Carson Wentz soared in his NFL debut with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, the strong-armed rookie quarterback will have an opportunity to showcase his skills under the lights. Wentz will play his first prime-time game as the Eagles (1-0) visit the Chicago Bears (0-1) on Monday night.
The past week has been a whirlwind for Wentz, whom the Eagles selected with No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft out of North Dakota State. He passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 29-10 win against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener. His jersey shot to No. 1 in NFL online sales.
Vice President Joe Biden encouraged President Barack Obama to “get on the Wentz wagon.” Instead, Obama — an ardent Bears fan — joked that he would visit Philadelphia “and scout out what all of the fuss is about.”
Bears coach John Fox and his defensive assistants have done some scouting of their own.
Chicago is looking to bounce back from a 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 1. The Bears led 14-10 at halftime but were outscored 13-0 in the second half as their offense failed to gain traction.
Quarterback Jay Cutler could use better protection in the pocket after he was sacked five times in the opener. He also spent time this week reiterating his confidence in wide receiver Kevin White, the Bears’ first-round pick in 2015 who missed his entire rookie season because of a stress fracture. White made his NFL debut last week but caught only three passes for 34 yards despite being targeted seven times.
“We need him,” Cutler said. “He’s going to be fine. We’re not worried about him. We like our group of receivers out there. … I’m going to play better. As a whole, offensively, we’re going to play better.”
If White advances as Cutler hopes, he could create a dangerous tandem alongside wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. That will create pressure on the Eagles’ secondary, which faces questions after cornerback Leodis McKelvin sustained a strained left hamstring in Week 1 and is out for Monday night.
Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson described McKelvin’s status as “week-to-week,” which does not bode well for Monday. The Eagles traded cornerback Eric Rowe to the New England Patriots before the season opener, which means Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks and rookie Jalen Mills might need to anchor a thin cornerback group.
McKelvin is not the Eagles’ only injured starter. Tight end Zach Ertz sustained a displaced rib near his left shoulder in Week 1 and also has been ruled out against the Bears.
“It’s a dangerous situation with a displaced bone,” Pederson said. “You are talking up around the neck and head area, so any type of blow again could do further damage to that. That’s why it’s a week-to-week deal to see how it heals and recovers.”
In Ertz’s absence, veteran Brent Celek is expected to step forward as the team’s top option at tight end.
The Bears know they must improve on defense after allowing Houston to convert 12 of 20 third-down opportunities one week ago. Linebacker Danny Trevathan will make his home debut as a Bear after signing as a free agent during the spring. Another new face on the lakefront will be rookie pass rusher Leonard Floyd, who was credited with six tackles and registered a half-sack along with Eddie Goldman in his NFL debut.
Look for Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to try to pressure Wentz in front of a hostile environment.
Wentz, however, will have plenty of support in the huddle as he braces for the Bears. The 23-year-old already has the backing of his teammates, including wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who is thrilled with the chance to develop continuity with his quarterback after several years of uncertainty at the position.
“It’s a different thing when that guy’s your brother and when he’s your quarterback,” Matthews said. “When he’s your quarterback, it’s like, ‘I’m just doing my job.’ When he’s your brother, it’s like, ‘I’ve got to get these 12 yards because I want him to be able to trust that I’m going to be where I need to be so that we can get out here and win football games.’ … And I want him to be just as successful as me, if not more.
“When you start having that relationship, when you want to give up of yourself for somebody else, the games, they just happen. It becomes fun. It becomes something everybody loves to enjoy. Like I said, Carson has that attitude.”