PHILADELPHIA — One name brings a smile to everyone in green.
It elicits praise, approval and January possibilities.
Mention Carson Wentz, and the Eagles can’t help but bust out compliments.
“You don’t see the things he’s doing right now from a young quarterback,” running back Darren Sproles said Friday.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor: “I think that I’m always just amazed at his discipline and his consistency. He’s very consistent about his effort to be a very special player in this league.”
Right guard Brandon Brooks: “Everything he was doing last year, he’s getting that much better at. Recognizing blitzes faster, getting the ball out quicker. He’s just being a better leader.”
Wentz’s numbers, two weeks into the season, back up the hyperbolic talk. Philadelphia’s 2016 first-round pick (second overall) out of North Dakota State, the 24-year-old Wentz has thrown for 640 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and an 89.3 quarterback rating. He posted impressive numbers despite being under a heavy rush in each game and getting sacked a combined eight times. He ran for a team-high 55 yards on just four carries in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs in addition to throwing for 333 yards, causing Kansas City and former Philadelphia coach Andy Reid to say, “That quarterback is something.”
The Giants, Wentz’s opponent Sunday, agreed. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison went as far as to compare him to Packers two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers because of his ability to escape pass rushers. His fiery demeanor reminds Sproles of Philip Rivers, his quarterback with the Chargers.
Teammates have noticed Wentz talking more, becoming the vocal leader most great quarterbacks develop into. Part of that is the experience he gained from last season. He’s more comfortable in the Eagles’ offensive system, understands what opposing defenses are looking to throw at him now.
“He takes ownership of this team,” Agholor said.
Wentz’s ability with his legs is one change Giants coach Ben McAdoo noticed from last year, saying, “It looks like he has eyes in the back of his head.”
Wentz already has run for 61 yards, 89 fewer than he produced all of last season. The Eagles don’t want to see him get hurt by running too frequently, but it adds another dimension to an offense that has struggled running the ball through two games.
“I think it’s something that every team has to think about when they play us,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.
Wentz got off to a terrific start last year, leading the Eagles to three wins in their first three games, throwing seven touchdown passes before his first interception. Even when he struggled, and there were struggles — he had four multi-interception games in a span of seven contests and the Eagles lost nine of 11 games before winning their final two — Wentz impressed his teammates with his upbeat attitude. He didn’t let a poor throw morph into more miscues. His head didn’t hang.
“He’s always positive. He makes a mistake he doesn’t get down,” Sproles said. “You know if he throws a pick, you know the next time he touches [the ball] that’s going to be a big play out of him.”
It has been four years since the Eagles won the NFC East and just as long since they were in the playoffs. A season-opening win over the Redskins and strong effort in a loss at Kansas City have Philadelphia fans believing in the Eagles. And the quarterback is a major reason for such optimism.
“I feel like he’s a guy that can take us there,” Sproles said.