Eagles Won’t Hold Carson Wentz Back In His First NFL Start
When Carson Wentz lines up under center at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, he’ll become the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the Eagles in 77 years. And to think, a week ago at this time, Wentz wasn’t even likely to be on the active game day roster.
If the 23-year-old rookie doesn’t look ready against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, it won’t be due to a lack of the preparation. Doug Pederson said he spotted Wentz, along with backup quarterback Chase Daniel, in the film room when the head coach arrived to the NovaCare Complex at 5:45 AM on Wednesday morning. Wentz later revealed he arrived to the team’s facility at 5:15 AM.
“Extra preparation is pretty normal,” said Wentz. “It’s pretty normal. I’ve been preparing, even though I haven’t been playing. I’ve been preparing as if I were, all the way through. Obviously it was preseason, so the preparation amps up a little bit [now]. You have a little more time, a little more film on your opponent and everything. But to me, this is just the beginning of the new normal.”
Wentz’s work ethic is just one of the reasons the Eagles feel so confident in their rookie quarterback. And the Eagles really do have confidence in him. Pederson made it clear the Eagles won’t aim to be conservative with Wentz despite it being his first career start.
“I don’t want to harness that aggression,” said the Eagles’ head coach. “I don’t want to harness that ability to throw the ball down the field. Again, I think we are capable of doing that. He’s good at doing that. You want to obviously get into the flow of the game and see how defensively they are going to scheme him and scheme us, and you let your game plan sort of unfold from there.”
It was evident during training camp practices that Wentz wasn’t afraid to push the ball down the field. The rookie’s aggression was especially noticeable in contrast to the recently traded Sam Bradford, who has a reputation for being check-down friendly. Wentz, too, indicated he doesn’t expect to have limitations this week.
“I definitely believe that the playbook is wide open,” said Wentz. “We have everything at our disposal. I feel very confident with everything.”
Getting a crack at the Browns could be a nice opportunity for Wentz to get his feet wet. He should have opportunities to take shots against a defense that ranked 29th in defensive DVOA last season. It should also be noted Cleveland will be without their 2015 sack leader, Desmond Bryant, due to injury.
Another interesting angle to this game is how the Browns passed up on the opportunity to draft Wentz. Cleveland had the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft before trading down and receiving a bounty of picks from Philadelphia. At one point, Browns executive Paul DePodesta revealed his staff didn’t believe Wentz would be a top 20 quarterback in the NFL.
To his credit, Wentz took the high road when asked about the Browns’ low opinion of him.
“That’s for one in the past,” he said. “I’m a very motivated individual the way it is. So I don’t really have the need for extra motivation going into this one.”
Whether it impacts him or not, Wentz will have a chance to beat the team that publicly doubts him. And the Eagles coaching staff won’t be holding him back.