Eagles Wake-Up Call: Recalibrating Carson


-USA TODAY Sports

-USA TODAY Sports

The taste for contact was developed at an early age.

Carson Wentz always wanted to be a quarterback, but was denied the opportunity his first year playing organized ball.

“Fifth grade football,” Wentz recalled during a session with writers in the media room Friday night following his press conference. “I wanted to play quarterback but they let the other kid for some reason, [so they put me at running back] and just gave me the ball every time instead.”

Young Wentz played inside linebacker on defense that year. On both sides of the ball, he was right in the physical thick of things.

“I maintained that mentality,” said Wentz. “I always played both ways, even in high school all the way through. I just loved the contact, I love football. I loved defense dang near just as much as offense, but obviously offense was a much better fit once I got to the next level.”

He still managed to get his licks in at North Dakota State, though, despite playing QB exclusively.

Wentz power 1

Wentz power 2

The Bison had plenty of designed quarterback runs to maximize the physical gifts of Wentz, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in college. Whether scripted or scramble, the 6-5, 237-pounder just about always finished the play with shoulder down, plowing ahead.

“The first thing that I asked him was, ‘Do you know how to slide, dude? Do you know how to do that?'” said Howie Roseman during an interview with the 97.5 The Fanatic morning show. “And he goes, ‘I like the contact.'”

The answer to Roseman’s question is no, Wentz doesn’t know how to slide. Or at least he’s never really tested his form out. Even in baseball, he said, he thinks he went head first into the bag. “I’m sure I was that guy,” he joked

“I’ve never slid. I dove,” he said, back to the conversation about football. “The biggest thing for me is it would be called a run play, and instantly, quarterback power I’m running the ball. It was just a mind-set thing that I’ll definitely learn [to adjust] and I think I’ll be able to handle that just fine.”

Asked what his young quarterback needs to improve on Thursday night, Pederson led with the fact that Wentz must learn how to protect himself.

“I love his aggressiveness when he’s running out of the pocket. I think it’s part of who he is, it’s part of his chemistry,” said Pederson, “but in the National Football League there is going to come a time when you have to get down or out of bounds.”

Wentz said that the Bison had about 10 designed QB runs a game for him. But the broken wrist he sustained last season came on a rather of a nondescript play and was a bit fluky. Dropping back on 3rd-and-12 early against South Dakota, he was flushed to his right, threw deep, got pushed and just landed on his hand awkwardly. Here’s the play, though the injury happens off-screen:

Wentz hurt

He ripped off a 60-yard bomb on the very next play and stayed in for the remainder of the game, only to find out the next day that there was a fracture.

“I was crushed,” he said.

Wentz broke his thumb his junior year of high school while making a tackle from the safety position.

The Eagles have no intentions of deploying Wentz in an ironman role, but they do have to worry about how he takes care of himself while playing quarterback at this level, where the hits are more ferocious and the price for losing a QB to injury severe.

“But here’s the thing about it: that’s a good thing to have to coach him out of. If that’s our biggest problem, that we got this big, physical quarterback who loves to play and loves to pick up extra yards and has a nose for the end zone, that I think is a good problem to have,” said Roseman. “Now, we’ve gotta fix it — there’s no question because we need him on the field — but we’ve got some time here to fix it.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles released a pair of players to make room for the incoming undrafted free-agent class.

“Moving up and selecting Wentz was a bold move. I’m just not sure whether it was a smart or necessary one. WTS.

“Can we come back on Monday?” From Wentz’s drive to an old philosophy revisited, takeaways from draft weekend.

Josh with a pick-by-pick review of the Eagles’ draft.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Pro Football Focus gives the Eagles a ‘B’ for their draft.

Day 1: After the big trade with Cleveland to move up to No. 2, the Eagles got their man in Wentz. He has the big arm to drive deep outs and comebacks, and those skills should be put to use in a vertical passing system 15- to 25-yard range. He graded well on a snap-for-snap basis, but there are concerns with his timing, deep accuracy and ability to make plays under pressure. Wentz goes to a good situation with a coaching staff that is well-versed in developing various styles of quarterback.

Day 2: Seumalo is one of our favorite guards, as he rarely loses in the running game, and he only surrendered four pressures last year despite starting the last three games at left tackle.

Day 3:  Smallwood is a good zone runner and he posted the 11th-best run grade in the class. Vaitai had the 16th-best grade in the tackle class in 2014, posting positives in pass protection and the run game, but his work in the run game took a step back in 2015. McCalister is a pass-rush specialist that picked up pressure to the outside at the seventh-best rate in the class, but he has no power to his game as a rusher or against the run.

Bradford made Peter King’s Ten Things I Think I Think.

4. I think—of all the people I spoke to over draft weekend—when I brought up the Sam Bradford-is-ticked-off angle, here is how many NFL folks (coaches and GMs mostly) had empathy for Bradford: zero.

COMING UP

We’ll get reaction to the Eagles’ draft from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay.