Eagles Wake-Up Call: How Wentz Will Still Develop
Carson Wentz‘s debut against Tampa Bay last Thursday provided some bright spots to look forward to in the future.
“We saw the great athleticism that he has,” Frank Reich said. “You could see it wasn’t too big for him. A lot of good moves from Carson.”
But after suffering a hairline fracture in his ribs, that athleticism will have to be put on hold for a few weeks.
He will miss valuable reps during practice, and he’ll potentially miss the rest of the preseason games. But that doesn’t mean his development will come to a halt. According to Reich, Wentz will continue to grow because of the mental reps the rookie quarterback will get.
“You can get the mental reps, you can still get a lot of film study and still be interacting with the players,” Reich said. “Maybe even to more of an extent, interacting with the receivers, and talking about what you expect as a quarterback. And we certainly expect no slowing down the process as far as growing mentally.”
Despite the injury, Wentz tried to protect himself as much as he could on Thursday, Reich noted. Wentz slid for the first time in his life, but Reich was still a bit frightened when Wentz did a flip in the air at the end of one of his rushes.
“Obviously as coaches, you cringe when that happens,” Reich said. “But it was a fourth-and-7, he took it up inside the corner, kind of flashed at the last second and he didn’t see him. I think Carson gets it. I think he gets it. I think he’ll slide when he needs to slide. The injury came on a play where that could have happened to anybody. That had really nothing to do with him other than they ran a blitz we couldn’t pick up. We just needed to make a slight adjustment in what we did there and get that ball out a little bit quicker.
“I think he understands it’s his responsibility to get down and slide when he can. But he’s an aggressive athlete, so there’s going to be a time or two where he’s going to take a shot, but we have to keep that to a minimum.”
Reich isn’t sure if Wentz’s reps will increase once he returns, saying that decision is up to Doug Pederson to make.
And it’s a similar scenario involving running back Wendell Smallwood. The rookie missed Thursday’s game with a quad injury and returned to practice on Saturday. Reich said Pederson and the trainers will take it day-by-day.
“You’ve got to keep that balance,” Reich said. “Just because a guy is healthy … you have to work back into full action.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“I don’t think we’ve seen anybody catch a ball on him in about four days.” Could C.J. Smith make the 53-man roster?
Some photos from Sunday’s practice session, courtesy of Jeff Fusco.
Observations from the final open practice at the Linc.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Wendell Smallwood will be a good fit for the Eagles, especially with the question of durability surrounding Ryan Mathews, opines Bob Ford of the Inquirer.
It was assumed that some off-field issues, including a witness tampering accusation that was later dropped, made teams leery of taking a chance on Smallwood, who grew up in a rough neighborhood of Wilmington, Del. That might have been part of the reason, but Smallwood’s size worked against him, too, particularly as he jumped to a one-back, passing league in which the runners have to be able to block.
“If you want to get on the field, the coaching staff and the quarterback have to have confidence you know what you’re doing in protection,” Reich said Monday. “All the early signs are Wendell sees it pretty good. He understands protection concepts and executes the fundamentals of pass protection. Now, you have to see it in games, but early indications are this should be a good thing for him.”
Adjusting to the dirty work required of a running back at the NFL level isn’t easy for some backs who have been stars all their lives. Smallwood accepts it is the only way he’s going to stick in the league. He has the reputation as a quick, one-cut runner with great vision as he threads through the line and finds the hole. That’s great, but the plays that are called when he doesn’t get the ball will determine his roster fate.
“I just need to put on film that I can block and pick up blocks in pass protection. That’s the biggest thing,” Smallwood said. “I study a lot of film, and that helps me pick up the blitzers. That gets you on the field, when the coaches trust that you can protect the quarterback.”
With a move to safety, Jaylen Watkins hopes to have a roster spot writes Andrew Kulp of CSNPhilly.com.
Watkins has emerged as a favorite to not only make the Eagles’ 53-man roster out of training camp, but also serve as the primary backup to [Malcolm] Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. If that seems sudden or unexpected, perhaps it shouldn’t be.
It turns out the Florida product might have a bit of an advantage over the competition.
“I’ve always had confidence in my knowledge of different defenses,” Watkins said. “This defense is very similar, almost identical to what I ran in college. A lot of the carryover is already there. I’m able to match some calls that I read in college to now. It’s pretty easy for me.”
Watkins moved between corner and safety in college, as well. Yet while he often wound up finishing a season at corner, whether with the Eagles or Gators, he always began it at safety.
Training camp concludes with practice scheduled for 9:05 a.m.