Bowen: The progress report on Eagles' Wentz

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Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

WHAT HAS Carson Wentz accomplished, in his own eyes, and those of his teammates and coaches?

A bit of context for Wentz's rookie season: The Eagles' first plan was for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to not play at all. Their second plan was for him to throw maybe 25 times a game, with the defense and the ground attack taking much of the weight off the rookie's shoulders.

Welp.

The eighth pass Wentz throws Sunday in the finale against Dallas will set the franchise season record for attempts, currently held by Donovan McNabb (571). When he takes the first snap Sunday, Wentz will become the first Eagles quarterback since McNabb in 2008 to start all 16 games.

Wentz has thrown 37.6 passes a game. The last nine games, the average has been 42.1. Wentz already holds the franchise record for completions (352), and can set the league rookie mark by connecting three times against the Cowboys.

Yet, in passing yardage (3,537), Wentz ranks only seventh in franchise history, sixth among NFL rookies. His 78.2 passer rating is pedestrian. The last five games, he's thrown for three touchdowns and been intercepted seven times.

Poll

Does Doug Pederson have the Eagles on the right track?

"He's a franchise quarterback you can build around. I feel like he's faced every situation there is this year," said safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was named NFC defensive player of the week after intercepting a pair of Eli Manning passes in the Eagles' victory over the Giants. "Got thrown into the starting job. Played all the division games. Played in an overtime game. Played in tight games. And he's prepared and showed up in all of them.

"Some, he didn't necessarily make the (winning) plays, or as a team we came up short, but he showed up every week, and every week you can see plays where he, himself, has given us an opportunity to win the game," Jenkins said. "And this is all his first year. So he's got a great foundation to build off of. The numbers don't have to blow you away, to be a franchise quarterback."

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was asked whether Wentz has exceeded his expectations.

"He's exceeded expectations in some ways . . . You want to see accuracy. You want to see good decision-making. You want to see the ability to sustain success when things are going well, to maintain focus and concentration the next week in preparation. You want to see, (the ability) to be able to bounce back after a poor performance. You want to see, when things are going bad in the course of a game, for him to not waver . . . On most of those fronts, I think he's passed the test," Reich said.

"Obviously, I've learned a lot about close games," Wentz said Wednesday. "We've been in a lot of close games," losing six times by seven points or fewer. "I've learned that it's tough to win in this league."

Wentz has never played this many games in a season, but he said he isn't glad to see the finish line.

"I've loved it. I've loved every step of the way," he said, adding that he's just getting the hang of how the NFL preparation week works. "They went quick."

How much did it help to play, rather than watch?

"I think it's been unbelievable. I can't put into words how valuable it's been," Wentz said. "Now, coming back next year, it won't be new anymore."

But what about throwing 564 passes in 15 games? Has this been good for his development?

"It's always hard to say," Wentz said. "All those different scenarios, every kind of pass play has its own story. So there's just been a lot of learning, a lot of opportunities for me to grow and develop and kind of see things."

Right guard Brandon Brooks, asked what he has learned about Wentz, said: "He's a tremendous competitor, a tremendous leader. When times get tough, he doesn't let 'em see him sweat. He's always up-tempo."

In front of the cameras, Wentz has never seemed irritated or off-balance. He hasn't been one to provide a great deal of insight into his life off the field - a series of questions Wednesday about his hunting trip with two-time American League MVP Mike Trout in Trout's native Millville, N.J., area just before Christmas yielded only perfunctory answers - but Wentz has never cut short a media session or taken offense at a pointed question.

Teammates might not be in any better position than we are to say if, in time, Wentz will be able to do more with down-the-field throws, given better weapons and more reliable protection. But they seem sold on the fact that he is their leader.

"I'd look at him and say he's a true professional. Even though he's a rookie, he's a true professional," said left guard Allen Barbre, who noted the extra prep work he sees Wentz doing each week.

Has anything about the rookie surprised Barbre, 32, who has played nine seasons, for four teams? "His work ethic, his leadership, his pocket awareness - all those things have surprised me."

Wentz's offensive linemen got Beretta shotguns for Christmas from their QB, each personalized with the player's jersey number.

Tight end Zach Ertz said he has learned that "the guy's a grinder, he's a battler. No matter what situation we're in, he never thinks we're down and out . . . Guys really respect him as a leader of the football team. I think he's going to take us a long way in the years coming."

Leadership is something Wentz was thinking about from the moment of the draft. Even back when he wasn't scheduled to play this year, he knew he needed to establish his presence, and his success there was a big part of why management felt comfortable handing him the reins, when it traded away Sam Bradford eight days before the start of the season. At that point they'd seen him play only one preseason game.

"For me, it all started right when I got here - how I conducted myself, handled myself, on the field, in the locker room," Wentz said. "And then, just how you perform. The effort you give."

Asked whether he'd had to adjust to losing much more than he ever did at five-time national title-winning football championship subdivision North Dakota State, Wentz said, "It's never really been my personality" to be affected by losses.

"He's weathered a lot of stuff," center Jason Kelce said. "He's done everything you could ask for from a rookie."

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wentz's durability has been especially impressive in view of how, given the rigors of the draft process, "he really hasn't had a break."

Despite the declining stats, Pederson said the coaches think Wentz is seeing more and doing more than he was early on, "playing his best football right now at the end of the year."

Pederson said that this "just goes to show the type of player he is, the type of professional that he is, and how he's learning each week and how he's attacking each week."


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@LesBowen

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