Quick Rise for a Quick Study
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
What was supposed to be a one-year apprenticeship turned into a one-week cram session for Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz after Sam Bradford was traded to the Vikings.
Carson Wentz has impressed teammates and coaches.
Now it's showtime.
Jeff McLane / Staff Writer, jmclane@phillynews.com
Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016

Carson Wentz's odyssey from No. 2 draft pick to third-string quarterback to suddenly starter was marked by his moments of ingenuity, perhaps none as clever as discovering the ideal spot to nap.

The NovaCare Complex can sometimes resemble a slumber party during the long days of Eagles training camp. Players are sprawled out in various corners of the practice facility sneaking in snoozes during the breaks.

There is the locker room, of course. The couch in trainer Chris Peduzzi's office is a coveted bed. Communications director Derek Boyko has a couple of comfy chairs if you can sleep while sitting. The players' lounge may be the most popular, but it's crowded.

"Guys are snoring everywhere," Wentz said.

One of the advantages of being a quarterback is that you don't have to share a meeting room with more than a handful of players. Wentz, if anything, had been deferential to Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel since joining the Eagles. But the veterans don't nap.

It didn't take long for Wentz the quick study to utilize the cavernous space.

For Wentz, it has been a four-month grind. The Eagles have invested deeply in developing the North Dakota State product.
( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

"It's a nice, little quiet spot," Wentz said. "The perfect dark room to go for a 20-minute nap."

A true leader, he shared the room with former fourth-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

"Thankfully," Wentz said, "he doesn't snore."

Camp is an exhaustive three weeks, especially for quarterbacks, and certainly for rookies drafted to be the face of the franchise. They're often the first and last players in the building — from summer sun up to sun down.

"As a quarterback, that's the only way you put the time in," Bethel-Thompson said. "But you need to find your rest and whenever you can take naps."

For Wentz, it has been a four-month grind. The Eagles have invested deeply in developing the North Dakota State product. Each time that coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo have shoveled more onto his plate, Wentz has gobbled it up.

There have been setbacks, naturally, but the coaches say the 23-year-old hardly ever makes the same mistake twice. It is why, Howie Roseman said, he felt comfortable pulling the trigger on a trade that sent Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, that in turn accelerated what was supposed to be a one-year apprenticeship into a one-week cram session before Wentz's first start.

“I remember Jordan [Matthews] coming up at the end of the workout saying, 'I'm ready.' And the second part was turning and flipping me the ball and going, ‘So’s he.’ ”
Howie Roseman, on Carson Wentz

Even when fractured ribs sidelined Wentz for three weeks of the preseason, the Eagles were not deterred. In fact, it was during that period, specifically a workout with receiver Jordan Matthews before the Colts game, that convinced Roseman that Wentz was ready. He called it a "turning point."

Hit the ground passing
Here are the rookie QBs who started from the first game of their rookie seasons in past 10 years, and how those teams finished.
2008
 
Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons
11-5
 
Joe Flacco
Baltimore Ravens
11-5
2009
 
Matthew Stafford
Detroit Lions
2-14
 
Mark Sanchez
New York Jets
9-7
2010
 
Sam Bradford
St. Louis Rams
7-9
2011
 
Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers
6-10
 
Andy Dalton
Cincinnati Bengals
9-7
2012
 
Andrew Luck
Indianapolis Colts
11-5
 
Robert Griffin III
Washington Redskins
10-6
 
Ryan Tannehill
Miami Dolphins
7-9
 
Brandon Weeden
Cleveland Browns
5-11
 
Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawks
11-5
2013
 
EJ Manuel
Buffalo Bills
6-10
 
Geno Smith
New York Jets
8-8
2014
 
Derek Carr
Oakland Raiders
3-13
2015
 
Jameis Winston
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6-10
 
Marcus Mariota
Tennessee Titans
3-13

The drills were designed mostly to gauge Matthews' recovery from a knee injury. Eagles coaches were in attendance, but Wentz ran the show.

"He was telling Jordan the route, he was telling Jordan the play, he was telling Jordan the formation, and it was so natural and it was so easy," said Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations. "I remember Jordan coming up at the end of the workout saying, 'I'm ready.' And the second part was turning and flipping me the ball and going, 'So's he.'"

“There’s something about him, bro, that when you’re around him you can tell that he’s a winner.”
Jordan Matthews, on Carson Wentz

Matthews has been on the Wentz bandwagon since their first practice together in the spring, telling his girlfriend and anyone else who couldn't attend the Eagles' early practices that he was the real deal.

"The development and the technical stuff — the coaches all worry about that. I look at the dude and say, 'OK, does this guy got it?' He got it. He just has it," Matthews said. "I love watching him. I love being around him. I like to see how he interacts with guys. He's cerebral, but he don't think too much. He's a leader but he ain't trying to lead.

"There's something about him, bro, that when you're around him you can tell that he's a winner."

But the potential risks are considerable and were once the arguments the Eagles gave for sitting Wentz. The jump would be significant from Division I-AA to the NFL. And he would have been given the luxury of time unlike so many other top picks that were pushed to start before they were prepared.

Kurt Warner experienced firsthand something similar with the New York Giants in 2004. He was signed that offseason to hold down the fort as Eli Manning developed. Warner won five of his first seven starts, but after a two-game losing streak Manning was called upon. The rookie struggled and the Giants lost six of their final seven.

It's impossible to say whether those early bumps paved the way for Super Bowl success or delayed it.

"From a big picture standpoint as an organization, I think the pressure is always, 'Throw the young kid in, throw the young kid in,'" said Warner, now an NFL Network analyst. "Too often you see with teams that have the No. 1 or 2 pick, their team's not any good."

The Eagles appear to have a defense and special-teams unit that are more than competent. But the offense is suspect. Wentz's lone preseason action was spellbinding but brief. His highs were high, but his lows were conversely low. And because of the injury, he never had the opportunity to check off the boxes that even Day 1 starters get to check.

Wentz takes a tumble against Tampa Bay in his only preseason appearance. He broke his ribs during the game. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )

"It's a continual challenge. That's the thing about the NFL — every day you're checking boxes," Warner said. "Each day has its new challenges and it takes a good deal of time before you've checked all those boxes and are able to say I've done everything and I'm ready to go."

Wentz crossed off some of the boxes during the offseason, and over that span convinced his coaches and his teammates that, if anything, he has the tools. He said it didn't take long for him to know he belonged.

When Pederson called him Saturday to give him the news of the Bradford trade, Wentz was lying in a cornfield on land he recently purchased in South Jersey. He was hunting goose. He bagged just one.

"It was a tough morning," Wentz said.

He had a different assessment of his four-month hunt for the starting job.

"I knew I was ready," he said.

Here's how he got there:

7 a.m.

During camp, at least, Wentz would wake up around 6 a.m. at the team hotel in the Navy Yard. He would get to the NovaCare Complex in the 7 o'clock hour for breakfast and to suit up for practice.

When Wentz first met Bradford and Daniel there was initial awkwardness. Neither signed with the Eagles thinking the team would trade up and draft a quarterback. Bradford demanded a trade and sat out two weeks of voluntary workouts.

But he showed up May 9 and that's when he first met the rookie. Did Bradford greet him with an icebreaker?

"Not really," Bradford said. "I really didn't think it was necessary."

The quarterback room is intimate.

"It's like a small club," DeFilippo said.

Throwing on the run
1

The second preseason throw of Wentz's NFL career was a perfect example of the rookie quarterback's ability to throw on the move and of the basic techniques that Eagles coaches have drilled him on since Day 1.

"First thing we're looking for is his base in the shotgun," DeFilippo said. His right foot's up, six inches in front of his left."

The Eagles have worked on shortening Wentz's base so that he doesn't over-stride and to help him move around the pocket with more ease.

This call was a standard four verticals -- four receivers run various vertical routes -- pass play. Wentz said he knew pre-snap that the play would work and that tight end Zach Ertz (not pictured) would be open out of the slot because the Buccaneers had rolled one safety high rather than two.

"We ran that earlier in the game and we kind of missed that one," Wentz said. "So I knew once we called it if they rolled the coverage, which they did, I knew where I was going to go. And that's exactly how it happened."

2

The play downfield may have developed exactly how Wentz had envisioned, but there was some pressure up the middle. He instinctively sidestepped to his right using the correct technique.

"See how the ball's up and on his back breastplate? That's what we're looking for," DeFilippo said. "When he slides up in the pocket, he slides up with a 'two-hand ball swipe.' … See how he keeps two hands on the football and his eyes downfield? We rep that almost every day."

​The Eagles have also tweaked with Wentz's ball carriage and have had him hold the ball just a touch higher, mostly for when he's stationary in the pocket.

"You might see an inch or two higher ball placement that no one on the outside would really notice," Wentz said. "It just helps me get the ball out quicker. It helps with the timing of the routes."

3

As Wentz stepped up and out of the pocket, with his eyes downfield, he had to make an off-balanced throw.

"I talk to the QBs about this all the time. How many times in the game do you not have to move or slide?" DeFilippo said. "How many pockets are just totally clean where you don't have to move at all?"

Wentz still has to work on learning how to best protect himself when's out of the pocket. But on this play, he was thinking throw all the way. He tossed a laser to Ertz for a 19-yard gain.

"As a quarterback, I want to throw first," Wentz said. "I can make some plays with my feet, but I want to throw first, whether that's on the run or whatever that may be. So I'm always going to give my guys a chance downfield to plays first and foremost."

There is a pecking order. Wentz kept his head down and went to work. He didn't talk much. He paid his rookie dues, occasionally supplying the room with Dunkin' Donuts and Chick-fil-A breakfast sandwiches.

"That's just sort of the law of the land," Daniel said. "He chimes in every once in a while with good things to say. … But he understands when to talk and when not to talk."

DeFilippo said that didn't prevent healthy competition. Roseman opined that it must have been difficult for Wentz considering his confidence and abilities.

"I had to earn my respect," Wentz said.

But he also alleviated what could have been a tense relationship, like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

"This could have blown up," Matthews said, "if Carson was not the type of person he was."

8 a.m.

The quarterbacks are often the first to take the field before practice. The Eagles almost immediately tweaked Wentz’s mechanics. Primarily, they shortened his base and lifted his ball carriage.

"I usually worry about tall guys and their ability to be compact and accurate," said Warner, who evaluated Wentz only before the draft, "but I thought that Carson, for a big guy, had good mechanics, not a lot of lost movements."

Still, the changes to his feet were designed to make the 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback more compact in the pocket. And the coaches had him hold the ball just an inch or two higher to help get the ball out quicker.

"Both of those are big things in the quarterback world," DeFilippo said. "He's been very receptive and I think that's why … you've seen his balls be more accurate."

But there were growing pains. Some of Wentz's deeper passes began to wobble more than they did in college. Some would sail. Adjusting to the speed and a new offense were factors, as well.

"It hasn't been anything drastic," Wentz said. "Even from Day 1, they said, 'We're not trying to change you.' Just a couple of things to clean up. Some of it was more having to do with the timing of the routes. I was just taking too big of a drop when I need a smaller one, or vice versa. I've worked on it, and now it's kind of almost second nature."

9 a.m.

Wentz may have come in deferential to Bradford, but what stood out almost from the jump was what DeFilippo called the rookie's "quiet confidence." During rookie minicamp and then organized team activities, there wasn't a pass Wentz was afraid to throw.

Wentz still hasn't mastered some of the finer details, such as looking a safety off a route.
( DAVID MAIALETTI/ Staff Photographer )

"If you run a deep pass and you ain't never had that ball thrown to you in 14 years of playing football, be ready," Matthews said, "because Carson will throw it."

Safety Malcolm Jenkins said that even when he sometimes had tight coverage, Wentz wasn't afraid to sling it.

"That was an encouraging thing to see," Jenkins said. "Obviously, that's going to lead to a lot of interceptions, so he threw a lot in the spring. When he came back for training camp, though, a lot of his decision-making was better."

He still hasn't mastered some of the finer details, though, such as looking a safety off a route.

"There's not many quarterbacks that do," Jenkins said. "Out of 32 starters there are probably only five or six that can actually look off a safety. He doesn't have a grasp yet of manipulating the defense with his eyes. That will come down the road."

10 a.m.

Wentz can often compensate for what he lacks in experience with his athleticism. Nearly every practice there was an example when he would do something with either his arm or legs that made the Eagles buoyant.

"There were times when you would just watch him throw and kind of turn your head and it's just a unique talent level," Roseman said. "And then the next play, he'll go off and run, and you go, 'Oh, I forgot he can do that.' "

Pederson recalled an off-balance pass during OTAs. Wentz was moving to his left, but rather than throw toward the sideline with his momentum, he swiveled his torso and flicked a strike across the field.

"You don't see that every day," Pederson said. "It was one of those 'wow' throws."

Pederson's West Coast offense looked different with Wentz than with Bradford. There was more zone-read, run-pass option plays, and designed rollouts that accentuated the former's physical skills. DeFilippo equated Wentz's peripheral vision to that of an NBA point guard.

Tight end Trey Burton said he thinks defensive coordinators may eventually have to spy Wentz as they often do against mobile quarterbacks like Cam Newton.

11 a.m.

It's hard to imagine Wentz's ever being as brash as Newton. There's certainly more depth than he has revealed during his post-practice media interviews, but for the most part he has seemed like the genuine article.

"He's a country boy at heart," tackle Lane Johnson said. "He's an outdoorsman. He likes to hunt and fish."

So rather than purchase a home in Philadelphia or one of the tonier South Jersey neighborhoods where some of his teammates live, Wentz bought a large plot of land where he can hunt and that's also close to public hunting grounds.

"You can tell he's from a small city," Burton said. "He's still kind of getting used to the big city."

“It’s a little quiet. … But for me it’s just staying out of the craziness and the business. For my mental state, it’s been a good thing.”
Carson Wentz, on living in rural South Jersey rather than Philadelphia or the wealthy suburbs

Wentz hasn't yet had any of the quarterbacks over — they already spend too much time together — but a few teammates have gotten an invitation. He said he wants to invite the entire team over for a barbecue.

"It's a little quiet," Wentz said. "But for me it's just staying out of the craziness and the business. For my mental state, it's been a good thing."

Noon

At lunch, Wentz tends to gravitate toward his teammates who have the shared interests of faith and hunting. But he also likes just being one of the guys. Of course, to be one you have to earn your stripes.

"I can joke with him and he can give it right back," tight end Brent Celek said. "It's not like he gets offended. Obviously, in this city you need that because if you don't have that, you're going to get run right over."

Wentz's appearance is a common target. Or the time he locked himself inside a New Jersey gas station bathroom. His choice of Birkenstocks footwear has recently come under strike.

"They're like 'in' now," Wentz said. "They're comfortable."

Wentz returns the fire, but it's often friendly. He said he jokes only with those he knows can handle the barbs. Burton said he has a ways to go.

"I want to go [shoot bull] with guys, too, and give them crap," Wentz said. "And if you're going to give it you've got to take it. It's just kind of the personality that I have. You've got to be able to handle some tough love sometimes, but a lot of it is in a joking manner."

1 p.m.

There are meetings throughout the day, but a good deal of the afternoon is spent in the classroom. Wentz came in ahead of many modern quarterbacks, the coaches said, because he played in a pro-style offense in college.

"You could get deeper into what you're doing in terms of the protection world," DeFilippo said. "He already understood the base rules about protections."

Daniel said he was impressed with how Wentz could identify certain blitz packages on film and know the proper way to reset the offensive line. But when the Buccaneers blitzed off the edge and Wentz had to throw "hot," he failed to communicate to his receiver pre-snap and ended up taking the hit that fractured his ribs.

"Everybody can throw and everybody is talented enough physically, but can you separate yourself mentally?" Warner said. "No matter how well you are on a board, none of that can simulate what it's like on Sunday afternoon."

2 p.m.

Daniel took on more of a mentor role than Bradford, who said that he preferred to lead by example.

"Hopefully he's picked up some things from the way I practiced, or the way I've played," Bradford said before the trade. "But if I really feel like there's something that I should share, whether it's a read or how to handle a certain situation at practice, I'll try to drop that.

"But other than that, he's a sharp kid."

Brent Celek said that Wentz knows "how to handle people" and "be put in any situation and find his way out."
( DAVID MAIALETTI/ Staff Photographer )

When Wentz went to Daniel it was often about what to expect in terms of the schedule and managing his time. As for football, he didn't ask many questions.

"It just kind of comes down to their personality," Wentz said. "You come in and you want to find mentors, that's always a good thing, but you've got to learn the game on your own or through your coaches."

Among the quarterbacks, Wentz spent most of his off time with Bethel-Thompson, who was released last week. DeFilippo carved out time for lighters moments, though. Quarterback challenge was a highlight, in particular the "golf" days.

"We kick it, we throw it, righthanded, lefthanded," Bradford said. "You just make holes up like, 'Yeah, you got to kick it and it's got to come to rest between the 5 and the goal line, inside the numbers, under the sideline, if it goes out of bounds it's a one-stroke penalty."

3 p.m.

DeFilippo said that Wentz was the best young quarterback he ever had in taking information from the classroom to the field.

"And I've been around some pretty good young ones," said the former Radnor High product, who saw Eli Manning up close as a Giants assistant in 2005 and 2006. "He can remember things you said from two weeks ago about a play we ran with a minor coaching point."

Wentz's photographic memory certainly helped him achieve straight A's throughout his entire schooling, but it's the ability to take what he's learned and apply it to a problem is what has pleased the Eagles the most.

"I'll be in a cadence and I'll start to see one thing that a defense is starting to do, I'm like, 'I saw that two months ago on film,'" Wentz said. "And then that triggers whatever call you need to make. It's little things like that where it just kind of happens as you're playing."

The West Coast offense comes with extensive terminology, but Pederson has changed almost half the plays so that only one word is called in the huddle. Former Eagles coach Chip Kelly popularized this method in the NFL, although in the interest of his up-tempo offense.

Escaping the rush
1

On this play, Wentz had to improvise again. But the pressure came because there was a miscommunication with the snap count.

"It was on two and we snapped it on one," Wentz said. "Not everyone was ready to roll."

Eagles right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai wasn't even out of his crouch when a Bucs defensive end was bearing down on Wentz.

"Right there he knows he's going to have to escape the pocket," DeFilippo said. "He wants to escape the 'dead-man zone' as fast as he can."​

2

"The 'dead-man zone' is anywhere between the outside tackle and the top of the numbers," DeFilippo said. "So we are screaming, sprinting as fast as we can to the top of the numbers."

Wentz's speed and agility allowed him to escape the initial rusher. But he wasn't out of danger as he motored toward the sideline and out of the 'dead-man zone.'

"Getting outside the pocket and setting up in there is usually where big hits can happen," Wentz said.

3

Wentz's eye placement, again, was vital.

"As soon as he decides that he's going to break the pocket and escape the 'dead-man zone,' his eyes go right to the sideline," DeFilippo said. "Work outside-in as you're on the run."

Wentz did as he had been instructed, but he didn't have to look any further than the outside. He saw slot receiver Paul Turner open running a short 'out' route. Wentz threw a dart on the sprint and somehow picked up ten yards on a busted play.

Said DeFilippo: "Great play."

He took only a little bump after the toss, but it was a sign of things to come later in the game.

"That's part of football," Wentz said. "Sometimes you just got to make plays. Sometimes you just got to throw while getting hit."

Wentz has had no trouble barking out the long commands, but Pederson's streamlining has been beneficial to the rookie.

"We did some of it in Kansas City," Pederson said, "but it's something I wanted to do more of when I became head coach here."

4 p.m.

Wentz has the characteristics that make him a natural leader, according to many of his teammates. Celek said that he knows "how to handle people" and "be put in any situation and find his way out." Bethel-Thompson said that Wentz isn't "fake," and that players see through quarterbacks who " try to be somebody they're not."

Matthews said that when they have failed to hook up on a pass, Wentz typically takes the blame.

"I'm like, 'Dude, you didn't do anything wrong right there. That was my fault,' " Matthews said. "But guys like that because, as a grown man, I know it was my bad."

Wentz appears to treat everyone in the building with manners. Public relations employees, janitors, and cafeteria workers all smile when you first mention his name. The locker room will be trickier to win over.

"That's not something you can force," Jenkins said after Wentz was named the starter. "I think we'll start pushing him toward the front because he is the quarterback. At the same time, that respect in the locker room is earned, and he doesn't have to be in a rush to take on that role. It will come naturally."

Wentz was the alpha dog his last two years at North Dakota State. But that took time, too.

"I know I'm not a quiet guy in that respect," he said, "but at the same time I got to know my position."

5 p.m.

Wentz felt confident by the time the first preseason game arrived on Aug. 11, but he was as curious as anyone to see how he would react. DeFilippo said his pregame manner wasn't any different from before practice.

He came out firing. He completed a 19-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz. He eluded a rusher and somehow tossed a 10-yard strike. He scrambled for 9 yards. He scooped up a slow snap that skirted by him and still managed to throw the ball away.

But Wentz made mistakes, too. He hurled a red zone interception. He overthrew a receiver by 5 yards. He took far too many hits, once getting upended and ultimately taking the blow to his ribs. Mostly, though, he didn't look overwhelmed.

"It wasn't too big for him," Roseman said. "You can tell when guys are trying to hide."

Matthews said Wentz's performance backed up what he had been telling his girlfriend. He equated the moment to when an acquaintance finally sees the film or hears the album you've been raving about for weeks.

"I'm telling her, this dude, Carson, he's a beast. She's like, 'OK, we're going to see,' " Matthews said. "And then, boom, he kept making plays. I felt like a fan. I'm like, 'I told you this dude was legit!' "

6 p.m.

The Eagles don't want to take away Wentz's aggressiveness, but everyone conceded that he has to do a better job of protecting himself.

"It's not going to change the way I play. I'm not going to back away from anything," Wentz said. "But at the same time I'm still learning how to control myself and take care of the body, protect myself a little more. And that's something I got to keep doing the rest of my career."

If he needed a reminder, particularly during the first week after his rib injury, it came every morning.

The Eagles don't want to take away Wentz's aggressiveness, but everyone concedes that he has to do a better job of protecting himself.
( YONG KIM / Staff Photographer )

"It was pretty tough getting up out of bed," Wentz said. "Driving my truck and hitting a bump, it was like, 'Oh my gosh.' Everything would tweak it and you're just like [takes a deep breath]."

It may be difficult for Pederson, because of Wentz's natural gifts, to curtail the number of plays in which he gives him the option to run.

"This is where he's going to have to learn how to protect himself," Pederson said. "They don't always have to be runs. They can be throws. We just have to be smart with when and where we call them."

7 p.m.

Wentz's work days grew shorter after the injury because he didn't have as much practice film to review in the evenings. He became frustrated.

"It's like a little kid when you take away his toy, they're going to get a little ornery and a little mad," DeFilippo said. "We took away his toy. He's wired the way you want quarterbacks in this league to be wired. When he can't play, he's upset."

At the time, the preseason was ideally going to be the only live football he would play this season and that was being yanked away. Wentz took mental repetitions, studied film, and increased his throwing over the next three weeks, but it never quenched his thirst.

"It's tough to watch, especially knowing preseason was my time to show what I can do," Wentz said just days before the Bradford trade. "It was hard for me, but I've dealt with injury before. I just got to keep the faith."

8 p.m.

Wentz wears his Christian faith literally under his sleeve. He has "Proverbs 3:5-6" tattooed on his right bicep and "Isaiah 41:10" on his back. "AO1," which stands for "Audience of One," is imprinted on his right wrist.

Decisions under pressure
1

Wentz advanced the Eagles down to the Bucs' 11-yard line on his third drive. On this first down play, Turner was to run a stop-and-go crossing route against a zone defense.

"When we called that play that was where we were going with it," Wentz said. "We got exactly what we wanted."

But the Bucs interior linemen ran stunts and the Eagles offensive line failed to pick up the one-technique defensive tackle as he ran in Wentz's face. ​

2

With a rusher in his mug, DeFilippo said Wentz had the option to move.

"The thing he has to do is try to make that defender miss by sliding to the left or to the right. Or try to escape the pocket and get out of there," he said. "But the thing you can't do is if you're going to miss down the middle of the field, you have to miss low. You can't miss high."

Turner hadn't yet gone into his break when Wentz first saw the defender.

"I was thinking that Paul and I weren't totally on the same page so I reacted a little bit slower to his route vs. what I was expecting," Wentz said.

3

​One of the byproducts of the Eagles altering Wentz's mechanics has been that when he misses deep some of his passes sail high. His pass here floated and was intercepted, but only because he couldn't step into his throw.

"That's a tough one," DeFilippo said. "When you can't follow through sometimes balls have a tendency to drift on you as it did right there. When you have to short-step or no-step a throw and you don't get the follow-through, the ball has a tendency to sail."

But that didn't excuse Wentz's pass. He didn't to err on the side of throwing low.

"I got a guy in my face and I just got to get that ball down," Wentz said. "It was really unfortunate because it was in the red zone, too."

He needed to find a place to worship on Sundays and several of his teammates invited him to the Connect Church in Cherry Hill. He accepted and frequently attends with Burton, Matthews, Ertz, and safety Chris Maragos, among others.

"You never know what you're going to get coming out of college," Wentz said. "You kind of have your group of guys. You kind of have your routine with your spiritual life. I was nervous coming in, but so far these guys have been awesome helping me grow in that area, as well."

9 p.m.

Wentz has said that his faith keeps him centered. He will be tested now that he's the starter. There will be bumps in the road. Before the trade, Jenkins said that having Wentz sit was ideal because of the expectations and because Philly is arguably the toughest place for a quarterback to play.

"I think a year for him would have been great," Jenkins said after the trade. "But that's not the situation now, obviously. Now it's really how do you foster an environment in which you can have success right out of the gate?"

The Eagles will do their best to protect him on the field and off. There will be external pressure, but it's entirely up to Wentz how he lets it affect him — if at all.

"I really just block it out," he said. "I'm ready to go out there and play within myself, play within this system, and really lead these guys. The pressure and all the outside everything — it's just a game of football and that's how I view it."

The end of Wentz's camp days at NovaCare typically ended between 9 and 9:30 p.m. He gave Bethel- Thompson, who was without a car, a ride back to the team hotel in his pickup truck. Sometimes they would grab a bite to eat and be home before an 11 p.m. curfew.

And then it was time to lie down for the long nap.

@Jeff_McLane

 
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
"I'm ready to go out there and play within myself, play within this system, and really lead these guys,” says Carson Wentz. “The pressure and all the outside everything — it's just a game of football and that's how I view it."
 
 

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