Jason Kelce was in a daze.
The Eagles had just pulled off one of the biggest plays of the game on Sunday, but as the pandemonium died down, silence took over as Nick Foles writhed in pain in the end zone. But then, above the deafening silence in the Linc, Kelce heard a voice that snapped him out of his fog.
It was Carson Wentz, the former and future franchise quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Relegated to spectator because of a stress fracture in his back, Wentz has been on the sideline for the last two games, completely engaged. So when the team needed Nate Sudfeld to warm up, Wentz began to call for Kelce to get to the sideline to get in a few snaps with the third-string quarterback.
“He had the presence of mind to think about it and realize it,” Sudfeld said. “And he was so calm about it.”
That says an awful lot about Wentz.
It’s obviously disappointing for Wentz, to be missing games down the stretch for the second-straight season. But the severity (or lack thereof) of this injury has allowed him to be on the sidelines for games. And he’s making the most of it.
“He’s been active on the sidelines, obviously, and he’s been very positive,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “A leader that you would expect in a situation like this. I know it has to be hard on him not being out there, but at the same time, he’s supporting Nick and the guys and doing whatever he can to keep everybody engaged.”
Even last year, we heard the story about a loopy Wentz FaceTiming with his fellow quarterbacks just after surgery, so the idea that Wentz would remain engaged when he’s not playing isn’t anything new. But a stress fracture in his back is a lot different than a torn ACL and LCL. Last season, he just simply wasn’t able to be around the team as much because of mobility concerns and worry about further injury. In fact, he didn’t show up at the portion of practice open to reporters until 47 days after his injury last season.
This year? He was on the field the next day after Pederson announced he had an injury.
During games, Wentz has taken over the role of a backup quarterback, aside from the potential to play. When the offense comes to the sideline, the quarterbacks form their own huddle around a Microsoft Surface tablet and look at photo cutups of the previous drives.
This is the time where Wentz or Sudfeld will tell Foles what they see. It could be anything from what their own offense is doing to what the defensive backs are showing at a particular moment. Anything that might give Foles the slightest advantage. And he’s appreciative of it:
I think the the biggest thing, once again, is communication. Just being there for one another. He understands it. Whatever he says, I take to heart. Just like I take whatever Nate says to heart. But a lot of it really is the support system, knowing that you’re not there alone. You’re able to look at pictures together. You have guys who are in that room, we go through film together, we go through our daily work habits together and we’re there for one another. That’s the biggest thing.
The discussions on the sideline are, at times, very specific. The quarterback trio will look at the way a defense has reacted when presented with a certain look or formation. What coverage have they shown? What does this specific defensive back do in this situation? Every detail counts.
But the two sidelined quarterbacks are always very careful not to overload the starter with too much information. They don’t want their words rattling around in the starter’s head if it’s going to prevent him from playing fast and reacting. So there’s a balance to it, but the information or advice from Wentz is always welcome.
“A guy as experienced and as smart as Carson is and has a perspective on everything playing the position and does an excellent job in studying the opponents and finding certain things each and every week,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “So he's been able to add value there.
“Certainly be a sounding board for the other quarterbacks in the room; be able to talk to them during the course of the game. You can't underestimate the value of that.”
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