Philadelphia Eagles News

Rookie Class Making Instant Impact

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CHICAGO –** Don't look now, but the Eagles are enjoying immediate contributions from their 2016 Rookie Class and that doesn't mean quarterback Carson Wentz only.

Sure, Wentz has been outstanding in the opening two games, playing with poise and precision and great ball security while leading the Eagles to two victories. Beyond Wentz, the team's first-round draft pick, the Eagles are getting some help from the kids.

In Monday night's 29-14 win over Chicago, the rookies came to play. Cornerback Jalen Mills saw significant time when the Eagles played in nickel (five defensive backs) or dime personnel packages (six defensive backs) and, after a shaky start, was part of a superb defensive performance. Defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao helped the cause with a sack and forced fumble on quarterback Jay Cutler that linebacker Jordan Hicks recovered. It was a play that, later in the quarter, forced Cutler to the locker room for an examination on his right hand. Running back Wendell Smallwood, a fifth-round draft pick, added some juice to the running game with two carries for 16 yards and a kickoff return of 30 yards.

Wentz was the headliner, of course, as he poked and prodded and set the table for an offense that started quickly, went through a lull and bounced back with a big second half. 

"I thought Carson played a great game," said wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "He's always cool and poised. You see him and he's calm and in control. We're feeding off of that."

Matthews had a team-high 6 catches for 71 yards and Trey Burton filled in at tight end for the injury Zach Ertz with 5 catches, 49 yards and a score. Wentz was the story, though, and he had some help from his rookie class.

Vaeao sacked Cutler and forced a fumble for Hicks to recover, ending a Chicago drive in Eagles territory early in the third quarter.

"I got free and went at the quarterback. We knew that he liked to step up and so that was a target for me," Vaeao said. "He stepped up in the pocket and I made the play."

Vaeao was not drafted, but he made the team with his quickness and relentless play. 

"Things are calming down for me and I think all of the help that I've gotten from the veterans and my coaches has really helped me," Vaeao said. "I'm feeling good that I'm helping out."

So is Mills, who played for the injured Leodis McKelvin. Alshon Jeffery beat Mills on a double move for a 49-yard gain on a passing play early, but then Mills picked up his play.

"I felt I got a lot better out there," Mills said. "It was different. Playing on Monday night was great. It was fun. It was my first experience doing it and I loved it. We knew they like to take shots down the field. We didn't do anything out of the ordinary. We just played our game, that's all. I think I played well. I messed up early when he (Jeffery) got me on a double move and then I settled down and just focused. I got greedy on that big pass play and just made sure I stayed disciplined and carried out my assignments after that.

"It was an electric atmosphere. We were all excited aboute it."

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