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Wentz's up-and-down is a reminder to be patient

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- From the moment Carson Wentz set foot in a huddle as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback, his most enthusiastic advocate has been an aging offensive lineman who, realistically speaking, will have little to gain ...

Nov 6, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) talk after their game at MetLife Stadium. The Giants won 28-23. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) talk after their game at MetLife Stadium. The Giants won 28-23. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - From the moment Carson Wentz set foot in a huddle as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback, his most enthusiastic advocate has been an aging offensive lineman who, realistically speaking, will have little to gain from Wentz's growth.

After Wentz's marvelous debut back in September against the Browns, Jason Peters dared to draw a startling comparison. Wentz, he said then, reminded him of Aaron Rodgers, particularly in how Wentz threw the football with velocity and accuracy while he was on the run.

Given that sort of praise from a respected and oft-restrained voice such as Peters', it's no wonder that whatever mistake Wentz makes seems so striking and surprising. The kid from North Dakota was close to perfect for those first three weeks, and those performances made it easy to forget the basic truth of this Eagles' season: They handed their team to a rookie quarterback, and rookie quarterbacks, no matter how good they are, tend to mess up.

Consider, for instance, those two early interceptions that Wentz threw Sunday in the Eagles' 28-23 loss to the New York Giants, those two turnovers that put the Eagles in a 14-0 well out of which they never climbed to daylight. He overthrew his intended receiver each time-and on the first, he was rolling to his right, in just the sort of situation that Peters believed to be Wentz's forte.

Those errors and the others, physical and mental, that Wentz made were a healthy reminder that he still has a long way to go. But it's telling that the Eagles could lose a winnable game-one that basically dropped them from a probable playoff team to dead last in the NFC East-and their quarterback could contribute so much to that loss, and Peters and the rest of the locker room would not waver in their belief that Wentz has the goods to be something special.

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"I believe Wentz is going to get the job done," Peters said. "He's a young quarterback. He's going to learn from his mistakes. He threw a couple of interceptions, but I told him, 'Don't worry about it. Let's go to the next play.' He's going to make more plays than he don't. I just tell him, 'Go on to the next play. Don't worry about it. Three quarters left. Let's go get it.' "

Understand: As great as Peters has been over his career as the Eagles' left tackle, as essential as he remains now, he's likely a short-timer here. He's due to count $11.2 million against next season's salary cap, and the Eagles could save $9.2 million, according to NFL contract records, if they were to cut him. So if anyone had a right to seethe over Wentz's foul-ups Sunday-the interceptions, the open receivers he didn't see, the 5-yard loss he took in the second quarter by running out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away-Peters did. This could be his last season here, and if he wanted to, he could have dismissed any excuse for a quarterback costing his team two quick touchdowns.

Peters is 34. He's never won a Super Bowl. Why should he have to live through an inexperienced quarterback's apprenticeship, through tough lessons that Wentz can learn only by playing, erring, and trying again? Yet Peters has been willing to do it, and so far, he hasn't been the only one. Ask yourself: How would you have reacted if Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford had thrown two interceptions in the Eagles' first five offensive snaps?

"That's like with any player," Peters said. "If I'm out there messing up, they're going to come down hard on me because I know better. I'm a veteran player. As a younger guy, they're going to be like, 'OK, he'll learn from that. It's a mistake. Pat him in the back. He's going to get better.' That just goes with the job, just like if I give up a couple of sacks: 'Oh, he's getting old. He's washed up.' A younger guy gives up a couple of sacks: 'Oh, he'll get better. He'll learn from that.' That's just how the business works."

That's the greatest benefit of Wentz's talent, really. It's so apparent, so obvious, that it buys him time. It gives everyone around him perspective. At least, it should. It allows him to get off to that awful start, still recover to throw for 364 yards and coax the Eagles back into the game, and remind his coach, his teammates, and everyone watching him that he is just 23 and can sand away his rough edges over time-even if he won't give himself that same leeway.

"I don't use that excuse," said Wentz, who was a standout at North Dakota State and Bismarck Century High School. "We've all got to learn from it. Whether we're rookies or 10-year vets, we've all got to learn from it. We've got a find a way to win the ball game. If we have chances to win at the end, we've got to find a way to do it."

The Eagles have eight more games this season, and Wentz will again make the same kinds of mistakes he made Sunday, and there's little that he and Jason Peters and the rest of the Eagles can do but live through them. That's not an excuse. That's just an understanding of where he is, where they have put themselves, and who he can be as a quarterback. The lesson isn't just for him. It's for us. And it's the hardest of all to learn: patience.

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Nov 6, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) talk after their game at MetLife Stadium. The Giants won 28-23. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 6, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws the ball during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The New York Giants defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 28-23. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

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