Wentz, Eagles win opener
PHILADELPHIA -- The calls for Carson Wentz came in the first half of the Philadelphia Eagles' preseason opener Thursday night from fans who endured a 100-degree heat index to catch their first glimpse of the Eagles' future franchise quarterback."...
PHILADELPHIA - The calls for Carson Wentz came in the first half of the Philadelphia Eagles’ preseason opener Thursday night from fans who endured a 100-degree heat index to catch their first glimpse of the Eagles’ future franchise quarterback.
“We want Wentz! We want Wentz! We want Wentz!”
The original plan was to keep them waiting until the start of the second half, but coach Doug Pederson altered course and sent Wentz onto the field to run a two-minute drill with 79 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Wentz’s introduction was the most anticipated moment of the Eagles’ 17-9 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which also marked the first game with Pederson on the sideline as Eagles head coach.
Pederson and the Eagles staked their futures on Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick from North Dakota State who came to the Eagles in a blockbuster trade in April. With an initial plan to keep Wentz sidelined to begin the regular season, the preseason could be the only chance this year for those fans to watch the quarterback.
Wentz finished 12 of 24 for 89 yards and one interception. He also rushed three times for 15 yards. Similar to training camp, there were plays that served as evidence why the Eagles invested so much to acquire Wentz, and there were plays that showed why the Eagles are being patient with his development. But there was more good than bad in his debut, and his ability to sense pressure and throw on the run were the most promising parts of his performance.
On one 10-yard completion in the third quarter, Wentz immediately recognized the pass rusher and rolled to his right to connect with Paul Turner on a dart to the sideline. He scrambled around the right end for 9 yards later in the quarter, showing mobility rare for a 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback.
But there were also passes that sailed too high - that had been a problem during training camp - and he threw a regrettable interception 11 yards away from the end zone when he stood in the pocket with pressure coming down the middle and floated the ball to the middle of the field.
The Eagles had 188 total yards - 93 rushing, 95 passing - and forced five turnovers. One of those turnovers came on an interception from CJ Smith, who was Wentz’s teammate on NDSU’s national championship team last January. Smith also broke up a pass that led to another interception.
Kenjon Barner led the running backs with seven carries for 35 yards. Turner led the receivers with six catches for 34 yards.
The first-team offense stayed on the field for only three snaps. That was enough to generate seven points, but not enough to form any meaningful evaluation.
It started with a short field after the Eagles forced a fumble on the opening kickoff to send Sam Bradford out to start at the Buccaneers’ 18-yard line. Bradford dropped back once - a 3-yard pass to Brent Celek on the first play - and handed off twice. Ryan Mathews rushed twice for 15 yards, including a 10-yard score behind a formation that included three tight ends. Mathews ran behind a right side with Lane Johnson starting at tackle amid reports of potential suspension and prized free-agent acquisition Brandon Brooks at guard before he exited with a right biceps injury.
The starting defense played longer than the offense, a curious development considering it has outplayed the offense this summer. But the defenders showed why they could be a strength of this team, forcing a three-and-out on Tampa Bay’s first drive and then giving the Eagles offense a short field on the second drive when Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan barreled into quarterback Jameis Winston. Cox, playing in his first game since signing a six-year, $103 millon contract, was credited with the sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The defense allowed a 79-yard scoring drive on the next possession, but the unit left a positive impression in its first game under coordinator Jim Schwartz.