Doug Pederson didn’t take it easy on his prize rookie quarterback.
Near the end of the first half of the Eagles’ preseason opener against Tampa Bay, Philadelphia’s first-year head coach sent Carson Wentz onto the field to run the two-minute offense. Hey, why not? Give the kid a test right away.
“It was a tremendous opportunity to get the number of snaps he got,” Pederson said of the second overall pick in this year’s draft. “I love his toughness; you saw some of the shots he took tonight, and he stayed in the pocket and bounced back up.”
Wentz played for North Dakota State University and is the highest drafted quarterback in FCS history.
It really was a mixed bag for Wentz in the 17-9 victory. He didn’t get the Eagles into the end zone, and he threw a red-zone interception. But he also showed, as Pederson noted, tenacity, poise, a strong arm and plenty of athletic skill.
Those traits are what the Eagles are banking on, if not this year — Wentz is third on the depth chart behind highly paid veterans Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel — then for the future.
As for the now … .
“It was fun,” Wentz said. “My first opportunity running the two-minute drill, got to take some hits; it’s been a long time since that happened. Overall, it was enjoyable.”
But with some moments that had to worry everyone on the Eagles’ sideline.
On one play, Wentz read the defense perfectly and rolled out to run with plenty of open space in front of him. He needed to beat one man, safety Kimario McFadden, who planted his feet and then upended Wentz.
As he flew head over heels, Wentz had one thought: “I was worried I was going to land on my neck. But I landed fine.”
He also took a huge hit late in the fourth quarter on his penultimate play, a jarring shot by fellow rookie Micah Awe that seemed to stun Wentz. He took several steps toward the Eagles bench but had plenty of time to recapture his wits while the Bucs challenged the play.
Daniel, who played most of the first half and was sacked four times, kiddingly seemed relieved that it was Wentz who took the big hits later in the game played in brutal heat.
“I thought he played well,” Daniel said. “I thought he did some good things. He took some shots. I said, ‘Welcome to the NFL, rookie,’ a couple of times to him. I thought he was quick in his decision making and he got the ball out quick.”
Not surprisingly, Wentz saw plenty of negatives to go with some important steps he took in completing 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards. He mentioned needing to be more accurate, to not waste scoring opportunities and to be more decisive in the pocket.
But he was impressive throwing on the run — he does have a howitzer for an arm and can use it without setting his feet.
“I feel comfortable making plays on the run,” he said. “When the play is breaking down I can go on the run.”
Tight end Zach Ertz was impressed by Wentz’s work on the move.
“He’s a very athletic quarterback,” Ertz said. “I think you see that each and every day on the practice field, and he is going to use that athleticism to his advantage. I think everyone is excited about him.”
Pederson had one disappointment with Wentz’s night that he hopes will be corrected in the next preseason outing.
“I was hoping to get him in the end zone,” the coach said, “and get him a taste of what a touchdown is like in the NFL.”