TWO YEARS ago, the Eagles chased Russell Wilson up and down Lincoln Financial Field, hither and yon. They felt like they often had the right defensive schemes in place to stop Wilson's Seattle Seahawks, but Wilson kept buying time with his legs, somehow not only finding receivers as he scrambled, but making strong throws on the run, at times throwing across his body.
The Eagles, who'd come into the game 9-3 in their second season under Chip Kelly, lost 24-14, and it could be argued nothing was ever quite the same. They lost their next two games as well, missed the playoffs at 10-6, then were 6-9 last December when Kelly was dismissed.
"He scrambles to pass," Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said Wednesday. Graham has vivid memories of that 2014 game. "That's really when he creates more down-the-field plays, when he's running around . . . We've got to make sure we contain him."
Graham said he thinks the Eagles' defensive line rotation will help the group stay fresh as it chases Wilson around CenturyLink Field Sunday.
"You just gotta continue to keep rushing him, keep going after him, can't give up. I think we've got a lot of guys that's in shape, that want to run around and get to him, because we know other people are coming in if we need a blow," Graham said. "Just leave everything out there . . . Run around with him. That's all I can really say. He's gonna do his thing, and we got to do ours."
Defensive end Connor Barwin also remembers that game two years ago.
"We 'spied' him and tried to keep him in the pocket, but he actually would scramble and go backwards to buy time and throw the ball downfield," Barwin said.
Quarterbacks are taught to scramble to the sides, not backward. Barwin said that going into that game, he hadn't seen Wilson do such a thing on film.
"He did that against us, he had success doing it against us, and ever since then he continues to do that, and it shows up on film," Barwin said. "So we'll be a little more ready for it this year."
Wilson was limited earlier this season by a high ankle sprain, but he looked very much like himself in the Seahawks' 31-24 victory at the Patriots Sunday night, on which Seattle scored points in seven of nine possessions.
"With the injuries, I haven't been able to do quite as much, as far as the extended plays or whatever," Wilson said Wednesday via conference call. "But we've been able to get the ball out, be on time, get the ball in our playmakers' hands and let them make plays . . . In terms of going about extending the play, I think it's trying to make the smart play - not forcing (a throw), trying to be smart with the football, always."
Carson Wentz's rookie year through nine games looks a lot like Russell Wilson's rookie season of 2012, when the Seahawks were 5-4, as the Eagles are now. Wentz is completing 65 percent of his passes, to Wilson's 62 through the same number of games, and his passer rating is 87.6, to Wilson's 87.2.
Wentz was born in Raleigh, N.C., then moved to North Dakota as a child, but he said Wednesday he began following Wilson when he was N.C. State's quarterback.
"A lot of respect for him, the way he came into the league right away and took it by storm as a late (third-round) pick. It was impressive," Wentz said.
Wilson said he has been able to watch Wentz a few times this season. "He's going to be a great football player for a long time," Wilson said. "He's athletic, he can make all the throws, he's a smart guy, he's competitive."
Of course, any Seahawks-Eagles game is an excuse to rehash not just Brandon Graham/Earl Thomas, but the miss on Wilson, whom the Eagles hoped to draft in the third round, 88th overall. Seattle grabbed him 13 spots earlier. The Eagles took Nick Foles. On a conference call Wednesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recalled the call from Andy Reid afterward, Reid mock-chiding Seahawks general manager John Schneider "for taking his guy." Schneider was a Packers scout when Reid was an assistant coach for Green Bay.
Left guard Allen Barbre (hamstring) was a full practice participant, as was cornerback Leodis McKelvin, but wide receiver Jordan Matthews (back spasms) sat out and tight end Zach Ertz was listed as limited (hamstring) . . . Cornerback Nolan Carroll remains in the concussion protocol.