In three NFL seasons, Carson Wentz is reaching the point where opponents and defensive schemes are becoming familiar. But he’s never been in a situation like the one he will encounter on Sunday, when he faces the same defense twice in less than a month.
Last year, 43 days separated the season opener against Washington and the Week 7 rematch. But, only 28 days will separate the two Dallas games this season. Wentz completed 32 of 44 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception, in a Nov. 11 loss at home. He’ll try to avenge it in a game with first place of the NFC East on the line.
So, even though the Eagles are on a short week with less rest between games, there’s not a new defense to learn or new personnel to identify. The notes from the first game will still be fresh for Wentz.
“In a game like this, where we both know each other so well, just played a couple weeks ago, it’s not going to come down to anything fancy,” Wentz said Thursday. “It’s just going to come down to guys making plays.”
Wentz said he reviews notes from past games no matter how long it’s been – sometimes two years – and he’s especially interested in a defensive coordinator’s scheme and tendencies. He admitted, though, that the notes are even more relevant this week, because of how recently the teams played. Little has changed. Sean Lee might return to action and reenter the linebacker mix, but Wentz will be familiar with what he sees.
“It’s not like their structure’s changed; it’s not crazy complex,” Wentz said. “They just do what they do, and they do it well.”
Wentz said the Cowboys did “about everything well” in a 13-10 win over the New Orleans Saints last week, a major upset that solidified the Cowboys’ emergence as one of the better teams in the NFC. Wentz said the Cowboys’ “pursuit” is evident on film – defenders swarm to the ball, especially on running plays and screens.
Wentz’s production in the first Dallas game was among his best of the season. He threw for his most yards and best completion percentage, and it was one of 14 career games with a 100-plus passer rating. But the production didn’t turn into points. The Eagles didn’t score a touchdown until just more than two minutes remained in the third quarter, and their hope for a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter came up short, when Wentz threw a 6-yard completion to Zach Ertz on a fourth-and-7 in Cowboys territory.
Reflecting on that game, Wentz emphasized the slow start and how the team lost despite a good second half.
The offense looked better Monday, scoring on the opening drive and totaling 28 points – and could have pushed the score into the 40s. Wentz said the Eagles are close to reaching their potential on offense, and there are still plays to be corrected, such as his interception in the end zone.
“Without a doubt, we left some plays out there,” Wentz said. “I know there were plays, personally, I’d like to have back. … But, as a whole, there were a lot of positive signs.”
He also knows it will be a challenge against a Cowboys defense ranked No. 5 in the NFL and No. 7 against the pass. Dallas is holding opponents to 18.6 points per game, which ranks No. 2 in the league.
Praising the Cowboys defense seemed to be the theme of Wentz’s news conference. When he was asked about linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s comments to NBC Sports Philadelphia that the Cowboys “always choke” and the Eagles will “go down there and make them choke,” Wentz let out a sigh and avoided the question.
“I don’t want to dive into that at all,” Wentz said. “We, and myself personally, [have] a lot of respect for that team, what they’re doing this year. … I just want to say, personally and as a team, we have a lot of respect for them, and we’re excited for this one.”
The Eagles practiced Thursday for the first time this week, with defensive linemen Michael Bennett (foot) and Timmy Jernigan (back), linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf), cornerbacks Avonte Maddox (ankle, knee) and Jalen Mills (foot), and tackle Jason Peters (ankle) missing the session. Running back Josh Adams (shoulder) was a full participant. Friday’s practice will be the last one this week.
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman's newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.
Our mission is to provide top-notch coverage for the best fans in sports. We can’t do it without your support. Join us: philly.com/birds