PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Nine months ago, Carson Wentz was playing for the NCAA Division I Football North Dakota State Bison.
On Sunday, the 23-year-old rookie quarterback won his first NFL game throwing for two touchdowns, no interceptions, and 278 yards — the most by an Eagles rookie QB in his first career start in more than a half of a century.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson knew the kid would be ready to go.
Listen: Doug Pederson on the 94WIP Morning Show
“I did,” Pederson told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Monday when asked if he knew Wentz would be ready. “And it was something that went all the back to our workout with him up in Fargo [North Dakota]. And just the maturity level of how he handles and conducts his business on and off the football field. How he prepared this week in practice. He was in the office at 5:30 [am], he and Chase Daniel both, just going through the game plan and studying the tape. For him to get there early on game day and to begin to just process the whole situation and sit there and just take everything in himself, you knew you had a very mature young man that could handle just about anything thrown his way. Was it a perfect performance? By no means was it a perfect performance, but it was obviously a great start to his career.”
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Pederson, who says he scripts the first 15 to 30 plays each game, dialed up a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game.
“I knew going in, rookie quarterback, first start,” Pederson said. “[I] wanted to kind of get his feet wet, get him going a little bit. We had a couple of runs early. We had a third and three, a defensive offsides extended the drive there. Zach Ertz had a great one-handed catch on their sideline to keep the drive moving and then the great throw to Jordan [Matthews] in the corner of the end zone was just something of almost — obviously perfection. It was a great route, great throw, great protection. And just again, just mixing personnel kept them off balanced a little bit that first drive and it was good to see us go down and put that touchdown on the board early.”
Originally, the plan was for Wentz to begin the season on the bench and potentially inactive. But just eight days before the Eagles’ season opener, they traded starting quarterback Sam Bradford for a 2017 first-round and a conditional fourth-round pick and named Wentz the starter.
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To make that trade, Pederson had to have confidence in his rookie QB.
“Yeah, we had to cover every basis there,” Pederson said of making the Bradford trade. “Had several conversations with Howie [Roseman] and just wanted to make sure everything was right and if we were going to make this move that — I kept saying all Spring and all Summer that Carson is gonna be third [QB], he’s going into the season as the third, the future may be later. But we felt comfortable that if we made this decision the future is now and we gotta build that way. Listen, I approach every game to win it. I’m gonna always do that no matter who is behind center. I just feel like we have a veteran team that has some great leadership and it showed yesterday.”