How good was Carson Wentz in the Eagles’ first preseason game of 2017? By some measures, the second-year quarterback was perfect.
Wentz completed all four of his pass attempts for 56 yards and a touchdown in his only series of work during a 24-9 loss to the Packers on Thursday (see Instant Replay). That’s an immaculate 100 percent completion rate to go with a sparkling 158.3 passer rating – the highest number possible.
He was only on the field 10 plays total, but Wentz was impressive while leading the Eagles across the goal line with a 38-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins. It was also far from a flawless performance, at least as far as the 24-year-old was concerned.
“I wouldn’t say perfect, first of all,” Wentz said postgame. “It was fun to see that out there. It was fun to get with the ones, to drive down, to score.
“We had a couple sloppy plays there, but we stayed on the field, we converted a couple third downs, a fourth down, and made enough plays there.”
The series was undeniably positive, especially for an Eagles team that found the end zone only four times on its opening drive last season.
“It’s obviously good for that first unit to go down and score like they did, come out and play fast,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s something that’s exciting to know they can do that and score early in games.”
Imperfections aside, that touchdown drive doesn’t happen without the quarterback.
Wentz made a pair of sensational plays during the drive, twice stepping out of sacks to deliver strikes and keep the chains moving.
“His escapability was right on point,” Pederson said. “For a big guy, he’s athletic and can move, and feels the pocket extremely well.”
It’s an area of Wentz’s game that tends to go overlooked.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, Wentz is not an easy person to bring down. Just ask Packers outside linebacker and six-time Pro Bowl selection Clay Matthews III, one of the defenders who was left grasping for air during the drive.
Matthews appeared to have the quarterback dead to rights. Wentz walked through the tackle attempt with relative ease.
“It’s always been part of my game,” Wentz said. “Honestly, it’s just instincts. In those situations, it’s instincts that take over.”
Survival instincts, perhaps.
The Eagles’ offensive line was not at its best in this one. Right guard Brandon Brooks was out with an injury, and the Packers blitz more than most in preseason games, which opponents don’t bother to scheme. This is not an indictment of the O-line.
“You don’t want him moving around quite that much, but I thought he did a nice job,” Pederson said. “He kept his eyes, his vision down field. He was able to avoid the rush, and step up and deliver some nice throws on the run.
“That just shows his athleticism, his strength in the pocket, and we’re excited to see that.”
Wentz survived the onslaught, his best play unquestionably shaking a Matthews sack, then hitting Hollins for the touchdown that would make all the highlight reels.
“It kind of just turned into improvise mode, and Mack made a good play getting open,” Wentz said. “I found him and he did the rest. He had two pretty nasty stiff-arms there to finish off the play.”
Perhaps the moral of the story is Wentz being a lot tougher than he’s given credit for being. It was Hollins who stiff-armed would-be tacklers to the ground, but only after his QB extended the play.
Expect to see more of that.
“Training camp, all offseason, you don’t get touched, guys run by you and yell, ‘Sack,’” Wentz said. “Sometimes, you’re just like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you would’ve got me there, bro.’”
Wentz just proved even a guy like Matthews might not be able to finish him. Add that ability to the Eagles’ arsenal for 2017.