Eagles Wake-Up Call: Developing Carson Wentz
Doug Pederson is tiptoeing a tightrope, and he knows it. He’s well aware of the short span coaches have to turn around their team, and it’s not tough to find examples. The majority of head coaches fired during the 2015 season had just two years or less at the helm, and Pederson’s current boss has never retained a head coach after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
“You know, this league, I don’t think there’s time anymore,” Pederson said. “To be honest with you, I don’t think there’s time. I’ve seen coaches get fired after one year. I’ve seen them get fired after three. There’s just not time anymore.”
Howie Roseman has acknowledged it’s unclear if the Eagles have a playoff-caliber team this season, and the franchise made a significant long-term investment by trading valuable picks to acquire Carson Wentz. But coaches don’t always stick around long enough to find out if the quarterback they bet big on pans out, and with Pederson, it will be fascinating to follow how he handles the expectation of fielding a competitive team this year in a weak NFC East, while trying to develop the guy the franchise gambled on.
When Pederson talked to a group of Eagles reporters before minicamp began, he made it clear his feelings hadn’t changed about Sam Bradford being his starting quarterback, explaining he named his starter in the spring so his plan for the season was unmistakble. He also reiterated Wentz’s place at the bottom of the depth chart, meaning the rookie probably won’t be available to play on game days.
“It’s hard right now to look down the road, but if we had to play this week, Carson would be down. He’d be the third quarterback. He’d be deactivated,” Pederson said last month. “That’s probably the direction we’re heading, I would think is going that route. Obviously barring injury and, as you know, how this game is, but typically the third quarterback, whoever that is, is down on game day.”
It remains to be seen how Pederson will split reps among his three quarterbacks throughout training camp, but that will play a pivotal role in determining where Wentz stands entering the season. While preseason games will be what fans primarily see of their rookie quarterback, that isn’t what the head coach will base most of his evaluation off of.
“Preseason games, it’s probably a little harder [to evaluate]. You evaluate them in practice. The hardest part of training camp is practice,” Pederson said. “If you practice hard, the games become easier, you know? Evaluating a young quarterback, you can see a lot during the course of the week. Do you want him to go play well on game day? Yeah, you want him to play well.
“But it is a little bit harder, I think, when you’re playing with the twos and threes sometimes. You’re not getting the best of the best all the time. At the same time, are you making good decisions? Are you managing the game? Are you leading your football team? Are you moving the chains? Those types of things, you can definitely see.”
What will be most difficult for Wentz, Pederson says, is developing his internal clock and handling pressure. While Pederson said it’ll take Wentz “some getting used to,” he noted how Wentz did a “great job” with the calls during the spring, and that the quarterback’s size helps him see over defenders.
“One thing with Carson is he’s seeing the field extremely well,” Pederson said during minicamp. “He’s doing things out there that you might not see while watching practice, that we see while watching practice, from a communication standpoint with the offensive line: protections, subtle changes with routes, things that he sees that most people won’t and most young quarterbacks don’t at this [point] with where we are in the offseason. But he’s absorbing everything. He’s learning.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“We do have the talent that it takes to be one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League, but it’s going to take time.” NFC East Roundup.
“The Eagles own a line that is likely to improve over last year due to upgrades among both their starters and backups.” Weekend Reading.
What are some benchmarks that Carson Wentz will need to accomplish to become the team’s next franchise QB?
Ryan Mathews looks to be the top back, but after that can get messy. Taking a look at the running back depth chart.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Last night, the Eagles announced former player and head coach Marion Campbell passed away, reports CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank.
Campbell, affectionately known as “Swamp Fox,” began his coaching career with the Falcons in 1969 and became the Falcons’ head coach in 1974. He was [Dick] Vermeil’s defensive coordinator from 1977 through 1982 and replaced Vermeil when he stepped down after the 1982 season.
In his tenure as defensive coordinator, the Eagles led the NFL in scoring defense twice and ranked first in yards allowed once and second once.
In three years as the Eagles’ head coach, Campbell’s teams went 17-29-1 and didn’t reach the playoffs.
But those years were critical because under Campbell and personnel chief Lynn Stiles the Eagles acquired players such as Randall Cunningham, Reggie White, Wes Hopkins, Andre Waters and Gregg Garrity, who would become key players under [Buddy] Ryan, their next head coach.
After Norman Braman fired Campbell late in the 1985 season, he returned to the Falcons for a second stint as head coach, this one running from 1987 through 1989.
Tommy Lawlor compares Carson Wentz to Ben Roethlisberger.
If Carson can have anything close to Big Ben’s career, the Eagles will have made a great investment. The Steelers played in one Super Bowl between 1980 and 2003, losing to Dallas in 1995. They drafted Ben in 2004 and have been to 3 Super Bowls, winning a pair of them. Pittsburgh was a very good franchise before Ben got there, but they couldn’t get over the hump.
People love to talk about winning titles based on defense. Sure the Ravens did it in 2000 and the Bucs in 2002. Denver somewhat did that last year, although their offense was middle of the pack, not bad. But those tend to be anomalies. Ask Steelers fans of the 1990’s about trying to win the big game by running the ball and playing good defense. They couldn’t do it. Once they got their QB, the world changed.
I know there are some concerns with Carson. Will the jump from a small school to the NFL be too much? Can he learn to read defenses quicker? Does he hold the ball too long? Those were all concerns with Ben and he overcame them, although he still holds the ball too long at times. That weakness also helps him to create some big plays.
There is no doubting the fact Carson has a lot of talent. His potential is through the roof.
Tim returns from his time aboard the Birds 24/7 yacht.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.