Eagles

Eagles rookie QB Clayton Thorson pushing to improve after inauspicious start to camp

Eagles rookie QB Clayton Thorson pushing to improve after inauspicious start to camp

If you’ve been following along with practice observations or live tweets from Eagles training camp, then you’ve already seen it’s been an inauspicious start for rookie fifth-round quarterback Clayton Thorson.

While working with the third-team offense in the first six days of camp, he’s made several throws that stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Suffice to say, the buzz around Thorson hasn’t been good.

The good news is he’s not dwelling on it.

“You can’t pay attention to some of it,” Thorson said. “If you’re sitting out there Googling yourself, there’s an issue and you’re going to fall at some point.”

It would probably be unfair to expect a lot from Thorson in his first week of training camp. While Thorson claims he isn’t overwhelmed, this can be an overwhelming experience for a rookie QB as they make the jump from college to the pros.

“I think I’m learning a lot,” Thorson said. “I think I can play better, sure. I’m just trying to get better each day and go from day to day and just control what I can.”

Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh identified a few of the biggest hurdles a rookie QB faces when making the jump. He explained that the QB isn’t just responsible for his assignment, but must also “direct traffic” for his teammates, be able to get the play call out and then be able to read the defense.

Groh seems impressed by Thorson’s grasp of the offense, something a few of his teammates echoed. And Groh called him “demonstrative” in the huddle and likes his poise at the line of scrimmage. One thing he needs to work on is getting comfortable with his reads.

“What happens when No. 1 and No. 2 is not there?” Groh said. “Where's No. 3? Or I skip from 1 to 3 knowing exactly where that guy is and how my feet are coordinated with the throw and all those things that just take a little bit of time.”

Thorson has a strong arm. He got off to a hot start at OTAs and then cooled off. At training camp, he began getting the first crack at third-team reps but in recent days veteran Cody Kessler has been ahead of him.

The Eagles used a fifth-round pick on Thorson, but there’s no guarantee he’ll have a roster spot. There are a couple differing viewpoints on this. Some folks think the Eagles drafted Thorson and it would be silly to expose him to waivers. But the thought of getting him to the practice squad, where he wouldn’t be wasting a roster spot is probably appealing too. And if the Eagles expose him to waivers, how likely is it that another team would be willing to use a roster spot on a fifth-round QB that doesn’t know its system?

Those are all things the Eagles will need to figure out as training camp and then the preseason games play out.

Thorson just has to focus on getting better. That’s a process that picks up immediately after every single one of those wild throws that have been getting buzz for the wrong reasons.

“Just focus on the next play,” he said. “Coach has been saying, ‘Get better from each rep.’ So you have to learn from it or you’re going to let it take you down and you can’t do that. So you just gotta keep moving forward. There’s a lot of plays in a practice, a lot of plays in a game. Just gotta keep moving forward.”

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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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