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May 23, 2017

How Eagles are trying to better utilize one of Wentz's greatest strengths

In his rookie season, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz opened many eyes with his impressive ability to avoid sacks and extend plays for his offense.

Sometimes, they would end in a big gain. Other times, a big hit.

His pocket presence will only continue to get better with more NFL experience. But with a slew of new weapons, the Eagles believe that those broken plays, the ones their quarterback is so good at turning into a positive, is an area in which they can improve in 2017, both from Wentz's perspective and that of his receivers. 

“I think the biggest thing for me – as the year went on, you could see I was more comfortable escaping the pocket, making plays,” Wentz told reporters on Tuesday, following the first full-team practice of the offseason. “And that just comes with time – that comes with knowing when to really force it and push the ball down the field or whatever and then knowing when it’s time to go make a play. 

"It’s an ongoing learning process – learning when to throw it away, learning when to take that chance – but I do think that’s a big part of my game that, as a whole entire offense, we can get better at. 

"When things break down, there are a lot of big plays to be made.”

And he’s right. Just look at last season.

Arguably the biggest and most exciting play of his rookie season came in Week 3 against the Steelers, when a broken play led to a 73-yard Darren Sproles touchdown. 

As beautiful as that play was, it was just one of several examples of Wentz using his athletic ability to extend a play. You remember this one, right?

There's also this one, which our own Jimmy Kempski ranked as Wentz's best play of the season.

With Wentz’s potential and value to the franchise, the Eagles likely want to limit the amounts of hits he takes while trying to extend a play, like the one above, and this one against the Bears. 

While more experience will help him better avoid situations like that, they also want to take advantage of his ability to get out of the pocket and make things happen.

To that end, the Eagles wide receivers are expecting plenty of work on broken plays and scramble drills during their offseason practices.

“It’s been a point of emphasis, for sure," Jordan Matthews said. "Going into this offseason, I can even remember during the first or second install, we’re already talking about scramble drills. And they made a point that this is going to have to be something that helps us win games. It’s not just, ‘Oh, a breakdown; we got lucky.’ No, this is going to be an intricate part of the offense. 

"When plays break down, we know we’re got an athletic quarterback. Guys have got to be willing to get open and make plays. So I think it’s definitely something that we’re going to work a lot on this offseason.”

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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