Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, has received rave reviews early in his rookie season. From what the Giants have seen on tape as they prepare for their matchup with the Eagles on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Wentz is an athletic quarterback with good size and skills.
That was the common theme coming from the Quest Diagnostics Training Center this week. Wentz is a better athlete than they expected. But there was one thing in particular that really blew defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo away.
“I’ll give you one thing that impressed me right off the bat,” Spagnuolo said. “He throws the ball as good going left as I’ve ever seen a right-handed quarterback do it. I think he’s really good at that.”
Almost unprompted, Spagnuolo raved about the Eagles’ rookie quarterback just as he finished talking for nine minutes about his defense and this week’s opponent. It was almost as if he was surprised by what he’s seen on film, and felt the need to share it.
“Look, Philadelphia, that is a good football team. I’m impressed with the quarterback. I really am,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I think they’re happy with what he’s doing.
“When you look at the schedule and all of a sudden they put a rookie quarterback in there early, everybody gets excited about playing a rookie quarterback if you’re on defense. But he doesn’t look like a rookie to me. He really doesn’t. Not the way he functions.”
It’s not an accident the Eagles (4-3) enter this week tied for second place in the NFC East. They’ve received more than competent quarterback play from their top pick throughout the early part of the season. It has been a winning combination alongside the Eagles' strong defense.
Rookie or not, Wentz has done well with the supporting cast around him. His ability to make plays is a reason the Giants think that has been possible.
“He seems to throw the ball accurately. He's an athlete, runs around and extends plays,” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We've been impressed with him.”
There's the buzzword again -- athlete. Manning is a quarterback, Wentz is an athlete playing quarterback right now.
Despite the difference in experience, Wentz’s numbers are actually superior to Manning’s through seven games. He has more touchdowns (9-8), fewer interceptions (3-6) and a higher quarterback rating (92.5-87.3). Manning has the edge is passing yards (1,984-1,526).
The Giants were banking on Manning’s experience and past success – he’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP – being the difference in the division this season. The Eagles and Cowboys are starting rookie quarterbacks, and the Redskins have Kirk Cousins in just his second full season as a starter.
Manning is in his 13th profession season and third year in coach Ben McAdoo’s offense. There's familiarity and pedigree.But the Giants’ offense has stumbled through the first half of the season. They're tied for 26th in the NFL with 19 points per game, more than a touchdown less than last year. Their quarterback play has been a big part of the drop-off.
“I see a guy that is trying to get our team and our offense going,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “I see a veteran that knows what he’s doing. He’s seen everything. We have a couple of young guys doing a nice job in the division.
“We should have the advantage because we do have a veteran quarterback and he’s seen everything. These guys haven’t seen half the things that Eli Manning has seen.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson agreed.
“I think it is huge. One, you have a veteran guy under center who has got a lot of time in the offense and a lot of time with his personnel and that is a big advantage, I think,” Pederson said. “Eli is always a guy that is always well prepared every week and knows how to utilize his weapons. I think he has three great receivers there and just utilizing that and just understanding the offense. Being in the same system for so many years has another advantage of just knowing where everyone is going to be at one given time.”
These should be advantages for the Giants, but given the way Wentz and Manning have played so far this season, it hasn’t been. That’s in part because of what Wentz has shown the Giants and the rest of the NFL.