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Looking at the encouraging signs from Carson Wentz’s first game back

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The Eagles’ franchise quarterback is still really good.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re just box score scouting, you might not think Carson Wentz’s first game back with the Eagles since tearing his ACL/LCL last year was super impressive. The 25-year-old passer completed 25 of his 37 attempts for 255 yards (6.9 average), one touchdown, one interception, and a 84.9 passer rating during Philadelphia’s Week 3 win over the Colts.

But as you’d know from watching the game, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Wentz showed a number of encouraging signs that bode well for him and the Eagles moving forward this season. Let’s take a look back at those moments.

Accuracy

This is Wentz’s first completion of the game. He places the throw right over the outstretched arm of a Colts linebacker to fit the ball to Zach Ertz, who has a safety bearing down on him.

Keeping his eyes down the field

Although the result of the play is obviously different, this play reminds me of Wentz’s scramble against Washington in Week 1 last year. Wentz shows no signs of injury as he scrambles around and manages to keep his eyes down the field to make something out of a broken play.

Mobility

The Colts get a free rusher on a stunt here but it doesn’t matter. Wentz steps up to avoid the oncoming rusher. Then he spins out of harm’s way after feeling pressure from his right side and sprints for a diving first down. Again, there’s just zero sign of injury here.

Strength

Wentz’s signature play from Sunday’s game. The third-year quarterback avoids being sacked by defenders going after his legs and delivers a throw to Nelson Agholor for a CLUTCH third down conversion. The way Wentz holds up in the pocket here reminds me a little of his touchdown throw to Corey Clement in the Week 7 Washington game from last season.

When NFL coaches and defenders talk about the challenge of defending against players like Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger, they often talk about how their size and strength makes them so hard to take down. Wentz belongs in that category as well.

Rust

Of course, Wentz did show some rust in his first game back.

Doug Pederson’s explanation for this interception: “Just eyed up Zach. Just stared him down. Can’t do that. Brought the defender right there. Just a poor decision.”

Wentz’s fumble seemed like more of a good play by the defense than a huge mistake by him. Perhaps he should’ve gotten the ball out faster. But credit the 6-8 Margus Hunt, who’s been off to a strong start this year, for reaching around Lane Johnson and knocking the ball free. Not the easiest day to hold on to the ball anyway given the rainy conditions.

It’s frustrating Wentz couldn’t get a conversion on this play. He had Kamar Aiken open for an easy first down the entire play. Corey Clement was also free if the ball didn’t come out so late.

CONCLUSION

It wasn’t a perfect outing by any stretch, but Wentz showed real signs of picking up right where he left off from his near-MVP form in 2017. From a physical standpoint, he looked as good as you could’ve possibly hoped for, and maybe even better.

Wentz clearly has some work to do when it comes to cleaning up mental mistakes. But based on the positive signs from Sunday, there should be complete confidence that he’ll be able to shake off that rust at some point.

Moving forward, Wentz will benefit from the Eagles getting healthier. Against the Colts, he had to deal with Philadelphia missing their top two running backs and three of their top four wide receivers. Alshon Jeffery’s return is on the horizon so that’ll be a nice boost. Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are expected back at practice this week as well.

Not having to consistently play in wet conditions should also help. Wentz’s second worst game of the 2017 season in terms of passer rating came when the Eagles played a rainy home game against the 49ers last year. Wentz memorably struggled to throw a wet ball back at a workout with the Browns leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, so maybe the rain is a real issue for him.

Again, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about Wentz coming out of the Eagles’ win. And that means there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the rest of this season after getting off to a 2-1 start.