Look­ing Up: Eye­brows still raised over Wentz, but for dif­fer­ent rea­son

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son had a heartto-heart with his play­ers Mon­day be­fore send­ing them off on their bye week.

Ped­er­son didn’t re­veal ev­ery­thing he said. It’s a pretty good guess he re­minded Nel­son Agholor and maybe a cou­ple of other play­ers what hap­pened the last time they went gen­tle­men-club­bing dur­ing an ex­tended break from foot­ball prior to train­ing camp.

What Ped­er­son is fret­ting about is his play­ers bask­ing in the lime­light of a 3-0 start. The me­dia frenzy is get­ting out of con­trol. Try marinating in that for two weeks.

“I told them this week they’re go­ing to travel and go home and peo­ple are go­ing to pat them on the back and say how great they are,” Ped­er­son said. “But next Mon­day I’m go­ing to tell them, ‘Hey, we’re back to work. We’re 0-0. This is the game we’re in. Let’s go.’ That’s just the way it has to be.”

Ped­er­son big­gest con­cern is “com­pla­cency,” as hard as that may be to be­lieve.

“You think you’ve ar­rived,” Ped­er­son said. “You think you’re all that. When that creeps in, that’s when you get beat. It’s my job not to let that creep in. I’ve got to keep the guys fo­cused and grounded.”

That al­most cer­tainly won’t be an is­sue with rookie quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, whose prepa­ra­tion is so thor­ough, he re­minds Ped­er­son of Pey­ton Man­ning. Ped­er­son con­fessed how he was mildly sur­prised

by the re­ac­tion he got from some play­ers when he told them, af­ter the trade of vet­eran Sam Brad­ford, that Wentz would be the starter.

“I think there was maybe, you know, three weeks ago when I named Car­son the starter, there were ob­vi­ously some eye­brows raised,” Ped­er­son said. “But now these guys have bought in. They have bought in. They’ve got the leader of the foot­ball team. You saw it yes­ter­day. You watch the tape and you see it on film. These guys, these vet­eran play­ers, have re­ally em­braced it. They will do any­thing they can for a guy like that.”

Wentz leads through ex­am­ple. Ped­er­son said Wentz and the quar­ter­backs are in

each day at 5:30 a.m. “ex­haust­ing the tape.

“Then I hear him in the build­ing, talk­ing to guys about plays and routes and pro­tec­tions,” Ped­er­son said. “It’s Pey­ton Man­ning-ish. I hate to put la­bels on guys but that’s how Pey­ton pre­pared and that’s how these top quar­ter­backs are pre­pared ev­ery week. He has that knack as a young quar­ter­back and that will carry him through­out his ca­reer. The chal­lenge now is the more suc­cess, how much gets pulled on him and taken away from him. But he’s off to a good start.”

Wentz threw for 301 yards and two touch­downs to power the Ea­gles to a 34-3 rout of the fa­vored

Steel­ers Sun­day at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field. The rookie has gone three starts with­out a turnover.

Wentz is the first NFL quar­ter­back to ac­cu­mu­late 100 or more pass at­tempts, 60 or more com­ple­tions, five or more touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions in his first three games. He and Mark Sanchez are the only rookie quar­ter­backs to win their first three games since the 1970 merger.

The Ea­gles are 3-0 for the first time since they went 7-0 dur­ing their 2004 Su­per Bowl sea­son.

*** Ped­er­son again said he ex­pects tight end Zach Ertz and Leo McKelvin to be ready to go in two weeks,

Ertz suf­fered a dis­placed first rib, McKelvin a strained ham­string in the opener.

Ped­er­son said Ryan Mathews re-in­jured the an­kle that gave him is­sues be­fore train­ing camp.

“His an­kle stiff­ened up on him dur­ing the first quar­ter,” Ped­er­son said. “When Ryan is healthy, he’s the guy. Then Dar­ren (Spro­les), we mix Dar­ren in there. You saw what Wen­dell (Small­wood) can do. You saw what Ken­jon (Barner), what he’s all about.”

Small­wood rushed for 79 yards on 17 car­ries and his first touch­down again­sts the Steel­ers. Barner also ran for a score. ***

Lim­ited at prac­tices by a bro­ken nose, Ea­gles line­backer My­chal Ken­dricks played just nine of 60 de­fen­sive snaps against the Steel­ers. That was a prod­uct of the Steel­ers aban­dond­ing the ground game and get­ting af­ter the Birds in three re­ceiver sets.

“It was just their of­fen­sive per­son­nel, ba­si­cally just dic­tat­ing that for us,” Ped­er­son said.

Rookie de­fen­sive back Jalen Mills played 54 snaps, or one less than he played in the first two games com­bined.

Mills topped the Ea­gles with six solo tack­les, all of them against An­to­nio Brown, who had 12 catches for 112 yards for the Steel­ers.

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