CHICAGO – On April 28, Carson Wentz walked across the stage at Auditorium Theatre, shook hands with the commissioner, and was handed his first Eagles jersey.
Just 144 days later, Wentz was back in the Windy City. And this time, he was a star.
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Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in April, led the Eagles to a 29-14 win over the Bears at Soldier Field on Monday night in the city where his journey in the NFL began (see Instant Replay).
“Throughout the week, I realized I’m going back to where my life changed, so to speak,” Wentz said. “It was cool to be back here, especially to come out of here with a win.”
Wentz didn’t put up the same numbers as his Week 1 performance against the Bears, but was again efficient and impressive. Against the Bears, he completed 21 of 34 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. That was good for a passer rating of 86.6.
After two games, Wentz’s confidence is high.
“I’m feeling really good,” he said. “I play with a lot of confidence. I normally feel good, even when there’s bad plays, things happen. You just have to keep plugging away and I feel confident.”
Perhaps more important than the good plays Wentz has made are the bad plays he hasn’t. Through two games, Wentz has thrown 71 passes and hasn’t yet thrown his first NFL interception.
“It’s something I pride myself on,” the rookie said. “It’s something this offensive prides itself on. Just controlling the ball. Protecting the football. Making smart decisions. Being aggressive but being calculated with that, knowing when to take your chances. We’ve had some fortunate plays too.”
Wentz has managed to not throw an interception while still being aggressive.
On Monday night, the Eagles’ defense gave up just seven points and has given up just 17 in the first two games of the season. That has removed a lot of weight from the rookie’s shoulders.
But he’s not content to let the other unit do all the heavy lifting.
“When they’re getting turnovers and making plays, he’s like ‘Ah shoot, now we’ve got to go ball,’” receiver Jordan Matthews said of Wentz. “I remember the defense is playing really well, Carson comes in the huddle and is like ‘The defense is playing great. Forget that, let’s go score as an offense.’ A lot of rookie quarterbacks aren’t saying that. They’re leaning on the defense, ‘Hey, guys keep going. Let’s just ground and pound it and let’s get out of here.’
“No. This guy wants to make plays. He wants to go out there, he wants to have fun. He wants to take shots and he wants to win big.”
While Wentz threw for 190 yards, there were plenty of opportunities for more. There were several off-schedule plays when the rookie kept his eyes downfield and delivered passes that his receivers weren’t able to bring in.
That ability as a downfield passer, while moving in and out of the pocket, has impressed his head coach.
“When guys are falling around his feet and the protection in the pocket kind of collapses, he’s always looking to make a play down the field,” Doug Pederson said.
From the time he first arrived in Philadelphia, Wentz has said he doesn’t get nervous. That didn’t change before his first NFL game in Week 1 and it didn’t change before he got his first chance to play in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
“It was a cool stage, you know, Monday Night Football, everything was sweet,” he said. “But again, it was a football game and we came out with a win.”
The one area where Wentz clearly needs some improvement is protecting his body. He was sacked twice, but took a few unnecessary shots where he was at fault. He still needs to learn how to balance his aggressiveness with the need to stay healthy. That’s something the coaching staff and his teammates keep reminding him. And it’s something that left him feeling “crabby” at himself after a play where he should have gone down.
But if that’s the biggest problem he has, the rookie is in a pretty good spot. Excitement inside the locker room and in Philadelphia will continue to rise.
What has made him the happiest over these last two weeks?
“We’re 2-0,” Wentz said. “Without a doubt. We’re 2-0.”