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August 02, 2017

Wentz's 'veteran' leadership just as impressive (and important) as his practice reps

Eagles NFL

Not too long ago, Eagles fans learned a hard lesson about putting too much stock in preseason football games, so if some are hesitant to buy into the rave reviews Carson Wentz has been receiving so far in training camp, no one would blame them.

After all, this is just practice. (Don't you dare make an Allen Iverson reference.)

But there's more going on that just what happens in the 10-second bursts between snap and whistle. After spending much of last summer studying the offense and getting adjusted to life as an NFL quarterback (albeit a backup at the time), Wentz can now focus on the job of leading his team rather than learning its playbook.

The success he's found so far this offseason isn't a surprise – he got Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and is going up against an already dreadful group of cornerbacks that somehow got worse – but the confidence he's displayed is, at least or someone heading into his second season.

"I'm seeing the command of the huddle. I see him dialoguing with his teammates, with his players, even before reps and after reps," head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday. "[I'm seeing] the way he steps in there with a lot of confidence. And that's what you want, obviously, [from] I want to say a veteran quarterback, but really [he's just] in his second year.

"He's leading the football team. That's what I want to see at this time."

Anyone who followed the Eagles last year – and if you're reading this I assume that includes you – knew that the leadership was there. It was evident you heard from the rookie, what you saw from him, and, most importantly as far as leadership is concerned, what his teammates and coaches were saying about him. 

As for Wentz, he's chalks up his impressive summer to mere familiarity (now that he has a year of experience under his belt).

"I think the biggest thing is just feeling comfortable," Wentz told reporters on Tuesday. "Comfortable with the offense, footwork, things within the plays. ... Just having a routine, having a rhythm with everything, I think that's been a big part of it."

There's no denying that the success of the Eagles going forward will largely be connected to the development of Wentz, but plenty of other things need to go right in order for the Birds to take the next step and make the playoffs.

"Yeah, you know, it is sort of a work in progress each day," Pederson said. "I mean, we're not game-planning right now. I think the offense is jelling a little bit, especially that cohesiveness with the offensive line. Carson and the receivers are coming together. There's great communication on defense. Having Rodney [McLeod] and Malcolm [Jenkins] back there at safety – and the communication is really good. Jordan Hicks playing a little bit limited right now, but playing from that linebacker spot."

That first part, the part about Wentz and the offense jelling, can be attributed not only to strong offensive line play, but also to extra offseason work – both on and off the field – the Eagles quarterback put in with his receivers. Speaking to reporters following Tuesday's practice, Wentz said "without a doubt" that's played a role in his stellar camp to this point.

"He's leading the football team. That's what I want to see at this time."

“We’re about where we want to be,” Wentz said, “and we need to keep building.”

Beyond that, the factors determining this team's success will be largely outside the quarterback's control, but that won't stop him from trying to help whenever he can – whether it's offering input on personnel or helping the defense understand why a certain play didn't work, something cornerback Ron Brooks pointed out following Sunday's open practice. 

To hear Wentz explain it, it's all a part of making the football team better. The whole team, not just the offense.

"I think the biggest thing with [the defense] is, I talk to them and they talk to me about, 'What was that coverage? What was that look? How are you guys reading this?'" Wentz explained, pointing out that he's often getting as much feedback as he's giving. "I mean, we want our offense playing at a high level too so, 'Are we giving any indicators? Is there anything that you're picking up?' So just keeping that constant communication so that we can all be better is a big part of this team."

No wonder his coach, a former NFL quarterback himself, was so quick to refer to Wentz as a veteran.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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