The Giants haven’t had much of a chance to see Carson Wentz in person as a superstar quarterback.
The last time they faced the Eagles’ quarterback was in Week 3 last season. Back then, he was just a second-year player with a lot of promise. That was before the Eagles had any idea of their Super Bowl destiny, before he emerged as an MVP candidate (a title derailed by a late-season knee injury) and before he returned to the field this season hoping to provide another championship run, this time with himself at the helm.
In his three games against the Giants, Wentz has thrown two touchdown passes with three interceptions and has a passer rating of 74.5. His only game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium was a 28-23 loss in 2016, which is the only win for the Giants in the series’ last eight games.
But there is one player on the Giants’ defense who has seen firsthand just how dynamic and effective Wentz can be. Linebacker Connor Barwin was on the Eagles in 2016 for Wentz’s rookie season, and he brings into Thursday night’s game an understanding of the danger Wentz presents.
“I saw what we all see now,” Barwin said. “The way he can make plays and extend plays . . . He carried himself the right way. He was serious and wanted to be good. Those are all big things that you want to see out of a rookie. It didn’t seem too big for him, so those were good signs.”
Wentz was a largely unknown commodity to a good percentage of fans when he entered the NFL as the second overall pick in 2016 out of North Dakota State.
“I’d never heard about him until we drafted him,” Barwin said. “When he got there, though, I saw why he was drafted so high.”
Those who scout quarterbacks for a living were onto Wentz earlier than Barwin was.
“I think we were all big fans of Carson when he came out,” said Pat Shurmur, who was an offensive coach with the Vikings at the time Wentz was coming out of college just a little more than 200 miles away in Fargo. “He’s very intelligent, he’s very competitive . . . He can make plays off schedule because he’s a big, physical guy. I call them 60-yard checkdowns. It just turns into flat chaos. He’s running around, and he can locate a guy down the field and make a big play.”
Shurmur said he personally doesn’t know Wentz well but admires his disposition from a distance.
“He’s very genuine in his approach,” Shurmur said. “It seems to me that there’s a humility there and a competitive spirit that I’m sure is contagious for their team.”
Barwin – assuming he plays after being sidelined in practices this week with a knee injury that has been nagging him all season – will be part of the effort to contain Wentz. He registered his first sack as a Giant last week against the Panthers, and he remains friendly with many Eagles from his four-year tenure there. He still owns a house in the Philadelphia area.
But when his career is over, Barwin said, he might just take a moment to look back and appreciate having been there with the Eagles when Wentz’s career was on the ground floor.
“It’s cool,” he said, noting he has the same sentiment toward Rams quarterback Jared Goff, with whom he was a teammate for last year’s breakout season of the player taken ahead of Wentz in the 2016 draft. “I’ve played with a lot of really great guys. Wentz and Goff, we’ll see where they go, but right now they look like two of the best quarterbacks in the league. It was fun to play with them.”
After Thursday, Barwin and the Giants will know how much – or how little -- fun it is to play against one of them.