The impressive start to the career of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been noticed by many, and that includes the defense trying to stop him this Sunday - the Washington Redskins.
Two first-round picks, a second-round pick, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick. That's what it took for the Philadelphia Eagles to secure the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft with which they selected quarterback Carson Wentz from Division I-AA power North Dakota State. So, yes, there's some pressure to succeed for Wentz. So far, so good.
Wentz ranks sixth in the NFL in quarterback rating, seventh in completion percentage and 11th in yards per attempt. His first career interception didn't come until his 135th career pass – a long throw late in last week's loss to the Detroit Lions. Despite the interception, the loss was far from Wentz's fault – a late fumble by Ryan Mathews was more critical – as the rookie completed 25-of-33 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly for Philadelphia fans, the Eagles are 3-1 and in second place in the NFC East.
"Yeah, you know, obviously it's been a little bit of a whirlwind," Wentz said Wednesday. "You know, we had the bye week there to kind of just take a deep breath and regroup, but so far it's been good. Obviously, we are 3-1. Obviously, we'd love to be 4-0 but we like where we're at, we like this team. We've just got to keep getting better every week. So, so far things are going well but we've got a big one this Sunday."
Indeed it is a big one. Wentz will be playing in his first NFC East divisional game – matchups that find a way to differentiate themselves from other games on the schedule. And it will come against a team that has won three in a row in the Washington Redskins. While the Redskins have allowed an NFC East-high 24.4 points per game this season, they are coming off a road win at Baltimore, in which the defense surrendered just 10 points.
"It was a fun defensive game," Redskins defensive coordinator said of last week's win at Baltimore. "As defensive players, those are games – defensive coaches – those are games that you love playing in. They're close, they're tight. Obviously our main goal every week, we don't care about anything except getting out of the stadium – whether it's home or away – with a W. But to go there and win in the fashion in which we did, in (M&T Bank Stadium), was pretty sweet."
The Wentz-led Eagles, however, pose a bigger challenge. Wentz impressed in Philadelphia's 2-0 start with wins over the Browns and Bears, but critics wanted to see him succeed against an expected playoff contender. The chance to do that came in Week 3 when the Eagles hosted Pittsburgh. The Steelers were barely a test for Wentz, who dominated by completing 23-of-31 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-3 rout of Pittsburgh. Despite last week's loss in Detroit, the Redskins have noticed this isn't a regular rookie quarterback.
"He's impressive, honestly. I'm not just saying that because we're playing them," Redskins safety Duke Ihenacho said. "He's an impressive guy. Watching the tape, he looks like a vet."
"Crazy thing about it is, he's a rookie, playing like some vets in the league," cornerback Josh Norman said. "It's kind of crazy because he doesn't turn the ball over, he does a good job of that. He's a smart rook(ie), he's not stupid like some of them out there."
"I think Carson Wentz is doing a hell of a job for them," linebacker Will Compton said.
It's hard to say the praise is unwarranted. Philadelphia enters Sunday third in the NFL, averaging 28.8 points per game thanks to balance and taking care of the football. The Eagles' offense has turned it over just twice this season, protecting a defense that has allowed only 51 points in four games.
The formula is similar to one Washington has seen already this season. The Redskins narrowly fell to rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 as Prescott was turnover-free for the day. Both rookies have been applauded this season for how well they have taken care of the ball, although Wentz doesn't have the No. 1 rushing attack backing him up like Prescott does.
"I think from watching the Cowboys game – the first game – it looked like they were trying…they didn't want to put too much on Dak's shoulders," Ihenacho said. "(Prescott) did a good job, just managing the game, getting the ball to his receivers, but it looks like (Philadelphia) is letting Carson Wentz control it. But they're both great quarterbacks."
Although the Redskins have struggled with allowing opponents to move the ball consistently, forcing turnovers has been a specialty of Washington's defense. The Redskins enter Sunday's game with the eighth-most takeaways in the NFL.
"I don't think quarterbacks are purely 100 percent completely measured on turnovers, but that's a pretty important one and to be able to not turn the ball over, I think that's probably the most impressive thing (Wentz has) done," Barry said. "And then as the things I mentioned before, he's… As a defense coach, when you have a quarterback that can… when you have the perfect defense called, when you have it stopped and then the guy can create with his legs, you know, that's the thing that this kid can do and when quarterbacks can create when things around them break down, that's where it's difficult. And he does those two things: him being able to create, him simply not turning the ball over. I think it has been huge for their team."