The sample size was only 10 plays, one drive, and a misshapen drive at that, but Carson Wentz's preseason debut on Thursday night was a thing of beauty and an indication that the second-year quarterback is on his way to making a significant jump playing the position.
Wentz led the Eagles on a 10-play, 60-yard touchdown drive, capping it off with a completion to rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins that Hollins took the rest of the way on a 38-yard scoring play. In that snippet of playing time, the Eagles watched a young quarterback razor-sharp from the word "go."
"Carson was just being Carson," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said after catching three passes on that drive and converting two of them into first downs. "He's a special guy."
Wentz did everything right on a drive that needed some polish mostly due to Green Bay's defensive approach to attack the line of scrimmage and bring an extra pass rusher. As a result, twice on the drive, Wentz was forced to shrug off pressure to keep the play alive and in each instance he kept his eyes up and completed passes down the field.
Wentz was sacked once on the drive, twice converted third downs, and once converted a fourth-and-6 play with a 7-yard completion to Matthews.
In the end, Wentz completed all four of his passes for 56 yards before retiring to the sidelines. If there was one nitpicky criticism, it's that his two-point conversion slant pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor was high and hot and went through Agholor's hands.
"It was obviously good for that first unit to go down and score like they did. Come out, play fast - something that is exciting to know that they can do that and score early in the game," head coach Doug Pederson said after the 23-9 defeat. "Still evaluating, but it was good to see them get points on that drive.
"I thought his escapability was right on point. He is, obviously, for a big guy, athletic and can move and feels the pocket extremely well. He did a nice job moving and finding the guys downfield."
On the touchdown play to Hollins, Wentz had pressure from his backside and also in his face, and he stepped up in the pocket, ducked under the pass rusher in his face, and completed a throw to Hollins in the middle of the field.
The rookie fourth-round draft pick did the rest, breaking a couple of tackles and tip-toeing down the sideline, and the Eagles had an early lead.
"They had a free rusher coming in and we just didn't click-off someone protection-wise and it kind of just turned into improvise mode and Mack made a good play, kind of getting open and I found him, and he did the rest," Wentz said. "I think he had two pretty nasty stiff-arms there to finish off the play. It's good to see a young guy stepping up and making that play right away. It was fun to just get into the end zone right away."
At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Wentz is obviously a big, strong presence in the pocket. He has an innate feel for pressure and he showed last season, late in the year particularly, that he has the quickness, balance, and, as Pederson said, "escapability" in the pocket.
Add it all up and Wentz is a rare talent improving every day in his job.
and Torrey Smith in free agency and drafting Hollins and Shelton Gibson. The offensive line should be among the league's best. Then there is the growth of Wentz. We are seeing the many things he can do.
Being such a large guy with that kind of movement in and out of the pocket keeps drives alive and gives the Eagles more chances to make big plays, as we saw early on Thursday night.
"It has kind of always just been part of my game. Honestly, it's just instincts in those situations," Wentz said. "It's instincts that take over. And I said it a lot last year, when you're in scramble mode, things like that happen. There's a lot of big plays to be made there. And that's what happened tonight and it's a good start."