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."

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

USA Today Images

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."