Wentz awaits his chance to shine again in battle against Eagles

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) travel to face Carson Wentz’s Washington Commanders (1-1) this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at FedEx Field.

  • Spread: Eagles (-6.5)
  • Moneyline: Eagles (-270); Commanders (+220)
  • Over/under: 46.5

Without establishing its running game yet, Washington is left to bank on ex-Eagle Wentz to outplay Hurts. That could be a tall order. Hurts leads the league in total offense (709 yards) and has three rushing touchdowns.

In Washington, Wentz has done well with a receiving unit that includes Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson (seven catches, 99 yards, three touchdowns). Curtis Samuel (15 receptions, 133 yards, two touchdowns) is healthy after a groin injury limited him to five games last season. The options have given Wentz the opportunity to push the ball down the field, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per pass attempt.

“We know that (Wentz) can get hot, and be really on,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “We know he’s powerful with the ball in his hands and he can make a play at any time.”

That’s why Washington brought in Wentz, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said. In a league with a quarterback market more competitive than ever, it was a top priority this offseason.  “The analytics that we had on Carson and studying it, I think really spoke to why he’s had the success that he’s had,” Rivera said. “You look at those numbers, he’s playing to those numbers.”

Of course Eagles fans also know Wentz can be rattled when he’s surrounded in the pocket and goes off script.  Wentz, who’s 30, still lacks consistent pocket presence, still has a penchant for not checking down to his running backs swinging out of the backfield, still is among the slowest in the league at getting the ball out under pressure (2.6 seconds), may still be resistant to hard coaching, and will still average a blunder or two during a game.

To be fair, right behind the Eagles in third-down efficiency so far is Wentz (14/25, 56%). Wentz and the Commanders are also tied for the league lead in red zone efficiency, converting all five of their red zone opportunities.

As Joe Santoloquito noted for BGN, the entire league thinks he can’t handle pressure, since through two games he’s been blitzed more than any quarterback in the NFL (34 times; Patrick Mahomes is No. 2 at 32 times; Hurts has been blitzed 22 times). But Wentz has also thrown for the second-most yards in the league under pressure (650 yards), behind only Miami’s emerging star Tua Tagovailoa (739 yards).

So don’t assume Wentz will fold even if he crumbles a little at times.  The Commanders will give the Birds a game. DC Jonathan Gannon knows the Eagles are going to have a lot of weapons to try to limit on Sunday.

“I mean their three skill guys, (wide receiver Curtis) Samuel, (wide receiver Jahan) Dotson, and (wide receiver) Terry (McLaurin). They’re good players,” Gannon said. “Their tight end is (Logan Thomas) a good player. They got two good backs. We talked about the quarterback. So, we just got to be on it when certain coverages are strong in some aspects, and they’re weaker in other aspects. That’s what we always say, make them find the weak spots of those coverages.”

“Our guys know the weaknesses and the strengths of calls. Then you just got to kind of go through it and see what’s working, what we need to adjust, how they’re trying to attack us. That’s some of the in-game adjustments that we make. It’s cool for me because we have a really smart room and they can get to different things in-game and that’s what we do a lot of the time.”

A key is the play of the newly constructed secondary, and that includes safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who is now digging in deep learning the scheme and making tangible improvement. Gannon is impressed by what he’s seen.

“He’s learning. He’s doing a good job in the box. In the pass game, he’s doing a good job. I know he wants a couple plays back. But what I’m very pleased with Chauncey is the first thing of a safety is reliability,” he said. “You have to be in the right spot. I thought he took a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2. He understands he’s going to keep growing in that role as far as this is where you have to be, these are the calls you have to make. Then from there just go play, play free. You don’t want him thinking a lot. He’s very intelligent and very smart, but what I mean by that is it comes natural, and he doesn’t have to think about things and he can just unleash his talent and just go make a bunch of plays for us. So excited where Chauncey is, and I think he’s going to continue to get better.”

At least the Eagles are healthier right now.  CB Avonte Maddox is nursing a sore back but should be ready to go.  Haason Reddick is resting a sore knee but is also expected to play. But the Commanders are really hurting by comparison. They placed starting center Chase Roullier on injured reserve earlier this week, a really significant loss for them. Chase Young won’t be terrorizing the Eagles’ offense since he can’t be activated from the PUP list until Week 5.  Backup defensive linemen Casey Toohill, Shaka Toney, and Daniel Wise all missed practice this week. Starting right guard Trai Tuner and starting linebacker Cole Holcomb were limited. So was backup blocker Saahdiq Charles.

It’s still a small sample size going into Week 3, but here are some comparison numbers:

TOTAL YARDS PER GAME:  Eagles 470, Washington 393
RUSHING YARDS PER GAME: Eagles 190, Washington 87
PASSING YARDS PER GAME: Eagles 281, Washington 307
PENALTIES PER GAME: Eagles 9, Washington 4
DEFENSIVE SACKS TOTAL: Eagles 4, Washington 6
PUNTS PER GAME: Eagles 4, Washington 5
FIRST DOWNS PER GAME: Eagles 26, Washington 24
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME: Eagles 33:54, Washington 32.30

Carson Wentz has thrown for 7 TDs in the Commanders’ first two games.
Miles Sanders has rushed for 176 yards so far for the Eagles.
Antonio Gibson has rushed for 86 yards total for Washington.
Daron Payne has 2 sacks and Darrick Forrest has 1 INT for the Commanders.
Curtis Samuel has 133 total receiving yards so far for the Commanders.
A.J. Brown leads the Eagles with 224 receiving yards.
USA Today Network prognosticator Lorenzo Reyes calls it 26-20 for the Birds. “Philadelphia is the better team and should win this game. But after their Monday night performance, I think the Eagles are being overvalued slightly here and I also think that Washington’s familiarity with them in the division keeps this closer than the line indicates.”


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