Carson Wentz now a complete leader after navigating 'interesting waters' last offseason

Carson Wentz now a complete leader after navigating 'interesting waters' last offseason

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."

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

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Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.

Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

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Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

In the third part of our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks. Today is Billy Brown to Vinny Curry.

Billy Brown
Roob: Don't be surprised if Brown makes the team next year. He's got good size at 6-4/255, and from what we've seen he has pretty good hands. We saw his catching ability at training camp last year, and he caught eight passes for 51 yards in the preseason. Brown spent the entire 2017 season on the practice squad, but with the future of both Trey Burton and Brent Celek up in the air, Brown may be able to secure a roster spot with a good training camp. I expect Burton to get an offer in the $7 million per year range if he hits the open market, which the Eagles most likely won't be able to match, and Celek could either retire or get released to save cap space. Brown could be the next guy up.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After spending his entire rookie season on the Eagles' practice squad, Brown is going to have a pretty good shot to make the roster in 2017. Brown, who came from Shepherd University, was a training camp standout last summer. He's a converted wide receiver, so he has a good past as a receiving tight end. He has to prove himself, but the path to making the 53-man roster is there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Trey Burton
Burton has gone from an undrafted free agent long shot to make the roster in 2015 to one of the most attractive tight ends set to hit free agency this spring. With his soft hands, versatility and tremendous athleticism, Burton should be in line for a multi-year deal in the ballpark of $7 to $7.5 million per year. Even the Super Bowl touchdown pass speaks volumes about Burton and his ability to stay cool and composed and make a play under extreme pressure and in a situation he'd never been in as a pro. You'd love to be able to keep Burton, but Zach Ertz is the Eagles' tight end and they just don't have the cap space for the luxury of a high-priced backup.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Burton is no longer a secret. The Eagles actually tried to extend Burton during the 2016 season, but the two sides were never really close. Burton wanted to bet on himself and now that seems wise. He played the 2017 season on a relatively cheap deal after being a restricted free agent last offseason. But now he's unrestricted this time around and other teams are going to be interested. Burton had his best season in 2016, when he caught 37 passes for 327 yards, but he did have a career-high five touchdown catches in 2017. He's going to get paid more for his potential, though, and it's going to price out the Eagles. 

Verdict: GOES

Brent Celek
Roob: We continue Tight End Day with the 11-year veteran, one of the most popular Eagles of the past generation. Celek will one day be enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame, but now he's just another veteran with a $5 million cap figure that is just too high. Maybe Celek will help the Eagles avoid a major decision by retiring. Celek has plenty of interests outside football and he's 33 years old now and has a ring, and retirement may be attractive to him. Go out on top. Or maybe he'll take a massive pay cut down to the veteran's minimum and stick around another year and get the two yards he needs for 5,000. But I think it's most likely Celek won't be here next year. Whatever happens, he'll always be remembered as a champion.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is a tough one just because it's Celek. He embodies the city of Philadelphia better than anyone else on the team. He's also the longest-tenured athlete in the city. It's important to him to be a career Eagle, to never play for another team. But he just can't be back in 2018 on his current salary. It doesn't make good football or business sense. His cap number in 2018 is $5 million, which is just way too high for a reserve blocking tight end. It would be tough for the Eagles to flat out cut him, but if he doesn't want to retire and doesn't want to restructure down to nearly the minimum, that's what's going to have to happen. 

Verdict: GOES

Corey Clement
To go from an undrafted rookie free agent running back with virtually no history as a pass catcher to a 100-yard receiver in the Super Bowl in 10 months is just insane. Clement showed me enough that I believe he can be a lead back on this team. I think the plan will be to take a good long look at Jay Ajayi this coming season, with Ajayi and Clement splitting time, then decide after 2018 whether or not to keep Ajayi, who is due to become a free agent in another year. But under any scenario, Clement will be a major part of this team's running back corps for at least the next few years.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was wrong about Clement last summer. I thought he was a good running back but there was nothing special about him. I thought Wendell Smallwood deserved to be ahead of him on the depth chart. Oops. Clement had an incredible rookie season. The most incredible thing was that he became a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, something he had never been in college or even in high school. He did everything the Eagles asked him to do in his rookie season and excelled at everything. He hasn't just earned a spot on the roster; he's earned the right to be a part of the running back rotation going forward. 

Verdict: STAYS

Fletcher Cox
I think Fletch might be around a while. Cox goes into his seventh season with the Eagles having made three straight Pro Bowls and is one of the most dominating interior linemen in the NFL. And he's under contract for the next five years. He stays. And will stay for the foreseeable future.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sometimes we all sort of forget how good Cox really is. As an interior defensive lineman, Cox doesn't always make flashy plays. But just ask around the league about the Eagles' defense and everyone comes back with one guy on their mind: big No. 91. There's a reason he's become a perennial Pro Bowler and there's a reason he got a $100 million contract last offseason. He's the engine to the Eagles' defense and we saw him elevate his game even more in the run to the Super Bowl by barely leaving the field. This is stupid easy. 

Verdict: STAYS

Vinny Curry
Roob: Curry didn't really have the stat numbers to back it up, but he did play fairly well this year. He's got some massive cap numbers coming up — $11 million in 2018, $11.25 million in 2019 and $12.25 million in 2020. Those are astronomical figures for a guy who has nine sacks in his last 50 games. The Eagles could clear $5 million in cap space by releasing Curry, and that number goes up to $7.25 million next year and $10.25 million before the 2020 season. I think he stays this year, but those cap savings could be tempting for the cap-starved Eagles.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After a down season in 2016, Curry became a starter and had the best year of his career in 2017. Some folks will argue against that because his sack numbers weren't shocking, but Curry was just tremendously solid as a rusher and against the run in 2017. He's a big reason why the Eagles' defensive line was their top unit and why their run defense was the best in the NFL. But his cap hit of $11 million is a killer this year and first-rounder Barnett is ready to start. I think if Curry is back, it'll be after reworking that deal. But for now ... 

Verdict: GOES