Carson Wentz, Eagles Have All of the Pieces for a Super Bowl Run This Season

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 8, 2017

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 08: Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles after the game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 34-7. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Nearly every week in the NFL, somebody makes a statement. And on the fifth Sunday of the 2017 season, the Philadelphia Eagles sent a message to the rest of the league. 

The team's public relations department might as well have issued a press release declaring the Eagles will be contending for a championship in 2017. That's how impressive they were in a 34-7 drubbing of the Arizona Cardinals, as quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles confirmed they now have remedies for most of what prevented them from contending last season.

Wentz wasn't ready for prime time as a rookie in 2016, and he didn't have enough support from his passing game or running game. This year, he looks like an entirely different quarterback, and his receiving and running back corps have become tremendous assets rather than crippling liabilities. 

That was especially the case against a tough Arizona defense. Wentz completed 21 of 30 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and a tough-luck pick in the highest-rated game of his young career.

Meanwhile, his supporting cast was lights-out.

Tight end Zach Ertz, who caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, continues to be the league's most productive player at that position. Oft-criticized third-year breakout receiver Nelson Agholor scored his third touchdown in five games and caught four of the five passes thrown his way for a career-high 93 yards. Veteran free-agent additions Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery caught a combined six passes on eight targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. And offseason pickup LeGarrette Blount averaged 5.3 yards per attempt on 14 carries, marking the third straight game in which he averaged at least five yards per tote on double-digit rushes. 

Not every day will be this bright, but it was the fourth time this season in which the Eagles scored at least 26 points in a victory. They've scored at least 20 in all five of their games, and a defense that is as talented as any in football up front shut down the Arizona offense. 

The Eagles D shut down Carson Palmer and the Cards.
The Eagles D shut down Carson Palmer and the Cards.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Wentz and Co. did most of their damage early, scoring 21 points on the power of three Wentz touchdown passes to three different receivers in the first quarter. In fact, those three scores came on three consecutive Wentz passes—a perfect 15-yard fade to tight end Trey Burton, a third-down missile to Ertz and a third-down deep ball to Smith. 

The Eagles were able to cruise the rest of the way, but Wentz and Agholor did put a cherry on top by hooking up for a highlight-reel 72-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter, reminding us that Philadelphia's arsenal is bountiful. 

That also came on third down, which gives Wentz six touchdown passes to one interception on third down this season. The 24-year-old, who entered entered Week 5 with a 107.2 passer rating in those situations, completed a ridiculous 11 of 12 passes for 225 yards on third down Sunday. 

Carson Wentz on third down vs. Cardinals
Passer rating158.3

Wentz struggled with his mechanics and his decision-making as a rookie, which was expected considering how raw he was coming out of North Dakota State. But the former No. 2 overall pick has been far steadier in 2017. His technique has consistently been sound, which gives merit to a report from Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer that suggested soreness he developed in his throwing elbow last season may have been "related to his throwing mechanics."

Wentz's footwork still isn't flawless, but he's done a much better job maneuvering the pocket under pressure. And he's now thrown 10 touchdown passes to only three interceptions on the year.

He already had the ability, but he now appears to be one of the most improved players on one of the most improved teams in football. 

Do the Eagles remain vulnerable, especially in the secondary? Absolutely. That defensive backfield, which wasn't strong prior to the season, has been ravaged by injuries. Philadelphia entered Sunday with the league's 30th-ranked pass defense, and although that'll change after a good showing against Arizona, the Eagles couldn't intercept Cards quarterback Carson Palmer despite possessing a big lead all afternoon. 

But at least the Eagles have enough playmakers up front to compensate for those problems on the back end. Defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry each tallied sacks Sunday, giving them 12 in five games as a unit. And they've now forced an NFC-high five fumbles. 

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is a star, first-round rookie defensive end Derek Barnett should become one, and front-seven regulars Graham, Curry, Tim Jernigan, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Chris Long and Jordan Hicks either have shined or are expected to soon. As a unit, they've performed exceptionally well even though several of those guys have yet to live up to their potential and Cox has missed the last two weeks due to a calf injury. 

Besides, everybody is vulnerable in the NFC East, where the New York Giants are 0-5 and the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins have each already lost twice. The division is wide-open, as is the entire NFC, which has no unbeaten teams. 

That has the Eagles in the Super Bowl conversation at this admittedly early juncture, which at least gives some promise to a fanbase that has waited more than half a century for a championship. 


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.


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