The undefeated Eagles roll into Detroit on Sunday to take on the Lions and try to move to 4-0 on the year. Being perfect through the first quarter of NFL season play would be massive for Philadelphia’s chances, especially in a still relatively tepid NFC East division. Of course, last time Philadelphia was in town, they got drubbed with authority by the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. What all has changed since then? We sat down with Adam Hermann from Bleeding Green Nation, SB Nation’s Eagles blog, to pick his mind on a few things. You can read our own answers to Bleeding Green Nation here.
1. Carson Wentz is a complete surprise to me. What have you seen out of him that you like the most?
There are two ways I want to answer this. The first is more conventional: he can make every throw in the book. He’s not limited by his ability in any part of the field. He’s already shown he can drop dimes in from 35 yards out, and he can also execute intermediate and short routes with the required accuracy. There’s nothing worse than having your offense hampered by a quarterback who isn’t comfortable with a certain kind of throw. With Wentz, Doug Pederson’s playbook is wide open.
The second is less conventional: his personality is exactly what you want in a quarterback. He’s even-keel, he’s genuine, and he always seems to be in a good mood. Wentz is the guy you want your son or daughter to meet and fall in love with. He’s that kind of a guy.
We haven't seen him after a loss yet, but something tells me he’ll be almost exactly the same: unflappable and honest. It’s the kind of behavior you expect to see from a quarterback in his prime, but Wentz is only 23. It’s clear he loves the game of football, and he doesn’t have much else on his mind other than playing it well and learning a lot.
Also, three wins.
2. Overall this offense sits on tops of efficiency stats, but I don't think many people nationally are sold yet that the Eagles offense is for real. Are you buying in? What do they do well so far? What are the outstanding issues?
I think it’s still fair to question the offense. While the Steelers are a very good football team, their defense isn’t the star anymore, as it was during the Dick LeBeau era. The Eagles scored 34 points on Pittsburgh, but it was just one game, and the Steelers were missing a few key playmakers on defense.
However, I also think the Eagles’ offense is for real. The offensive line will be a bit of a question mark when Lane Johnson eventually gets suspended, but Wentz has already shown he has the ability to move fluidly in the pocket and create space and time to get the ball to his receivers. He should be fine.
The passing game, as you may have heard, is so elevated by having a quarterback you can rely on. Wentz makes smart throws. There hasn’t been one this season that has had a chance of being intercepted; the only throws he misses are total overthrows, which is the best kind of miss. Everything else has been exactly on target, or just about.
And while the Eagles’ receiving corps was certainly a question mark heading in, they’ve been serviceable enough, and the team’s tight ends have been so good, that the passing game has been remarkably effective. It’s true: good quarterbacking really does change everything.
3. Can you fill me in on the Lane Johnson saga? I generally remain utterly skeptical about how the NFL runs its drug testing program, and Lane has been protesting for his innocence pretty loudly.
It’s been weird. We don’t normally hear about the suspensions and appeals as early on in the process as we did this time around, so it feels like it’s been this huge, drawn-out thing, when in reality it’s probably just been a little longer than normal.
Johnson claims he took a substance that the NFLPA’s players app approved. The NFLPA says the app didn’t approve it, and even if it did, Johnson should have been more careful. No matter what happened, though, Johnson is up for a 10-game suspension because this is his second run-in with the performance enhancing drug policy.
Personally? I think Johnson’s getting the short end of the deal. It was clearly a mistake. A 10-game suspension for a mistake with a very real rationale seems harsh. But we’ll see what happens.
4. I'd be remiss without talking about the Gym Shorts. He's been getting a lot of good press in his post-Lions head coach life, but how are we feeling about him as a defensive coordinator? Has he drop-kicked any binders or playbooks lately?
Eagles fans have taken to Jim Schwartz almost as quickly as they’ve taken to Wentz. He’s fiery, his defensive line gets pressure, and his unit turns the ball over. What’s not to like?
He’s turned loose Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, and Brandon Graham, a trio most Eagles fans and reporters believed had the potential to lead one of the best defensive lines in the league. So far they’ve combined for seven sacks in three games, and the secondary has held up behind them.
Schwartz is also turning into a bit of a folk hero. On Thursday, he was asked about linebacker Nigel Bradham, who’s been arrested twice in the last 10 weeks. “If you do dumb ass things,” Schwartz said, “pretty soon you’re going to be labeled a dumb ass.” Incredible.
His best outburst so far came in the Steelers game, when his guys made a play and Schwartz wheeled around, pumped his fists, and stomped all over the sideline, excitedly screaming like a mad man. He startled the hell out of Carson Wentz, who was standing next to him, which we all enjoyed.
Seriously, can’t say enough good things about Jim Schwartz. He’s been a revelation for a city starved for good defense after the last few years.
5. Who has the funniest Twitter account among Philly fans? I love @FanSince09 but I want to hear if there's any other candidates out there.
I’m gonna nominate a few. For very dry, very smart football humor, everyone should follow @southern_philly, my co-manager over at Bleeding Green. There’s also the excellent @ZooWithRoy, who once went to the zoo with Roy Halladay and has a bevy of Sam Bradford jokes. And I’m also partial to @shamus_clancy, who writes for SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers, whenever the Sixers are playing. Good stuff everywhere, though. Philly Twitter rocks!