The Eagles' Jalen Carter is playing like the top pick he should have been
Confetti from Week 3 in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-0 and the Chicago Bears are 0-3. If you looked at each team’s bloodwork, you’d find multiple reasons why.
Obviously none of the conditions are hereditary. The Bears’ family history includes Dick Butkus and Walter Payton. Their problems are created by lifestyle and habit. And accidents don’t help, particularly the one that happened in Athens, Ga. on the night of Jan. 14.
Georgia had just celebrated its second consecutive College Football Playoff title that day. Now it was party time. As the calendar flipped to the first hours of Jan. 15, two cars reached 100 mph on a road not far from downtown, and one of them ran off the road. Chandler LeCroy, an athletic department employee, and guard Devin Willock were killed.
Jalen Carter was driving the other car.
Carter left the scene and wasn’t truthful about the situation when he returned to talk to police. Eventually he received probation and paid a fine. No jail time. That’s what happens when you’re a defensive lineman who goes 6-foot-3 and 314.
But there was another price, one that wouldn’t be determined until the NFL draft in late April. Carter was considered the top pick. The Bears earned that pick thanks to a dreadful 2022 season. Normally the top drafting team would investigate quarterbacks. The Bears felt they were fine there, with Justin Fields. They knew Carter’s alarming quickness and strength would help a corroded defense.
And then came Jan. 15. The Bears weren’t the only team that now saw Carter as a risk. They looked around for a proper substitute, considered Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson, and finally began answering their phone. Carolina needed a quarterback and offered the ninth and 61st picks in the draft, along with receiver D.J. Moore, a first-rounder in 2024 and a second-rounder the next year.
The Panthers took Bryce Young. The Bears wound up with tackle Darnell Wright from Tennessee. Wright has started all three games, and Moore has a 100-yard game and a touchdown. But the Bears have given up 106 points and have one sack in three games.
Meanwhile, the Eagles kept checking out Carter, and they asked some of the most pertinent questions inside their locker room. Defensive tackle Jordan Davis and safety Nakobe Dean were Carter’s teammates at Georgia. Both vouched for Carter. Any misbehavior, they said, was due to immaturity, not a disease of character.
When draft time came, the Eagles had the 10th overall pick. They persuaded the Bears to switch. They used that ninth pick on Carter. On Monday night in Tampa, Carter forced fumbles on back to back plays, had a half-sack and pressured Baker Mayfield five times.
The Eagles’ defensive line is so deep and talented that Carter doesn’t have to play much, but when he does, he is sometimes double-teamed. With Carter and Davis and veterans Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, the Eagles have turned a full house into a royal flush.
The way things are going with both Carolina and Chicago, the Bears could have two premium picks in the 2024 draft. But, as general manager Ryan Poles admitted, it’s more than just taking a name from a board.
He said Carter would have had more problems adjusting with Chicago than with Philadelphia because he knew “where our locker room is now and where it isn’t.” He said the Eagles’ locker room had better “cement in its foundation” and that the Bears are still waiting for theirs to dry.
Bears’ fans have been waiting a long time for a new structure. When you’re starting to rebuild before you’ve finished building, and there’s nothing to tear down, that’s a problem..
More confetti from Week 3 in the NFL:
Houston 37, Jacksonville 17
– They really do keep stats like this: Andrew Beck became the heaviest player in NFL history to return a kickoff all the way. The 255-pound fullback, a former tight end at Texas, went 85 yards to put Houston ahead 24-10, and somehow eight Jaguars tacklers missed him. It’s the first time a fullback has had a kickoff return TD in 18 seasons.
– C.J. Stroud had his first breakthrough, hitting 20 of 30 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns in his third NFL quarterbacking start. He hasn’t thrown an interception yet. Another Houston rookie, Tank Dell, caught five balls for 145 yards. Yet another one, edge rusher Will Anderson, blocked a field goal and hit Trevor Lawrence twice. It was the first win, after two losses, for Houston coach Demeco Ryans.
– The Jaguars (1-2) were plagued by dropped passes and leaky defense, and Lawrence threw an interception near midfield after Beck’s return. Oddly, it was Jacksonville’s fifth consecutive home loss to Houston and its 16th loss in the past 19 games in the series.
Miami 70, Denver 20
— You could make the case that this was the best offensive performance in NFL history. It felt two points short of Washington’s record 72 in a 1966 win over the Giants, but Washington scored three defensive touchdowns that day. All 10 Miami touchdowns came from the offense, although two of the drives began inside the Denver 10.
– The Dolphins (3-0) had 30 first downs and had five plays that went 40 or more yards. As if they didn’t have enough artillery, they broke out rookie Da’Von Achane, a Texas A&M speedster who caught two touchdowns and ran for two others. Tua Tagliavoa hit 25 of 28 passes, and Raheem Mostert also scored four touchdowns on Miami’s 726-yard day.
– The Broncos (0–3) have given up 16 touchdowns in three games and have allowed TDs on 11 of 12 red-zone trips. Vic Fangio was Denver’s head coach last year. He now runs Miami’s defense.
Arizona 28, Dallas 16
– Favored by 13, the Cowboys’ invincibility had a short life. The red-zone problems that began in the Jets game carried over, with Dallas going 1-for-5. There were 13 penalties and there were two new offensive line starters. Arizona ran effectively, blunted the pass rush, and had only two third-and-longs in the first half. Add an efficient game by Joshua Dobbs and a 62-yard field goal by Matt Prater, and the Cardinals got the first win for coach Jonathan Gannon.
– Gannon was the defensive boss of the Eagles, so he’s familiar with the Dallas offense. Dak Prescott threw 40 times and only got 249 yards out of it, and CeeDee Lamb was held to four catches, 53 yards. Prescott also threw a red zone interception that stopped Dallas’ last chance. The Cowboys (2-1) have gotten only six touchdowns from their offense.
– Dobbs, an NFL vagabond who’s filling in for Kyler Murray, was 17 for 21 with no turnovers. James Conner rumbled for seven yards a carry.
Indianapolis 22, Baltimore 19 (OT)
– Baltimore fans of a certain age had to be galled to see guys with horseshoe helmets celebrating on their field. The Colts were supposed to be all about Anthony Richardson and Jonathan Taylor, but they won this one with Gardner Minshew quarterbacking and Zack Moss running.
– Mostly they won it with Matt Gay kicking. He was the Rams’ kicker when they won the Super Bowl, and here he hit four field goals from more than 50 yards, including the 53-yard game-winner. That was an NFL first. Justin Tucker, the Hall of Fame-bound kicker for the Ravens, came up short on a 61-yarder with a second left in regulation.
– Moss ran for 122 yards on 30 carries, former 7th-round pick Zaire Franklin was in on 15 tackles, and Minshew hung in there even though he was sacked five times and suffered a safety.
Detroit 20, Atlanta 6
– The Falcons (2-1) were trailing Detroit 13-6 when safety Jessie Bates intercepted Detroit quarterback Jared Goff on the final play of the third quarter. They went three-and-out, with two incompletions by Desmond Ridder, and Goff took the Lions to the end zone in seven plays for a 20-6 lead.
– The Lions’ suspect defense sacked Ridder seven times, twice by Aidan Hutchinson, and held rookie Bijan Robinson to 33 yards rushing. Detroit (2-1) gave up 37 to Seattle the previous week.
– Early returns on the Lions’ 2023 draft are favorable. Safety Brian Branch had 11 unassisted tackles, two passes defensed and three tackles for loss. Jahmir Gibbs, Branch’s Alabama teammate, had the big gains on Detroit’s final TD drive, and Sam LaPorta of Iowa caught a 45-yard TD pass and seven other passes for 84 yards total. He has 18 catches, most of any tight end in the first three games of his career. That broke a 35-year record set by Philadelphia’s Keith Jackson.
L.A. Chargers 28, Minnesota 24
— It’s never over until it’s over when Brandon Staley is making the calls. The Chargers coach ordered a fourth-and-one pickup on his own 24 with 1:47 left, and the Vikings stopped Joshua Kelley short. The Chargers’ defense bailed out their coach this time, with Kenneth Murray diving for a tipped interception in the end zone.
– As usual there was a lot of statistical confetti in the Chargers (1-2) column. Keenan Allen set a franchise record – the franchise of John Jefferson, Antonio Gates and Charlie Joyner – with 18 catches, and took them 215 yards. He also threw a 49-yard TD to Mike Williams, who had 121 yards receiving before he hurt his knee. Herbert was 40 for 47 for 405 yards, as the Bolts tried only 15 runs.
– Minnesota is 0-3 with a minus-7 turnover margin, and it is 0-3 in one-score games. More than few analysts predicted this reversion, since the Vikings were 11-0 in one-score games a season ago.
Green Bay 18, New Orleans 17
– The Saints were leading the Packers 17-0 on the road, and Lonnie Johnson intercepted Jordan Love in the third quarter. On third-and-nine, however, Rashan Gary turned in one of his three sacks. On the play, New Orleans QB Derek Carr hurt his shoulder. The turnaround began, although not immediately. Penalties fueled one Packer touchdown drive, and Love led another one that ended in a TD pass to Romeo Doubs and a go-ahead 2-point conversion.
– The Saints (2-1), who cut longtime kicker Will Lutz in preseason, lined up for a 46-yard field goal by Blake Grupe, with 1:05. It missed to the right.
– Green Bay (2-1) has 13 tackles for loss already, and is playing without cornerback Jaire Alexander, along with running back Aaron Jones and receiver Christian Watson. Even without those veterans, Love hasn’t even needed a month to make a Lambeau Field memory.
San Francisco 30, N.Y. Giants 12
— It wasn’t really a fair fight, not with the Giants missing running back Saquon Barkley and tackle Andrew Thomas and guard Ben Bredeson. Daniel Jones didn’t have enough time to throw even one ball to deep threat Jalin Hyatt, and the Giants didn’t have a run over eight yards or a pass over 18.
– San Francisco (3-0) has scored exactly 30 points in each of its three games and has won 13 consecutive regular season games since a loss to Kansas City last October. Christian McCaffrey has found the end zone in all three games, and the 49ers have held its three victims to 159 rushing yards, total.
– The Giants (1-2) ranked 11th in turnover margin in their surprising 2022 season, but haven’t gotten a takeaway yet. Linebacker Micah McFadden, a fifth-round pick last year, was the one-man highlight Thursday, with four tackles for loss.
Pittsburgh 23, Las Vegas 18
– Down 23-15 and facing third-and-four from Pittsburgh’s eight yard line with 2:25 left, Josh McDaniels ordered a field goal for the Raiders (1-2). He had all three time outs and hoped to get the ball back for another shot. Kenny Pickett foiled that with a third-down completion to Allen Robinson.
– Jimmy Garoppolo hit Davante Adams for two touchdowns but threw three picks and was evaluated for a concussion afterward. T.J. Watt continued his rampage for the Steelers (2-1) with two sacks, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss.
– The Raiders will continue to struggle until Josh Jacobs, the 2022 league rushing champ, recovers his form. They have 185 rushing yards in three games, and have seven turnovers and no takeaways.
New England 15, N.Y. Jets 10
– The Patriots’ 15th consecutive win over the Jets was based on a strong ground game featuring Ezekiel Elliott’s 16 carries and 80 yards, and a defense that throttled Zach Wilson.
It didn’t help matters when Breece Hall, for the second consecutive week, was rendered meaningless (12 carries, 18 yards).
– With 2:19 left, rookie tackle Joe Tieppman committed a holding penalty that moved the Jets (1-2) back to the five-yard-line. On the next play, Matthew Judon sacked Wilson for a safety that put New England (1-2) up 15-10 and forced the Jets to go for a late touchdown – which they nearly got when Randall Cobb barely missed Wilson’s Hail Mary.
– Mac Jones hit Pharoah Brown with a 58-yarder in the second quarter that was New England’s only touchdown. That also was the Patriots’ only play that exceeded 18 yards.
Seattle 37, Carolina 27
– Bryce Young (ankle) was spared the ordeal of trying to run an offense in Seattle. Veteran Andy Dalton got the call for Carolina (0-3) and handled it well, although he had to throw 58 passes, a career high. The Panthers ran the ball only 14 times, and they were generally undone by eight false-start penalties amid the noise, a habit that coach Frank Reich called “pathetic.”
— Kenneth Walker continues to prove he’s one of the league’s top backs for Seattle (2-1), scoring his third and fourth touchdowns of the year. Rookie ZachCharbonnet supplemented him with 46 carries on nine tries. After the Panthers closed to within 22-20, Charbonnet rumbled for 25 yards on three carries, leading to Walker’s touchdown with 11:45 left.
– Cornerback Devon Weatherspoon, Seattle’s first-round pick, was in on 11 tackles.
Cleveland 27, Tennessee 3
– In a day of unusually one-sided NFL games, the Browns were as dominant as anyone. They held Tennessee (1-2) to six first downs and 94 yards, lowest for the franchise since it left Houston in 1997, and Derrick Henry got only 20 yards out of 11 carries. The Titans didn’t get midfield in the second half and suffered four 3-and-outs in ten possessions.
– Myles Garrett was the ringleader with three and a half sacks, five QB hits and a forced fumble. Cleveland (2-1) has 18 tackles-for-loss in three games. The Browns had the ball 38 minutes in this game and had it 35 minutes in each of their first two.
– With Nick Chubb gone, it was an appropriate time for DeShaun Watson to remember how he played for the Texans. He was 27 for 33 for two scores and no picks, and had three completions of 25 or more yards.
Buffalo 37, Washington 3
– The Bills (2-1) are one punt return away from going 3-0, thanks to a defense that has given up two touchdown drives so far and held Washington quarterback Sam Howell hostage on Sunday. They had nine sacks and four interceptions, one in every quarter, with A.J. Epenesa running one of them back for a score, and have won their past two games by a combined 75-13 since that late loss to the Jets on the first Monday night.
– Second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard, a third-round pick from Baylor, led the parade of insatiable defenders. He had two tackles for loss, two sacks, a pick, a pass defensed, a fumble recovery, and seven tackles. Leonard Floyd, the ex-Ram whose tackle knocked Aaron Rodgers out for the season, also had two sacks.
– Washington had won its first two, but this was a sobering roadblock with Philadelphia next. Sam Howell was hit 15 times, and Washington went 1-for-9 on third down. None of Buffalo’s three touchdown drives exceeded 64 yards. It sets up a deafening clash between Buffalo’s defense and Miami’s 70-point defense next week.
Cincinnati 19, L.A. Rams 16
– Cincinnati’s only touchdown drive came in the third quarter and featured a third-and-10 pickup from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase. It ended with Joe Mixon’s 14-yard run and created a 13-9 lead. Matthew Stafford answered with a 46-yard pass play to Van Jefferson, but his next pass was picked by Logan Wilson, and Burrow’s 43-yarder to Chase set up the field goal and made it 16-9.
— Burrow isn’t healthy yet, but he did a nice job of keepaway, hanging onto the ball for 36 minutes. He also had faith in a Cincinnati (1-2) defense that denied the Rams 10 times in 11 third down situations and kept them out of the end zone for nearly 59 minutes.
– Paca Nacua continued to produce for the Rams (1-2), with five catches, and fellow rookie Byron Young has at least a half-sack in each game, but the offensive line broke down when Stafford needed a fourth quarter drive. Back-to-back sacks by Trey Hendrickson and Daxton Hill flipped field position and led to the field goal that made it 19-9.
Kansas City 41, Chicago 10
– She spends most of her time in jam-packed stadiums, so why shouldn’t Taylor Swift show up at Arrowhead Stadium? The only highlight of this one was Swift cheering on her new friend Travis Kelce, while she sat next to his mom in a private box. Look for her new hit: “I’m Not Part Of Your 12 Personnel.”
– The Chiefs (2-1) cashed 10 of 14 third down situations and had the ball for more than 36 minutes. Patrick Mahomes had to shake off an ankle problem but was not sacked.
– The Bears (0-3) have had nothing but bad news, and for the first three quarters they didn’t get past the Chiefs’ 44. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams has been dismissed, quarterback Justin Fields hasn’t been happy with what he called “robotic” play calling, and Chicago has only snapped the ball in the red zone five times this season.