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