Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz Is Learning From Russell Wilson And Cam Newton
For as impressive as Carson Wentz has been to start his NFL career, there have been concerns about how the 23-year-old quarterback takes a lot of hits. The Eagles’ coaching staff has praised Wentz’s toughness in this regard, but they’ve also cautioned against taking unnecessary shots.
Wentz seemed to do a better job of avoiding contact in Philadelphia’s Week 3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rookie credited his teammates for his success.
“Probably starts with the guys up front,” said Wentz. “They were unbelievable last game. I don’t think I went to the ground more than one or two times, just because [the Steelers] brought some pressures. But those guys did a great job and guys were getting open, so I really didn’t have to hold on to the ball too long. There wasn’t really many plays made outside the pocket where that was really an issue or really came up.”
While it’s true Wentz has had a lot of success operating from the pocket, it’s also true there is value when he’s able to use his legs to make plays. This was apparent when he scrambled away from pressure on his touchdown throw to Darren Sproles in Week 3. Wentz also flashed his mobility on a 10-yard run to move the chains when the Steelers left a big running lane open for him.
“I want to get out of bounds,” explained Wentz. “I know, like I said in one of the post-game pressers, I’m not a runner first, but if it’s there I’m going to take off. But like we’ve talked about it’s always something I’m working on and learning how to protect myself, so that was prevalent right there.
Given Wentz’s success throwing the ball, the Eagles haven’t had to rely on the rookie using his legs to gain yards. But according to head coach Doug Pederson, designed runs could eventually become more prevalent in the game plan.
“Probably the deeper as you go into your regular season, if you are in a position to make the postseason, you might increase that a little bit,” said Pederson. “One of the things that I think defenses sometimes forget, I’m not saying they forget it completely, is the quarterback and the ability to run. I think that was the advantage to us in Kansas City with Alex Smith and his strength was the ability to run the football. As we got deeper into the season, we dialed up a few more of those for him.”
“I think it could be the same type of formula with Carson. Obviously you want to protect him and you want to get through a full 16-game schedule. But I think the deeper you go, you increase it a little bit more.”
Wentz said he can’t complain about Pederson’s play-calling when asked if he’d like to see more designed quarterback runs in the offense. The rookie quarterback did note he ran eight to 10 such plays per game during his time at North Dakota State. Wentz finished his four-year college career with 216 rushing attempts for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Running the ball more often could obviously make Wentz more vulnerable to taking hits. For his part, Wentz said he’s been studying mobile quarterbacks in order to get a better idea of how to protect himself. He said studying how to avoid contact is something that comes up when watching game film of other teams. Wentz specifically mentioned two quarterbacks he’s watched so far.
“I think Russell Wilson does a really good job of protecting himself,” said Wentz. “Obviously, he makes plays with his feet. Cam Newton takes some shots here and there but I thought last year he was a guy who — I always thought he did a good job, with all the different different quarterback runs, of just protecting himself [and] taking the shots very sparingly.”
Wilson and Newton are currently dealing with injuries, which is a reminder that quarterback runs carry risk. But for the most part they’ve done a good job of protecting themselves, as Wentz noted. Wilson has never missed a game in his five-year career. Newton, meanwhile, has only been out for two starts during a six-year span.
The Eagles will hope Wentz can be just as durable as the mobile quarterbacks he’s studied. Wentz has been a key part of Philadelphia’s surprising 3-0 start and they’ll need him in order to sustain success.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Inquirer’s Zach Berman writes about Carson Wentz’s return trip to North Dakota, which was “pretty much the same.”
Wentz admitted that he had had enough of the downtime by the end of the week. He has programmed himself to operate on a quarterback’s schedule. Pederson saw him in the team facility in the 5 a.m. hour Wednesday. He’s back to his weekly schedule. So while the week back home was nice – it was his first time back in North Dakota since arriving for training camp – he is where he wants to be.
“We had that bye week, renew our mind, get away from the game, see some friends and family,” Wentz said. “But toward the end of the week, I was champing at the bit to get back here. I was ready to go, and for me, once we’re here and we’re in football mood, it’s really easy for me to be locked in.”
When asked how Wentz has handled the week away, Pederson said, “We’ll find out.” He said it would be apparent during the week of practice and against the Lions.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins lauded Wentz for his approach, saying that the rookie hasn’t bought into the “Wentz Wagon.”
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz looks ahead to this week’s Eagles-Lions game.
“The bye week is history and the Eagles are focused on getting back into action, against the Lions this week. This game has a weird feel to it. Some think the Eagles will want revenge for last year’s game, a 45-14 beatdown. Some think Jim Schwartz will want revenge for the Lions firing of him following the 2013 season. Honestly, that all feels like ancient history.
I think this Eagles team will be focused on winning. Carson Wentz doesn’t care about last year. Nor does Rodney McLeod. Or DGB. Or Jalen Mills. The 2016 Eagles aren’t really an extension of last year’s team. Different players, coaches and schemes. The Eagles were 4-6 when they took on the Lions last year. This team is 3-0.
I do think Doug Pederson will have the challenge of keeping the Eagles focused. The team has gotten 2 weeks worth of praise. The players were on vacation last week and that meant traveling and doing non-football things. It is good for players and coaches to have some time away, but you hate for that to come when the team is playing at a high level and injuries aren’t a major factor.”
Jim Schwartz and Frank Reich will meet with the media at 10:30.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.