Eagles QB adds elusiveness to his arsenal
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First, Carson Wentz ducked and spun to his left to avoid linebacker Chris Carter. Then he saw Washington linebacker Preston Smith bearing down on his left as Carter loomed on the right, a combined 600 pounds of force ready to pounce on its prey.
Somehow, Wentz cut right and got around Carter, then stepped up to elude Smith grabbing at his ankles. Then Wentz cut to his left and threw off his back foot down the field, a process that Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor described as “doop, doop, doop, doop.”
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, meanwhile, said he had no idea where Wentz was throwing the ball. He was trying to get open in front of Wentz as a safety valve. Then Jeffery looked up and saw the ball landing in the arms of Agholor, all alone.
Agholor did his part, which Jeffery described as: “Hey, just catch the ball.” Agholor did, giving the Eagles a 58-yard touchdown on their opening drive.
“I told him that I had only seen two players in the NFL make that play, all that elusiveness and making a hell of a play — him and (the Green Bay Packers’) Aaron (Rodgers),” Jeffery said. “Hey, that’s special.”
Not the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger?
“I’ve seen Aaron and only him,” Jeffery repeated. “That’s probably the play of the NFL season so far.”
Added Agholor: “I mean, he’s a magician, man.”
When the Eagles dissect their 30-17 season-opening win against Washington, that is how they’ll measure the growth of their franchise quarterback from his rookie season into the start of his second.
That, after all, is the quality that separates the good quarterbacks from the great ones.
“That’s what you want because scramble plays are always big,” Jeffery said. “We know the defense gets tired. Scramble plays are always huge in any offense for anyone.”
That is what the Eagles desperately need from Wentz. He was under siege throughout the game, even before left tackle Jason Peters left in the second quarter with a groin injury.
Wentz was sacked only twice, but hit nine times. Yet he completed 26 of 39 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Most important, he broke Washington’s collective backs with his ability to escape.
“He took shot after shot after shot,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He extended a lot of plays with his legs and his athleticism. He’s battle tested. We saw it last year a little bit, and he proved it again (in Week 1).”
It wasn’t always pretty. Pederson, when asked about how the offense played, responded, “Just OK.”
But Wentz made it OK enough. That’s because the Eagles’ fast 13-0 start was quickly falling apart just minutes after cornerback Ronald Darby was carted off the field in the second quarter with what a dislocated ankle.
The Eagles found themselves trailing by a point with 1:17 left in the first half. The easy solution would have been for Wentz to run out the clock in the first half and regroup for the second half.
But he didn’t. He converted a 3rd-and-10 to tight end Zach Ertz. He converted another 3rd-and-6 to Agholor, and he eventually got the Eagles close enough for a 50-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis as the first half ended putting the Eagles back in front.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Eagles up by six points, they faced a third-and-10 from their 26.
Wentz pulled another Houdini act. He scrambled to his left and lofted a pass down the sideline to Ertz, who kept running while the defender had to pause and consider making a play on Wentz.
The play went for 23 yards and allowed the Eagles to take off another precious few minutes off the clock.
“That’s tough on the secondary any time the quarterback can extend plays and find guys down the field,” Wentz said. “I mean, they have to cover guys for a long time, and that could be really frustrating ... That’s something we just got to keep developing.”
But the Eagles receivers already know. That’s why Agholor didn’t have to think twice when he looked back and saw Wentz scrambling around in the first quarter, desperately trying to avoid a sack. He ran deep and Wentz found him.
“Instinct kicks in,” Agholor said. “You keep eyes on the quarterback and you try to get away from defenders.”
Wentz will take care of the rest.
Carson Wentz finds new way to win.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s scrambling ability gave Philadelphia extra opportunities in its win against Washington.