When the Eagles got back together at the NovaCare Complex this spring, there were plenty of questions about Carson Wentz, especially after he spent the offseason with a private quarterbacks coach.
So on May 23, when Doug Pederson was asked what was different about Wentz, most expected him to talk about the quarterback's footwork or throwing motion or release.
Instead, Pederson talked about Wentz's leadership.
Leadership is an inherent part of being a quarterback. The quarterback isn't just the focal point of any team's offense; he's also a leader by default. And that's exactly what the Eagles expected to get when they drafted Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick before last season.
But for most of his first offseason in the NFL, Wentz wasn't able to be the true leader the Eagles expected. For most of that time, he was the Eagles' third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel.
“A lot of times I had to bite my tongue or keep things to myself," Wentz said in a recent interview.
When the Eagles met with Wentz during the pre-draft process, leadership was a big part of what they were looking for. When Wentz told them he was a leader at North Dakota State, they made him cite specific examples of how that leadership manifested itself. That's what the Eagles wanted.
But until a week before his rookie season started, Wentz was in a peculiar spot. He actually needed to suppress those very qualities that made him so enticing to the Eagles.
"It was a challenge," Wentz said. "I think the biggest thing for me, because that is natural, I do like to take charge in some extent, I think the biggest thing is I recognized the writing on the wall. I was the second overall pick. I knew it was going to be, I was going to be (the starting quarterback) in time. Now if I was a sixth-round pick and I knew my role from the jump, I would have owned that role, made the most of it. But I knew it was just a matter of time.
"So it was, how do I assert myself now when I’m the three? And it was some interesting waters to some extent. But I tried to not be too vocal and let my work and my play speak for itself with how I interacted with guys and treated guys, without over-asserting myself. But then eight days before the season, I’m like there’s no waiting time anymore.”
Zach Ertz, one of Wentz's closest friends on the team, noticed that Wentz had to suppress his leadership qualities last season. Ertz said he thought it was "uncomfortable" for Wentz last offseason.
From the time Wentz took over for Bradford, he also took over control of the huddle and the locker room. It's now his team.
"[Wentz] wants to be the guy, he wants to be the leader of this team, and being in this situation last year he was just kind of go with the flow and not really speak up too much, but he’s such a Type A personality," Ertz said in an interview with CSNPhilly's Reuben Frank in early August (see story). "He wants to be in charge, he wants guys to follow him, and he’s been able to assert himself all offseason. He’s done an unbelievable job, he’s the leader of this football team, he’s the face of the franchise and we love playing for him."
Thinking back to last offseason, Wentz never really questioned what it meant when Teddy Bridgewater went down in Minnesota. He was surprised when Bradford was dealt — "I wouldn't have thought we'd get a one," he said. At the time, Wentz was just worried about his team finishing the fourth preseason game. Soon enough though, his redshirt season became a year in which he threw the second-most passes ever by a rookie. And with that new job came a new role within the team.
While Wentz suppressed himself a little bit as the Eagles' third-string quarterback, he still showed his leadership qualities. He was still himself. He never changed his personality. So when he did become the Eagles' starter, the only thing that changed was that he became more vocal. It was a pretty smooth transition.
And he's even more vocal heading into Year 2.
"That, I have seen change," tight end Trey Burton said about Wentz from Year 1 to Year 2. "I've told people multiple times. He knows what to expect and he knows what needs to be said and done. He knows what he needs physically from a throwing standpoint, how many times he needs to throw per week and who he needs to throw to and stuff. That helps with time, just being comfortable. As you go from year to year to year to year, it gets more comfortable."
Wentz is still relatively young. At 24 years old, he's the second-youngest member of the Eagles' starters on offense behind just Isaac Seumalo. He's in charge of an offense that has many veteran players like Jason Peters, Brent Celek, Torrey Smith, Darren Sproles and LeGarrette Blount. All of those guys have been in the NFL for years.
So how does Wentz be a leader to guys much older than him?
"I think a lot of it comes from the position alone," Burton said. "You expect the quarterback to be the leader. And also when you're able to back it up. He is able to back it up on the field. That level of respect just continues to grow."