Maybe it's just me but … doesn't it seem like every time the Eagles play one of the narratives from the broadcast crew covering the team is this: "Has Carson Wentz returned to his 2017 MVP-level form?" I know that it's an obvious storyline and, honestly, count me among those who think that for the most part league observers have "forgotten" just how good Wentz is, but what have four games shown up about Wentz, who has nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions in the Eagles' 2-2 start?
"He's playing like we knew he could play," head coach Doug Pederson told me on Friday in our weekly one-on-one interview at the NovaCare Complex, presented by Wawa. "He's managing and running the offense like we know he can do. If he continues to do that, his numbers will get better and the guys around him are going to get better and they're going to get theirs. He's doing an outstanding job. He's really getting us into great plays when we have a bad play called, maybe by me. He's able to get us out of a jam from time to time, and that's just his intelligence and understanding of what we're trying to get done as an offense. He's having early success and we have to keep that going."
There is no reason to think Wentz will take any kind of step back. He'll get wide receiver DeSean Jackson back soon (hopefully). This mini-bye weekend will do wonders for the offensive line. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Dallas Goedert will be another week healthier when the Jets come to town next Sunday.
Yeah, good things are happening with this offense. Which leads to …
Maybe it's just me but … does anyone agree that the best way for Duce Staley to work his running backs is to go with Jordan Howard early and get him into the flow and then mix in the dynamism of Miles Sanders as the offense finds its rhythm? The way it worked in Green Bay was perfect. Howard, by the way, is much more explosive than I expected. OK, wait. Let me back up. Maybe "explosive" isn't the right term … He's much better at breaking tackles than I anticipated. That's better. He runs hard and he runs through arm tackles and he's terrific in the red zone.
Sanders has been under a lot of scrutiny since he arrived and even with his fumbles and the criticism he's gotten, the young man has held up well, never ducking the media and always accepting responsibility. So has Howard, who is used to being the main ballcarrier in his career. It isn't easy adjusting to a new role and Howard has been great.
"This is what we'd like to do," Pederson said. "You'd love to be able to run the ball effectively like we did. The thing for me was first down. First down is where we needed to be better and we were (against the Packers). We only had nine third downs (converting five of them) in the game instead of 12 or 13. That means you're doing a better job on first down. This is why the run game is so important and then maybe even calling a run after that … You run the ball, you have success and it opens up the passing game, the play-action passing game becomes (better), Carson's very good at it, our guys are good at it."
Maybe it's just me but … can we give the Eagles' defense some credit instead of constantly pointing out the deficiencies? The red zone defense saved the night in Green Bay and has historically played very well under Jim Schwartz. The run defense is third in the NFL – I admit that it will certainly get tested in the month of October with Dalvin Cook (Minnesota) and Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas) ahead – and should improve as Fletcher Cox gets healthier and Tim Jernigan returns to the lineup (timetable uncertain).
Maybe it's just me but … can we just stop for a moment and recognize that when this offensive line is playing at its best, there just aren't any other offensive lines as good? Jason Peters has been on the field for the first four games and for him to come back and play the way he played on Thursday night, a short week, geez, that's remarkable. Brandon Brooks looks great. Jason Kelce is so, so good. Isaac Seumalo had the bad game in Atlanta and has rebounded and, I'm telling you, will be one of the NFL's best guards this season. And Lane Johnson? Do you even hear his name mentioned during a game? He shuts down defensive ends/linebackers. He just crushes people.
Maybe it's just me but … the four touchdowns scored in the red zone on four trips on Thursday night is an incredibly positive sign for an offense that made it a priority to improve in that area this season.
"We made an emphasis and focus on it in OTAs and Training Camp," Pederson said. "We've done a great job of studying our own offense there and it's a credit to our offensive personnel. In the past there, we had turnovers, penalties, sacks, negative plays that kept us from scoring. This year we're not seeing that as much and it's allowing us to score.
Maybe it's just me but … doesn't it seem like October is the month of the season that sets up everything? I remember when the late, great Buddy Ryan would say that "it's the teams that win when the snow flies" that are Super Bowl contenders, and that's very true, but October is quite a tricky month for the Eagles. The Jets come to town on Sunday, and they are coming off a bye week so let's not take anything for granted here. Then it's on the road for three games against Minnesota, Dallas, and Buffalo. Where do you think the Eagles need to be after those four games? This is a great 2019 Eagles schedule. Very interesting. Very challenging throughout.
Maybe it's just me but … I don't think we're recognizing just how great a tight end Zach Ertz is. He's got 24 catches for 255 yards this season and those are good, solid numbers. They aren't like last season when he had an NFL record for tight ends with 116 grabs, but Ertz has been terrific in traffic, and he's battled, and he's taken hits, and he's just been so darn good. And this: Ertz has 461 career receptions and we can now begin the countdown to when he breaks Harold Carmichael's franchise record of 589 career catches. Carmichael played 13 seasons with the Eagles, ending his career here in 1983. That's how long that record has stood. If Ertz stays on his pace, he'll shatter the record next season, his eighth with the team. Ertz is the best tight end in franchise history and he's got a lot of productive seasons in front of him. I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate what he does with the Eagles on the field and how he impacts the region off the field with his Ertz Family Foundation. A true role model, indeed.