Carson Wentz saw some good, some not-as-good, and a whole lot to work on when he looked back on the 20-16 win over Indianapolis in his 2018 debut. Wentz led the Eagles on a first-possession touchdown drive and then another one that ate up nearly the entire fourth quarter to take the lead for good, and in between there were, as they say in the NFL, "teachable moments" for Wentz, nine and a half months removed from a season-ending knee injury.
But by the time Monday afternoon rolled around, Wentz was on to the Tennessee Titans and studying a defense that has success because the players are talented, have great chemistry, and give quarterbacks different looks from one play to the next. It's nothing fancy, by NFL standards, but it's effective.
On Sunday, the Eagles take to the road again against the 2-1 Titans with Wentz running an offense that has yet to find its rhythm and hopes to have wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles back on the field.
Talking on Wednesday during his weekly press conference about the Colts game, Wentz pointed out some of the obvious parts of his performance that need to be improved.
"There are things all the time to clean up," he said. "Obviously, the couple of turnovers, especially when you're in your own red zone coming out. That's tough. That puts the defense in a tough position. So, some things with that that you've got to clean up. Some things down the field, I've just got to see coverage better. Credit the Colts a couple of times, confusing us a little bit, doing some things, mixing it up. Again, just gotta keep learning from those things."
What worked, and what head coach Doug Pederson will likely implement when he sees a need to catch a defense off guard, or to exhaust the defense, or to just get his offense on track, was a "Turbo Tempo" approach to help the Eagles score on their first possession. Operating without a huddle gave Wentz a chance to get into a flow right off the bat in his first game. He took advantage with a strong opening drive.
And then it was an up-and-down game for the offense. Wentz threw an interception and then had the ball knocked loose as the Colts created two takeaways. The explosive plays were few. Indianapolis played a soft coverage shell and didn't give Wentz a chance to take shots down the field.
The offense, then, remains a work in progress.
"I think every year it kind of takes time to just start clicking," Wentz said. "Would love to come out firing early in the year but teams have schemed us, seen what we've done for a year now. Got some new faces, new pieces, just gotta keep working through what our mantra is, what we're doing and how we're doing to do it well. So, hopefully we can start clicking sooner than later."
The biggest takeaway is that Wentz emerged from Sunday unscathed physically. He took some hits against the Colts. He escaped pressure in and out of the pocket without a problem. He went all out on a diving lunge for a first down. His conditioning was excellent playing down the stretch of an emotional, tough game.
Now Wentz is in his routine, week to week, and should be the better for it after having high emotions prior to his first action of the season.
"I felt really good out there the other day," Wentz said. "Once the game started those emotions kind of left and it was just football again, just having fun playing the game I love. I fully expect that to keep happening moving forward."
That's the best news of all, isn't it? Wentz is in the driver's seat again as an offense that has shuffled players in and out through the preseason and three games into the regular season looks for stabilization and excellence. He's healthy, he's knocked off some rust, and now the Eagles take the show on the road against a sound, strong Titans defense.
A great test is ahead.
"We'll see where we are," Pederson said. "Tennessee is playing outstanding defense. We have to execute at a high level to have success. We're just going to keep working at it, keep building. Carson played well the other day. Now it's on to the next game."