ENGLEWOOD—Do you realize Carson Wentz sat behind Brock Jensen for two years at North Dakota State, yet in 2017 is working on a six-game NFL winning streak in which he’s thrown 15 touchdown passes against just 3 interceptions for the Philadelphia Eagles?
Granted, Jensen led North Dakota State to three consecutive small-college national championships and later played a bit in the Canadian Football League. You betcha, far as the Fargo campus is concerned, Wentz is no Brock Jensen.
Do you also realize that after playing against the likes of Youngstown State, Weber State, South Dakota State and University of Incarnate Word in college, Wentz in just his third game as an NFL rookie threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a 34-3 win against Ben Roethlisberger’s Pittsburgh Steelers?
A year later, in this his second season, Wentz threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns to destroy Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals, 34-7.
Granted, Wentz dominated his small-college schedule, combining for 42 touchdowns against just 14 interceptions and guiding North Dakota State to two more national championships in his two years as a starter.
Still, all those quarterbacks from big-time college programs who struggle mightily to master the pro system. And here we have Fargo and Philadelphia connected not only by critically-acclaimed movies, but by Carson Wentz incarnate.
“I’m not sure his background, but he’s the second pick of the draft for a reason,’’ said Vance Joseph, head coach of the Denver Broncos who face Wentz and the Eagles on Sunday (kickoff at 11 a.m. MST). “He’s a talent. He uses his legs. He’s a big guy, he has a great arm and he has great legs. He has courage and poise and he’s smart. I’m not sure how he got to that school, but where he is now, he’s a special player.
“He’s up for the MVP in my opinion watching the guy play. He is a playmaker and he plays with a lot of courage. He has some Brett Favre in him. He doesn’t slide, he runs for first downs and he hangs in the pocket and holds the ball a long time on occasions to make big plays. He’s a special player. I’m not sure how he got there, but where he is now he’s special.”
One small-college habit Wentz has yet to shake is he does hang on to the ball longer than most NFL quarterbacks, which means Von Miller and Shane Ray will have some sack opportunities. Miller will line up against Lane Johnson, the best right tackle in the NFL, according to Miller. Ray will not be lining up against nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters as the left tackle recently suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Wentz has been sacked 22 times, but he’s run away from many others.
“He just has that vibe about him,’’ Miller said. “I hate comparisons in the National Football League. I don’t want to compare him to Ben Roethlisberger or Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck because he’s totally different than them. He does have the ability to stay up. He’s not trying to go down. He’s out there trying to play football. He’s not even playing quarterback.
“It’s similar to Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, but like I said, I’m not making any comparisons. He’s totally different. He’s faster than those guys. He’s quicker than those guys. It’s going to be a tough challenge.”
Sanders ready, Davis maybe not
Broncos No. 2 receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been running at full speed this week after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle.
“Chances are he will go this week,’’ Joseph said.
Inside linebacker Todd Davis, though, has a more severe high ankle sprain. Although he has returned to practice this week after missing the Kansas City game Monday, Davis isn’t moving like he usually does.
“He should have been out probably a couple weeks, three weeks,’’ Joseph said. “But Todd is a tough guy. He wants to go. He almost went last week. We’ll see where he’s at.”
Butt, Kelly face IR deadline
Jake Butt is without a doubt going to be a solid, NFL tight end. In 2018.
Chad Kelly is going to compete for the Broncos’ backup quarterback job. In 2018. (It’s 2019 that Kelly is penciled in to seriously compete for the starting job).
The two drafted rookie players, though, may be practicing for the last time Friday and Saturday. As players on the physical unable to perform (PUP)/non-football injury (NFI) list, they must be activated on the 53-man roster by Monday – or be placed permanently on injured reserve.
Butt and Kelly are both trying to come back from torn ACL injuries suffered late in their college careers. Both sat out the first six weeks of their first NFL regular season, per PUP rules, then were given three weeks to practice. Following the ninth week – Monday in the case of both Butt and Kelly – a definitive decision on their status must be made. Either they’re up on the 53, or down for the year.
Butt was further ahead than Kelly in his recovery, as he practiced during the week 7 lead up to the Los Angeles Chargers’ game. However, soreness in the knee area caused the Broncos to hold him back from practicing last week.
Butt returned to practice this week. He has a gung-ho, competitive spirit, but for his long-term health it would be a surprise if the Broncos activated him Monday. To wit: His best chance to become the Broncos' opening-day tight end in 2018 is if he uses all of 2017 to fully recover.
If he is placed on IR, he would not be able to practice the rest of the season, although he can continue to work out with strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson and attend certain meetings.
Kelly never was a serious candidate for the big 53 this season. Besides the knee injury, he tore ligaments in his right throwing wrist during his Pro Day leading up to the draft. He has only recently started throwing at medium-range length.
Joseph has already said Kelly would be placed on IR.
The Broncos have three players who grew up in Philadelphia or the area – kicker Brandon McManus, safety Will Parks and linebacker Zaire Anderson. McManus, who was born in Philly and grew up about 25 miles north in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, has 136 friends and family attending the game. That’s right, 136. He also played ball at Temple University, which is located on North Broad Street in the city of Philly proper. …
Joseph on Eagles’ running back Jay Ajayi, who was acquired this week in a trade with the Miami Dolphins: “When you trade for a guy—it happened what, Tuesday, and a game Sunday? If he’s in the football game, it’s going to be a limited package probably to run the football, if he’s even dressed. That’s tough to bring a guy in. They have three or four backs that they’re playing with that are being successful. It would be tough to even dress him, but if he’s dressed, it’s going to be run plays.”