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Evaluating Eagles' Carson Wentz at the 20-game mark

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Max: Eagles are an elite team (1:25)

Max Kellerman isn't surprised by Philadelphia's 3-1 start to the season, as he pours on the praise for the top team in the NFC East. (1:25)

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is now 20 games into his professional career. With a quarter of his sophomore season in the books, let's take a look at how he is progressing:

Team insider says:

That Wentz is coming off the best performance of his career. The numbers against the Los Angeles Chargers don't necessarily speak to that -- he was 17-of-31 for 242 yards with a touchdown Sunday -- but the Eagles walked away impressed with his in-game command and situational awareness. Whether it was throwing the ball away to save the team points, beating the blitz or choosing the optimal play at the line of scrimmage, Wentz graded out very well in his most recent game and heads into the second quarter of the season on a high note.

Where he ranks through four games:

Passing yards -- 10th (1,058)

Completion percentage -- 26th (60.5)

Yards/attempt -- T-15th (7.20)

Touchdowns -- T-14th (6)

QB rating -- 16th (90.5)

What's working:

Wentz can be very effective off play-action -- a skill that has been fully utilized over the past two games with head coach Doug Pederson committing to the ground game. Wentz went 7-of-12 for 135 yards using play-action against the Chargers, per ESPN Stats & Information. That's the second-most pass yards for Wentz using play-action in his career. His six passing first downs using play-action throws Sunday established a new career high.

"We want to go in and establish that run, play-action pass with Carson, being able to move him around a little bit," said Pederson. "It's sort of the direction that I think our offense needs to go in."

Wentz and the Eagles have shown growth on third down and in the red zone. He is connecting on 65 percent of his throws at a clip of almost 9 yards per completion on third down with a 107.2 rating. That is up from a 56 percent completion rate with a 6.10 average and 67 rating last season. The Eagles have jumped from 24th in red zone touchdown rate in 2016 (49 percent) to eighth this year with a success rate of nearly 62 percent.

"That's something we've talked to him about from the start: Really what sets you apart as a quarterback, is how you perform in situational football," said offensive coordinator Frank Reich. "That's third down and red zone. Then what kind of a knack do you have of making big plays on first and second down? That's really what separates those elite players ... I think he takes a lot of pride in that. I think he knows that. I think he studies it a lot. I think he has a lot of confidence in the players he's throwing to. So that's been encouraging at this point."

What needs work:

There is room for improvement when it comes to the long ball.

Wentz has completed 33 percent of passes that have traveled at least 15 yards downfield -- 28th in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That continues a trend from last season, when he completed 35.3 percent of passes 15 or more yards downfield, 26th in the league. Wentz has some better weapons at his disposal this season, which should help once he establishes more of a rhythm with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, et al. There were some encouraging signs this past week against the Chargers, as Wentz was on the money with just about all of his downfield throws.

One thing is for sure: Wentz is airing it out more this season. He has averaged 9.6 air yards per attempt so far this season -- fourth highest in the NFL. He ranked 26th in that category (7.28 yards) last season while feeling his way through his rookie year with limited playmakers on the outside.

A big part of Wentz's game is shaking loose of defenders to extend plays. Although that has generally been a blessing for this offense, there is also some risk (and punishment) involved when holding on to the ball after the original play design has expired. Finding the proper balance will be key.

What they're saying:

"I loved him coming out [of college]. He really reminded me a lot of Andrew Luck: big, strong, physical, played in a pro offense. Had that linebacker mentality playing quarterback, and it shows up, his toughness. Can really hurt you out of the pocket and in the pocket. He is such a good athlete. He reminds me a lot of Ben [Roethlisberger] in a lot of ways, how he just throws guys off in the pocket and makes big plays downfield." -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.

Bottom line:

The Eagles are 3-1 thanks in large part because of Wentz, who appears to have the makings of a franchise quarterback. The ability is obvious, the leadership skills are there, and his pre-snap command shows both his understanding of the game's complexities as well as the work ethic he applies to try and solve them. He still has plenty of growing to do, but has the tools to be a top-tier quarterback over time.