The Eagles are utilizing every resource this week in preparation for their next opponent. Some players believe they possess a slight advantage, considering the familiarity between them and who’s expected to be under center for the Commanders.
Carson Wentz is on his third team in three seasons, but the 29-year-old quarterback has a deep history with the Eagles, who selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham has been sharing his knowledge about Wentz and his tendencies with the rest of the locker room.
Graham’s teammates have listened with their ears perked, but they also aren’t trying to put too much stock into preparing for Wentz. Linebacker Haason Reddick, who didn’t play with Wentz in Philadelphia, is doing his best not to attach any special label with the team’s Week 3 opponent.
“I’m through with the hype now,” Reddick said. “The way I approach every opponent is the same. Just because Carson is the quarterback for the Commanders, it’s not going to make this game any more special or less special. It’s another opportunity for us to go on the field and show who we are.
“We’ve been talking about his tendencies and things he does really well and what’s our plan to control or stop him. But it definitely helps having guys like BG who can help clarify stuff on his film because BG knows Carson.”
The Eagles defense did well this past Monday, limiting the Vikings to just seven points after giving up a whopping 35 points to the Lions during the regular season opener.
With the Vikings playing from behind the entire game, quarterback Kirk Cousins managed 221 passing yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He completed just 58.7% of his throws with 19 incompletions. Under defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, the Eagles had struggled to contain more experienced quarterbacks dating back to last season. But Gannon’s unit shut out Cousins and the Vikings in the second half.
“When you set up a game plan, you always look at how they’re generating points, and he was a major reason that they’re generating points,” Gannon said of Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. “We always take into account that hopefully we don’t allow their best players to beat us. I thought our guys did a good job; the coaches did a good job with how we constructed some things. When guys were on them, they fully understood where the strength and the stress was of the call and had a good day and made some plays.”
Asked specifically about Wentz, Gannon said, “He’s lighting it up right now. It’s a big-time challenge. He has a big arm. He can make off-schedule plays. He has really good skill guys. Their O-line does a good job of when they need to protect him, they protect him, so we have a big-time challenge. ... Their three skill guys — [wide receivers] Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, and Terry McLaurin — they’re good players. We’ve just got to be on it when certain coverages are strong in some aspects, and they’re weaker in other aspects. That’s what we always say, ‘make them find the weak spots of those coverages.’
“Our guys know the weaknesses and the strengths of calls. Then you just got to kind of go through it and see what’s working, what we need to adjust, how they’re trying to attack us.”
Through two games, the defense has generated 13 quarterback hits and three sacks. While the Eagles defeated the Lions, 38-35, the Commanders lost at Detroit, 36-27, this past week. Wentz is off to a sizzling start. He’s second in the league in passing yards (650), and he’s tied for most passing touchdowns (seven). However, Wentz also has thrown three interceptions, and he’s been sacked six times.
Beyond the stats, Gannon acknowledged a majority of the defense’s success will be dependent on how players affect Wentz pre- and post-snap, and how the secondary is deployed on the backend.
“Carson still has a strong arm,” Reddick said. “He’s still making plays downfield. Not only that, even just watching him scramble, he’s still running around. When he gets over the line of scrimmage, he’s still making guys miss. He’s still got the arm. He’s still got his goods. That makes him a threat because it’s almost like a dual-quarterback situation. We’ve got to be ready for the details and contain him in the pocket as much as we can.”
Inquirer Eagles beat reporters EJ Smith and Josh Tolentino preview the team’s Week 3 game against the Washington Commanders and Carson Wentz. Watch at Inquirer.com/EaglesGameday