
“We just started winning a lot of one-on-ones at the end,” Graham said. “That’s what we did. We just kept coming and the sacks came in the second half.”
Barbre said the first drive by the offense was something they want to keep going.
“It was nice,” Barbre said. “It’s something we want to build on and continue to get better.”
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii