The Philadelphia Eagles opened up the 2016 season with a 29-10 victory versus the Cleveland Browns. The main storyline – Carson Wentz’s debut.
Wentz threw 22 completions on 37 passing attempts for two touchdowns and zero interceptions (101.0 quarterback rating). Wentz stole the show in his first career game, but the most impressive trait the young quarterback showed was his confidence in the Eagles’ skill positions.
The Eagles’ wide receivers had a forgettable season in 2015. They led the league in drops (37), and were wildly inconsistent throughout the season. None of that mattered to Wentz on Sunday.
Eagles head coach, Doug Pederson, named Wentz the starter this past Tuesday after the team traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. Wentz barely took first-team reps in training camp and missed three preseason games with a hairline fracture to his ribs. Many were concerned with starting Wentz so early and establishing chemistry with the entire offense. Those worries should be squashed now.
During the team’s first offensive drive, Wentz led the team down the field and threw a fantastic touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. This was Matthews first game of 2016 after missing all of the preseason with a knee injury. He didn’t miss a beat. Matthews finished with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. He was clearly Wentz’s favorite target on the day.
One wide receiver who struggled mightily last season was the Eagles 2015 first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, and he even looked impressive today as well. Agholor had four catches for 57 yards and one touchdown. Both Matthews and Agholor scored their touchdowns while being covered by Browns pro-bowl cornerback, Joe Haden, who was impressed with Wentz’s debut.
“I think he did a really good job,” Haden said. “He’s more advanced than I expected him to be. He’s a good quarterback. He stands in the pocket. He makes all of the throws. He’s very patient. He doesn’t just take off running all the time. He looks down and figures out which receiver he wants to go to.”
Haden was absolutely right. Wentz knew exactly which receiver he wanted to go to before he even snapped the ball. Matthews told reporters after the game that Wentz called audibles on both of his touchdown passes. He surveyed the field in his pre-snap progressions and liked what he saw from both Agholor and Matthews when they lined up on Haden.
Wentz clearly proved on Sunday that he’s confident in his skill players. That speaks to his leadership, especially when you consider the fact the rookie quarterback practiced five days with the first-team offense in preparation for this game.
Wentz was impressive in his overall play in his first career start for the Eagles, but what’s being overlooked – his confidence in his weapons. Agholor desperately needed to regain his confidence after a poor rookie season. Having a quarterback that shows confidence in him will help the young receiver regain that quickly.
The more chemistry this offense develops, the better it will get. What was a presumed weakness for the Eagles looked like a strength on Sunday. The team’s next test is Monday night versus the Chicago Bears and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. We’ll see how this offense gels after a first full weak of practice together as a starting unit.