It seems that most Eagles fans are like one of those cartoons where the hero is undecided about an important issue and has an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, and both of them are whispering in his ear, trying to convince him to do their bidding.
For Eagles fans, perched on one shoulder is the angel who is thrilled about the play and the poise of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. Those fans can’t believe the Eagles finally have a franchise quarterback with Pro Bowl (and Super Bowl) potential, and they’re delighted and even a little smug that their team moved up in the draft to steal Wentz away from the other 31 teams.
For once, the Eagles did something right.
But then, on the other shoulder, is the devil who reminds you that, hey, it’s just one game and it was against possibly the worst team in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns. So, let’s see how Wentz does in his next game against better competition (the Chicago Bears) and faces a little adversity, not to mention a national television audience on Monday Night Football at historic Soldier Field. Also don’t forget that this is, after all, the Eagles, the team that has broken your heart countless times over the years – remember, it wasn’t that long ago that many of us were seduced by Nick Foles.
One thing is indisputable no matter what happens on Monday night or the rest of the season – Wentz dazzled everybody with his NFL debut last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, especially when you consider that he missed almost all of the season and much of training camp with a cracked rib.
And then Wentz went from third string to first string literally overnight before starting in his first NFL game after only about five practices with the starters.
And then he went out and looked like the reincarnation of Johnny Unitas. Wentz completed 22 of 37 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns and – most importantly – he had no turnovers. Those two TDs came on perfectly thrown passes and Wentz threaded the needle with a couple of others. He also did a good job running the huddle and changing plays at the line of scrimmage, including one play where he saw a blitz coming, checked off to another play and completed a long pass for a key first down.
More than anything, Wentz looked like he belonged.
Of course, Wentz’s teammates raved about his play. That’s to be expected. What’s more significant is the respect he earned from the guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage, guys who expected to line up against a nervous, mistake-prone rookie. And it wasn’t Wentz’s athleticism or his arm-strength or his pin-point passing that impressed the Browns the most. What really struck them was the maturity and intelligence of the young man from the small school who started his first NFL game with almost no NFL experience.
“I think he did a really good job. He was more advanced than I expected him to be,” said Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who has played in two Pro Bowls. “He’s a good quarterback. He stands in the pocket, he’s able to make all the throws, very patient, and he doesn’t take off running all the time. He looks down the field and picks his receiver that he wants to throw to.”
When asked what stood out the most to him about Wentz, Haden once again raved about the rookie’s temperament even more than his talent.
“His patience,” Haden said. “I was expecting when his first read was not there, he would be taking off running. He did a really good job when his first read was not there, looking for the second read. He is really elusive back there and he just did a good job being patient and reading the coverage.”
Perhaps Browns tackle Joe Thomas, who has played in nine Pro Bowls, summed it up best.
“I’m no good on evaluating quarterbacks,” Thomas said, “but all I can say is that it didn’t seem like he played like a rookie.
“He was standing back there even when he had pressure in his face, getting hit, and throwing the ball on target and moving the ball all over the field,” Thomas added. “I can tell you, he was pretty impressive.”
Nobody was more impressed than Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, a former QB at Ohio State who doubtlessly wishes he a) could play quarterback as well as Wentz, and b) had a quarterback as good as Wentz throwing him the ball.
“He’s awesome,” Pryor gushed. “I’ll tell you guys right now – that kid’s gonna be a baller.”