It’s just the Cleveland Browns. And it’s just one game. But …
You have every reason to be thrilled about Carson Wentz and the next decade of Eagles quarterbacking.
From the first 75-yard drive, capped by Jordan Matthews catching a perfect TD pass, Wentz showed the poise, touch and golden arm of an elite veteran. He successfully audibled (something Sam Bradford wasn’t allowed to do under Chip Kelly), and recognized the blitz when it came. He got the ball in the end zone. He displayed that intangible, no-fear “it” factor you need from a winner.
Wentz became the NFL’s third rookie QB since 1960 to achieve 275-plus passing yards, two or more passing TDs and no interceptions in a season opener. Playing against the Browns, he must have thought he was back in Division I-AA.
The 23-year-old sailed the ball a few times and still must learn when to throw it away. But, overall, it was a remarkable debut — especially considering that Wentz missed the preseason and had practiced with the starters for just one week.
It’s just the Cleveland Browns. And it’s just one game. Still …
Head coach Doug Pederson had a terrific opener. Take it from someone who was skeptical of the Eagles trying to create the Andy Reid Era 2.0.
Pederson’s play calling showed balance and a creative mix of formations. He used all four running backs, as well as a fullback (actually a cameo by nose tackle Beau Allen). He allowed Wentz to get his footing with easy early throws, then added more challenging plays. There never was confusion or a blown timeout.
Remember “Big Balls” Kelly? Well, Pederson stole that nickname by going for it on fourth-and-4 from Cleveland’s 40-yard line in the third quarter. The Eagles converted on a short pass to Zach Ertz, and on the next play Wentz made his crispest throw of the day — a 35-yard TD on a sideline route to Nelson Agholor.
And this: The Eagles held the ball for 39:20 Sunday — more than in any game since 2011. After all that discounting-time-of-possession nonsense during the Kelly Era, it was great to see the team in green control the ball and keep its defense fresh.
It’s just the Cleveland Browns. And it’s just one game. However …
Jim Schwart’z 4-3 wide-nine defense played shutdown football most of the day. The pass rush took time to develop and the cornerbacks remain a concern. But Fletcher Cox is poised for a monster season. He had a sack, four tackles and two QB hurries Sunday — and spent more time busting into the Browns’ backfield.
Watch for free agent safety Rodney McLeod to have a big season. And take comfort that the defense won’t be exhausted in the fourth quarter anymore. It was refreshing to see that unit play its best late in the game.
It’s just the Cleveland Browns. And it’s just one game. Yet …
I hadn’t heard the Eagles fight song sung so loudly in quite a while.