Carson Wentz had one hell of an NFL debut and several other Eagles stepped up to help thoroughly beat a bad Browns team on Sunday. Yes, Cleveland is bad right now but the Eagles beat them just like any of the NFL’s good teams would have, right? Right.
And that was with a rookie QB who was a third-stringer nine days ago, played about 1/2 of one preseason game and had one week of practice with the first stringers. Not too shabby, I’d say.
All the attention right now is going to Wentz, and deservedly so. He kicked off his NFL career in great fashion by completing 22 of 37 passes for 278 yards and two TDs. His two TD passes were things of beauty as he had excellent ball placement on each of them.
Wentz showed some recognition of the defensive alignments and audibled like a veteran. Well, he wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning with the audibles but the fact that he audibled even once in his first start is a great sign of understanding the game.
With all the Wentz praise going on, let’s not forget the rest of the guys who showed up yesterday.
After dropping Wentz’s first pro pass, Jordan Matthews went on to snare seven others to the tune of 114 yards and a TD. Matthews may not be the “take a game over” dominating-type WR like Julio Jones, but he is someone that defenses will have to account for.
What will help Matthews is if Nelson Agholor can continue to show up like he did yesterday as well. It was great to see him get off to a fast start this year in catching four passes for 57 yards and a beauty of a TD.
Agholor has good enough speed to stretch the field and draw the safeties. If he starts showing that he has to be accounted for, it opens up underneath routes where Zach Ertz will dominate (and Matthews).
Speaking of Ertz, what a first catch of the year by him! It was a twisting, one-handed grab that went for 14 yards and a first down. That set the tone on a nice first drive by the offense that ended in a TD.
The running game as a whole produced 133 yards on 34 carries for a 3.9 YPC average. If you remove Wentz’s two carries for one yard and Wendall Smallwood’s one carry for one yard, that leaves a 31/131/4.2 YPC line (over the magical 4.0 YPC threshold).
The running game wasn’t exactly explosive, but it was effective enough. This will be an important aspect of the offense to monitor because the run-game will be Wentz’s best friend as the year goes on.
On the other side of the ball, the defense didn’t dominate as much as I thought they would. They didn’t seem to generate a lot of pressure throughout the game but I’d have to re-watch to see if that was more due to the Browns deploying heavier protection schemes and Schwartz not calling many blitzes.
However, I thought they played well overall and certainly stepped up in the second half after the the Browns opened up the third quarter with a big play (RG3 58 yard pass to Corey Coleman).
The defense only gave up one TD and even that shouldn’t have happened. On a third-and-goal play in the second quarter, the refs called a ridiculously bad pass interference penalty on Malcom Jenkins while simultaneously missing Vinny Curry being blatantly held.
That gave the Browns a first and goal and led to their only TD.
Let’s also give some credit to Doug Pederson. This was also his rookie head coaching debut and I thought he called a solid, well balanced game. He mixed in different formations and packages that didn’t seem to telegraph to the the defense what was coming.
He also managed the clock and didn’t waste timeouts!
All in all, this was a great start for the new regime. Granted, it came against the Browns but it was still good to see.
Harder tests are coming, especially when defenses have a decent amount of film to study on Wentz and the Eagles’ offensive tendencies. But for now, we can revel in the fact that it seems we may very well have “the guy” at the game’s most important position.
All aboard the Wentz Wagon! Next stop, Chicago.