LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — He came from an SEC program and spent most of his rookie season watching from the sideline, so Jay Cutler’s transition to the NFL wasn’t exactly like Carson Wentz’s.
Cutler had time. Wentz had no wait.
The No. 2 overall draft pick, Wentz will try to build on an impressive debut when the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Chicago Bears to night.
“To play right off the bat coming in, these guys that get drafted, they’re probably a little bit better prepared than we were 10, 12 years ago,” said Cutler, who spent much of his 2006 rookie season with Denver behind Jake Plummer. “They see more looks. The whole pre-draft process is so involved now, but you still have to go out there and strap it up and play, and it’s not easy.”
Wentz made it look that way last week in a 29-10 victory over Cleveland with a performance that sent a charge through a city seeking its first NFL championship since 1960. He even got a shout out from President Barack Obama during a rally for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia this past week.
The Bears , meanwhile, are trying to shake off a loss at Houston.
Wentz , the QB from North Dakota State who shot up draft boards, threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in his debut, completing 22 of 37 passes in a turnover-free performance, posting a 101.0 rating. He fired crisp passes and withstood some big hits despite a rib injury that limited him in the preseason.
More than anything, he looked every bit like the franchise quarterback the Eagles think he will become when they traded up twice to draft him. And he justified rookie coach Doug Pederson’s decision to promote him from the No. 3 spot after Sam Bradford got traded to Minnesota.
“I know this city is pretty excited for Eagles football now, being 1-0,” Wentz said. “We’ve got new coaching, a new quarterback. There’s a lot of excitement, and to go out and get a win, I’m sure there’s a lot of buzz going around.
“But it’s crazy how much us as players can really insulate ourselves from the noise, whether it’s good or bad, and really just get back to work.”
The 6-foot-5 Wentz grew up in Bismarck and led North Dakota State to FCS championships the past two seasons as the starter after the Bison won it all the previous three years. Wentz faced only one power conference team in college when he played Iowa State in 2014.
“He’s won a lot of games and he’s won championships,” Pederson said.
“And you can’t take that away from anybody, at any level of competition. Hopefully you saw it last Sunday: his ability to lead the football team and make plays.”
The Bears figure to be a step up in competition from Cleveland even though they have some issues of their own.
Chicago, coming off a last-place finish in the NFC North, opened its second season under coach John Fox with a 23-14 loss. An offensive line that included late addition Josh Sitton at left guard struggled against the Texans’ strong front, and a defense with a rebuilt front seven failed to make enough plays against Brock Osweiler.
And the way Wentz played last week, facing a rookie quarterback might not be much of a reprieve.
“He’s pretty impressive,” Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “It looks now that Philadelphia is going to be very well-rewarded for the risk they took on draft day, giving up a lot of stuff to get this guy because he looks like he’s going to be a long-term hell of a quarterback. And then they got Christmas given to them when the Vikings had their misfortune (Teddy Bridgewater’s left knee injury) and they were able to unload their overload at quarterback for a couple picks.”
Cutler said Wentz is in a good spot playing for a head coach who happens to be a former NFL quarterback.
He also understands the pressure on Wentz, given that he also was seen as a potential franchise quarterback after Denver drafted him out of Vanderbilt with the No. 11 pick in 2006. One difference was Cutler had to wait as a rookie before starting the final five games.
“It’s difficult. I think he’s in a good spot,” Cutler said. “I think Doug understands that position really well and you can’t lean on that guy that much early on. It has to be a team sport, defense and running game, and you have to put him in position to be successful and you have to hope that your offense is going to grow together for two or three years, because changing coaches, changing OCs (offensive coordinators) that’s hard on a young quarterback.”