When it was over on Sunday — the Eagles, having once led 17-0, fell to the Washington Redskins, 27-17 — one number stood out above all others, save the surprising scoreline.
Carson Wentz was sacked eight times.
“Can’t happen,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters after the game.
“I’ve got to be better,” Wentz added, taking responsibility for both the amount of time he ended a play thrown for a loss, along with a pair of game-changing interceptions.
Both of these statements are true. But in evaluating them less in terms of whether it helped cause the Eagles to begin the year 0-1 — this we know — and evaluating what it means for the other 15 games to come, the reality seems to be more nuanced, and a better picture of what’s to come for Philadelphia.
If there’s one thing that we knew about the Washington Redskins coming into the 2020 season, it was that an already-imposing defensive line just got Younger — as in, Chase Young, who recorded 1.5 sacks in his debut.
Even so, an offensive line with Jason Peters moved to left tackle, his old position, missing Lane Johnson, they still finished middle of the pack among Week 1 teams in the amount of time Wentz had to throw.
This is important for several reasons. For one, it means even a compromised Eagles line, going against some of the biggest pressure it will face this season, didn’t crumple. It provided time for Wentz, and historically, though not on Sunday, more time means more success for the veteran Eagles’ quarterback.
Considering that Wentz hasn’t enjoyed a roster with speed at the receiver position, that’s an important bit of context. Because the Eagles, in 2020, are blessed with that speed in a pair of young wideouts, Jalen Reagor and John Hightower. Reagor announced his presence with this 55-yard catch.
Even so, Pederson wasn’t ready to anoint either wideout the future star based on one game.
“ I thought both of them were just okay,” Pederson told reporters Monday. “I think Jalen, you can see the explosiveness, the speed with Jalen, being able to get behind the secondary. We just missed on the one shot. Carson overthrew him on the one post route but they were able to connect on another deep throw.”
Nor are the they only two capable of stretching defenses — DeSean Jackson, who played slightly more than half of Sunday’s snaps, is around, with Pederson keeping him rested and fresh. The two newcomers allow him to do that without unilaterally disarming on deep threats throughout games, as was the case for much of 2019.
One thing that’s clear, in both Pederson’s responses to reporters on Monday and, more broadly, throughout his career, is that he’d rather lose by going for it than by playing it safe.
“As far as the aggressiveness goes, I’m still going to maintain the aggressiveness,” Pederson said, specifically referencing the decision to try and score again before the half, already up 17-0. “Look, as I said this morning, a 17-0 lead or a 27-10 lead, in any football game in this league is not enough, and you have to continue to maintain aggressiveness. You have to — especially when you have momentum, right, and it’s kind of on your side. You’ve got to use that to your advantage, and my thinking at that time, too, was to try to get points before half with the ball to start the third quarter. We’ve done that many times here where we’ve scored and then come out and scored touchdowns to start the third quarter. That’s a lot of my mindset in these games.”
And looking deeper into the numbers, it is clear that this approach isn’t just central to Doug Pederson’s DNA. It should work to the advantage of the Eagles, given their personnel, throughout the other 15 games still to be played.