Eagles

Carson Wentz's audibles, pre-snap reads reminiscent of Peyton Manning

usa-carson-wentz-audible.jpg
USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's audibles, pre-snap reads reminiscent of Peyton Manning

A perfect pass wasn’t even the most impressive aspect of Carson Wentz’s 59-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith against the Cardinals on Sunday. It wasn’t Wentz stepping up in the pocket to buy time and avoid a sack, either.

The most impressive aspect of that play — and perhaps the reason the Eagles should be most hopeful and excited about the trajectory Wentz is on — was the quarterback's changing the call in the first place.

The touchdown to Smith was originally going to be a handoff to Kenjon Barner, but Wentz didn’t like the look the defense was giving. So 21 games into his NFL career, the 24-year-old signal caller called an audible and threw a bomb instead.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Wentz change the play at the line of scrimmage. Far from it. The trust the Eagles have in him to make pre-snap reads was evident from his very first game as a professional in 2016.

Wentz has done nothing to shake the organization’s faith in his ability to change the play. If anything, Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s belief in the second-year passer only continues to grow.

It’s to the point where Pederson sees a resemblance in the most legendary pre-snap quarterback in the history of the game.

“We give him a little bit of flexibility,” Pederson said this week. “However, it is things that we work on in practice and it has to be within the game plan that we've discussed and worked on.

“We do have a system where it's just a ‘take it’ system, where I can just call the formation, get to the line quickly, bark out cadence — kind of what Peyton Manning has done in his career type of thing.

“Then we have a run or a pass that Carson can get to, but everything is built into the game plan specifically in situations like that for him.”

Wentz has been compared to a lot of players; Peyton Manning might be the most prestigious yet. It doesn’t sound out of line, either, when you stop to think about it.

What set Manning apart from the rest of the league? The 14-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time Most Valuable Player had terrific arm strength, sure, and was incredibly accurate with a fast release. Where he really beat defenses, though, was often before the football ever got to his hands.

Already in his brief career, Wentz appears to be following in those footsteps. Heck, he was before the Eagles got to him with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft.

“It’s preparation,” Wentz said. “It’s studying. It’s knowing your playbook, knowing what you can realistically get into as far as play calls.

“We have a bunch of different terms every week that we’re kind of thinking, so it ultimately comes down to preparation, but, shoot, I’ve been doing that since college. That’s helped me see things and speed up that thought process.”

It’s an attribute the Eagles saw in Wentz from the beginning and part of the reason they fell in love with him. Whether he can become the next Peyton is impossible to predict — Manning was essentially an offensive coordinator on the field, choosing from as many as three or four different plays pre-snap.

But the football IQ is there. So is the drive to be the best and the competitive fire. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich recalls hearing about outbursts Wentz would have with coaches at North Dakota State, and oddly enough, finding that to be a positive during the evaluation process.

“I remember one of the things, going there and him saying that his coaches used to say that he had a lot of arguments with his offensive coordinator,” Reich said. “For me, I took that as a good thing, because he knew what he wanted, he knew what was good, and we welcomed that. That's a good dynamic.”

Wentz downplayed those conversations with coaches in college but admitted he wants to have a voice when designing the game plan. Pederson and Reich sound as though they’ve been more than happy to oblige.

“My relationship with Coach Pederson and Coach Reich has been really, really solid,” Wentz said. “We’ve had a lot of open dialogue, and I respect the heck out of their opinions, and thankfully they respect mine as well. It’s been really beneficial for me and for this whole team.”

Reich elaborated on why those conversations are valuable, even if they may occasionally get a little heated.

“We're all stubborn,” Reich said. “Coaches, players, you’re very confident in what you know and what you believe and what you want, and so we have good discussions and we take a lot of input from Carson like we do all of our players.

“Certainly from the quarterback position, there's a unique contribution I think that you can make and that he can make. What we appreciate about him is that he's mature enough to understand there's a process.”

Wentz trusts the process, although he’s also become very involved with everything to hear him describe it.

“Coach Pederson and I — I go talk to him at least once a day,” Wentz said. “I go in his office sometimes more than once, twice, three times even. Whenever we install plays, I’m like, ‘What do you think about this idea?’ or, ‘How do you feel about this?’

“We’re very comfortable with each other. He’ll come to me and, ‘What do you think about this,’ too. I don’t think it’s anything I’m hesitant to speak up, it’s just we have mutual respect for each other where we can just have that open dialogue.”

The results are evident. Wentz isn’t changing the play every time he breaks the huddle, but the offense's incredible efficiency five games into 2017 is, in part, a reflection of the quarterback’s ability to get into the right call.

The Eagles rank first in the NFL in third-down offense, converting an astounding 53.4 percent of the time. And Wentz is completing 62.1 percent of his passes, with only 3 interceptions and 1 fumble lost (see story).

Most importantly, the Eagles’ record is 4-1.

There are a number of reasons for Wentz’s success. His having the freedom to audible and doing so successfully should not go overlooked.

“We have a couple different systems with that,” Wentz said.

“Sometimes we have two plays. Sometimes we have no play, you just go see how they react and then get into the best play, what you feel is the best for that situation. Then there’s plenty of other times where you have a play call, and you just go up there and you’re like, ‘Yeah, something’s fishy here,’ so you get out of it."

Not exactly Manning-esque, but it’s significantly more than what’s on the plate of a lot of other young quarterbacks around the league.

This is also all still very early into not only Wentz’s career but Pederson’s as head coach as well. This is only Pederson’s second season running the show, and their second season together — which means there’s room for the two to develop and grow together, even in terms of pre-snap decision-making.

“There’s plenty of times where the play he calls is the perfect look, so we’re just rolling,” Wentz said. “There’s time where you’re seeing things and you want to just get out of it.

“It’s all situational, but I think the more effective we are with it, I think it could potentially grow a little bit.”

The level Wentz is playing at now, and the caliber of decisions he is making on the field only lends itself to seeing his responsibilities increase over time. He certainly appears to have the acumen for it — as well as the support system of a coaching staff who believes in him.

"It just comes down to having respect for each other and respecting each other's opinions," Wentz said, "and it’s been a really good relationship."

Robey-Coleman on unique preseason: 'It's not like we forgot how to play football'

Robey-Coleman on unique preseason: 'It's not like we forgot how to play football'

They have a new safety, two new starting cornerbacks, a new slot corner and a rookie safety. And a new coach.

They all just met. Opening day is 33 days away.

Let’s go play football!

This truncated offseason isn’t ideal for anybody, but for the Eagles’ rebuilt secondary the absence of spring practices and preseason games combined with a curtailed training camp is a particularly daunting challenge just because this unit has undergone such a transformation.

Malcolm Jenkins is gone. Jalen Mills has moved from corner to safety. Avonte Maddox moves outside to CB2. Newcomer Nickell Robey-Coleman seems to be the front-runner for the slot. And Marquand Manuel has replaced Cory Undlin as secondary coach.

It’s an incredible amount of change in a position group where chemistry and cohesion are so important.

It’s a challenge, but it’s a process that’s got to be expedited,” Robey-Coleman said Monday. “But that’s why you have seasoned veterans who can come in and adjust to the climate of an organization or a situation that’s going on outside of football, just speaking on this pandemic. Me, Slay, Rod, Mills, guys like that that have been to the playoffs, that have been deep in the playoffs, that have won Super Bowls. We know how to adjust to things like this. We’re not lost in the sauce, like we forgot how to play football.

Can a secondary come together on Zoom calls?

Can a secondary develop chemistry when the players are social distancing in the locker room?

Can a secondary learn to play together without spring workouts?

Can a secondary learn what its new coach is looking for when they just met him a few weeks before opening day?

This is what this group is trying to accomplish.

“Just knowing that, ‘Hey, man we’re all in this thing together, we all gotta do this thing together,’” Robey-Coleman said. “We are stronger together, that’s been our motto the whole offseason, and coach (Doug) Pederson has been harping on that with us. So we just always have the mindset of doing everything together. No man is left behind. Iron sharpens iron. We’re all out here trying to get each other better. We’re all out here just trying to get a full understanding of each other, knowing that there’s new guys, new additions on the team and on the defense. So just being on the same page, talking to each other, communicating. ‘Hey, do you like to press? What do you like to do?’ Just knowing each others’ personalities and knowing how we could formulate the defense and make it easier for everyone to work better and work smarter.”

Robey-Coleman, who signed with the Eagles after four years with the Bills and three with the Rams, said finding ways to accelerate that growth process has been a constant point of emphasis since this shortened training camp began.

“Some guys might have done it like this in the past, but now we do it like this,” NRC said. “So it’s just little small nuances of the defenses that we just have to have down pat in order to be understood all the way across the board from every level of the defense, from the secondary to the linebackers to the d-line. So if we can get all of that to come together in a cool amount of time I feel like we’ll be OK for week one, and from there we’ll just make small adjustments from there going on throughout the season.”

This secondary has a lot of questions to answer and not a lot of time to answer them. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 

Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Cryptic tweet from Miles Sanders sends Eagles fans into brief tailspin

Cryptic tweet from Miles Sanders sends Eagles fans into brief tailspin

The Eagles’ 2020 season was over before it started for 22 minutes this afternoon. 

That’s how long it took for a cryptic tweet from Eagles running back Miles Sanders to send the fanbase into a tailspin before he cleared things up. Relax. Breathe easy. 

Sanders says he’s OK.  

At 1 p.m., Sanders tweeted: “Can’t catch a break” 

A cryptic tweet from the Eagles’ star running back during training camp is reason enough for concern in the Twitterverse. And panic ensued. After all, Sanders is expected to be a huge part of the Eagles’ offense in 2020. 

And, honestly, after the last couple of seasons, Eagles fans are conditioned to expect the worst injury news at any given moment. It seemingly happens all the time. 

The responses are pretty much what you’d expect. 

As a rookie in 2019, the dual threat 2nd-round pick came into his own late in the season and even broke the Eagles’ rookie record for scrimmage yards with 1,327. And that wasn’t even really a full season of Sanders. Imagine what he can do as the No. 1. 

In 2020, Sanders is expected to be a featured back. The Eagles are supposed to lean on him and he has the potential to have a true breakout season. 

At 1:22 p.m., Sanders tweeted: “Keep calm y’all lol I’m ready for the season.” 

Phew. 

This is Philly, Miles. I mean this in the best way possible: Of course they did. 

Subscribe and rate the Eagle Eye podcast: 
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Stitcher / Spotify / Art19

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles