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Constructive on Carson: Wentz generally strong against Dolphins

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

After joint practices with the Miami Dolphins this week, quarterback Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles hosted Adam Gase's squad in their third preseason game. With just over two weeks until the Eagles travel to the nation's capital to kick off the 2017 season, this game offered the first (and final) real glimpse of the second year quarterback with his full starting offensive line and skill position players all playing.

Here are my in-game notes on Wentz's Week 3 preseason performance:

Drive One

  • After Vinny Curry forced a Jay Cutler fumble, Fletcher Cox recovered the ball and gave the team great starting field position on their own 48. 
  • The first play started with a camera view of Kiko Alonso's view at middle linebacker, before ending with Byron Maxwell in coverage. Remember, trading these two helped the Eagles to ultimately obtain the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, where they drafted Wentz. 
  • The drive ended with a 50-yard touchdown reception from Torrey Smith, his first catch of the preseason. He made the best of a secondary collapse from the Dolphins, while Wentz did a great job of buying just enough time in the pocket for Smith to break open. Lane Johnson got blown up on this play by Cameron Wake, which makes it more impressive that Wentz was able to keep things alive. 

Drive Two

  • The first throw of the second drive was a little overthrown, but Ertz, who lined up outside, beat Maxwell and made a nice catch. Hopefully Ertz lines up outside more frequently this season, because it creates mismatches. 
  • Later in that series, Wentz stumbled after taking the snap, bounced back up, maneuvered well and got the ball to Ertz with space to run. It was an Andrew Luck type play. 
  • Much like he did against the New York Giants in Week 16 last year, Wentz was able to avoid a sack from Cameron Wake on this drive and get rid of the ball. There wasn't a completion, but it was an impressive athletic play to avoid taking a loss. 
  • The drive ended on an offensive line collapse that saw Wentz ultimately get thrown to the ground . 

Drive Three

  • Drive three started on the Eagles' 21 and didn't last long. 
  • Wentz had the ball batted and ultimately picked at the line, which Jordan Phillips nearly returned for a touchdown. 
  • Wentz chased Phillips and slid into the pile. Even if the slide was ultimately meant to avoid taking a big hit, it was stupid from Wentz to put himself in the mix to get hit. It probably wouldn't have even made sense in a regular season game, but it certainly didn't make sense in the preseason. Sometimes I worry that Wentz doesn't know how to live to see another day. 

Drive Four

  • The drive began with a run focus, and was generally more effective with Wendell Smallwood running the ball than LaGarrette Blount. 
  • While Wentz did a great job earlier in the quarter avoiding a sack and keeping the play alive long enough to get rid of the ball, he sometimes needs to know when to say when. He tried to keep a play alive early in this drive and almost threw an interception. 
  • With good protection, Wentz was able to make a nice pass over the middle to Alshon Jeffery.
  • As the drive went on, Wentz made a throw behind an open Ertz, but Ertz made the catch anyway. It's evident, as it has been throughout his career, that the Eagles offense will be more effective if Ertz is a big part of the passing game. 
  • Wentz ultimately hit Jeffery for a touchdown to end his evening. This was an impressive drive because momentum built as it went on and Smallwood, Ertz, Blount and Jeffery all had key plays. 

Takeaways

  • I get that Jeffery and Jason Peters, among others, have injury concerns, along with Wentz both being put in position and putting himself in position to take some big hits, but boy, one quarter sure isn't much time for starters to play in Week 3 of the preseason. I get the sense sports radio will spend the next couple weeks wondering if Doug Pederson set the Eagles up to come out flat in their season opener. 
  • The offensive line, especially the right side, wasn't overly impressive in one quarter. For Wentz, and the offense, to be effective, that clearly can't become a trend. 
  • Philadelphia sports fans will spend much time in the next few months praying for the health of Joel Embiid, but they should probably save a few for Jeffery. This offense, and the progression of Wentz, will look very different if Jeffery plays 13 or 14 games, as opposed to if he misses extended periods during the season. 
  • Along those same lines, if the Eagles have anyone on their roster that's going to be an effective lead back, it's probably Smallwood, who has health concerns of his own. Blount, Darren Sproles and probably Donnel Pumphrey will all play roles in the running game, but Smallwood represents the best chance to give the offensive consistent balance. 
  • Despite some small mistakes, this evening generally left me with a good feeling about Wentz heading into his sophomore season. I sure would have liked to see him for a more extended period, but he made some nice throws to key players and the offense, at least from a skill position standpoint, looked strong at times. 
  • A year ago, Wentz was injured for the third preseason game and Sam Bradford had the Eagles offense looking strong in Week 3 of the preseason against the Indianapolis Colts. Bradford was, of course, traded less than a week later, which left Wentz to play in the season-opener against the Cleveland Browns. Even with a short night tonight, Wentz has seen more preseason action in 2017 than he did prior to helping the team start 3-0 in 2016. 

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