Eagles

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Carson Wentz has done some of his best work behind closed doors, far from any TV cameras or adoring fans, with just a trainer or two and maybe a few teammates in the room.

While Nick Foles has enjoyed the banquet circuit these last few months and all that comes with being Super Bowl MVP — national TV appearances, a book deal, life as a celebrity — the guy he replaced has had a pretty good offseason himself.

It’s just that nobody has seen it.

For Wentz to do what he did at these spring minicamps — compete in a variety of individual and team drills and look comfortable, fluid and confident six months after hobbling off the field at LA Coliseum with a towel covering his head — speaks volumes about this kid.

We know he’s a competitor on the field. We’ve all seen it. But rehabbing a shredded knee is different.

Throw a touchdown pass, and you instantaneously hear 66,000 fans roaring their approval.

Extend your range of motion by one degree and you get a trainer telling you, “Good. Now do it again 50 times.”

We can talk all day and night about how Wentz has attacked his rehab, but now we’re seeing the fruits of his labor. And it’s impressive.

It takes a certain type of motivation and determination to keep grinding away when nobody is cheering you on and the moments of true progress are fleeting and measured in millimeters.

We saw Wentz out there at practice taking five-step drops, firing dimes to Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor in 7-on-7s and sprinting the length of the field under the midday sun.

What we never saw is what it took to get there.

It’s been about six months since Wentz tore his ACL and LCL.

That means probably about 150 days where Wentz has driven from his home in South Jersey to the NovaCare Complex at dawn and pushed himself through hour after hour of drills to regain his strength, his mobility, his speed, his endurance, his agility.

And then he’s back the next day to do it all over again.

We’re so used to athletes getting hurt and rehabbing it’s easy to forget just how grueling it is, and the fact that Wentz has made the progress he has since Dec. 10 is astonishing.

He’s taken that same ferocious competitive spirit we saw the first 29 games of his career and used it to fuel his rehab.

A month ago, there was no reason to think he’d be cleared to do anything at OTAs and there he was running, throwing, competing and looking every bit like the Carson Wentz we watched evolve into a legit MVP candidate the first 14 weeks of last season.

And if that doesn’t mean he’s ahead of schedule, I don’t know what does.

At this point, I’d be shocked if Wentz isn’t the Eagles’ opening day quarterback in 2018.

There’s always the possibility of a setback. Maybe he doesn’t get completely cleared quite in time to face the Falcons on Sept. 6. But the progress he’s made already has to make every Eagles fan feel confident and encouraged.  

Since he got hurt, Wentz has put the same remarkable level of energy and effort into rehabbing that he put into preparing to play football every Sunday.

Think about Wentz’s 2017 season.

Everything was going perfectly. The Eagles were on top of the football world. He was putting up numbers that were unprecedented for anybody other than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Before Foles was on anybody’s mind, the Eagles were a Super Bowl contender.

And then disaster.

We’ve all seen Wentz when things are going well. He blossomed into a superstar in front of our eyes.

But you really learn the most about a person when things aren’t going well. When they face adversity. What are they really about? How will they respond?

Wentz has definitively answered those questions.

We didn’t see Wentz in those long, lonely, arduous rehab sessions, but we can see the results.

While Foles was out winning the Super Bowl and taking all the bows, Wentz was doing everything humanly possible to make sure he’s ready to lead the Eagles to another Super Bowl title this year.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against him.

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Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Jerry Tillery

Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Jerry Tillery

Jerry Tillery arrived at Notre Dame as an offensive lineman, and with his quickness and athleticism he probably would have been a pretty good one. But he moved to defense as a freshman, and the move certainly paid off.

Tillery had some issues early in his career. He was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State as a freshman for violating team rules and in a game against USC as a sophomore got into trouble for stepping on a player’s leg and kicking another player while he was on the ground. But he grew into a leader and one of the most dominating interior linemen in the country.

Tillery blossomed as a junior with nine tackles for loss and 4 ½ sacks and earned All-America status this past year with 10 ½ TFLs and eight sacks. At 6-6, 295, Tillery is a force against the run but also a ferocious pass rusher. Tillery is still raw and prone to occasional technique breakdowns, but his upside is off the charts.

Current roster at DT: The Eagles desperately need help at defensive tackle behind projected starters Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson. With Haloti Ngata retired, the only other interior linemen on the roster are former practice squadders like Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector. 

How he would fit: He’d play immediately. The combination of Hester, Hector, Ngata and Detiny Vaeao played more than 800 combined snaps on defense last year, so if ideally Cox and Jackson play about 75 percent of the snaps, that leaves about 35 snaps per game for the third defensive tackle. Perfect for a rookie.

Eagles history at DT in draft: The Eagles have taken four defensive tackles in the first round since 2000 – Corey Simon, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley and Cox. All but Patterson were among the first 14 picks. Only the Rams and Jaguars have also taken four tackles since 2000. Before that there was Leonard Renfro in 1993 and Jerome Brown in 1987.

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Other options at 25 

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

During his joint 42-minute pre-draft media availability this week, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked a simple question: 

Are you more interested in trading up or down in the first round? 

His answer was not nearly as simple: 

Who’s on the board? What’s the value? What are we getting?

His point, of course, was that they’ll have to see how the first round is going before figuring out whether or not they’d be willing to trade up to target a player or trade back to acquire more draft picks. At No. 25, it seems like they’re in a good position to do either. And Roseman is never shy about making draft-day trades. 

I still think the Eagles are more likely to trade up to get what Roseman calls a “difference-maker,” but that doesn’t mean a trade down isn’t possible. 

Remember, for Roseman, the draft isn’t about just getting good players; it’s about getting good players for good value. Earlier this week, Roseman outlined three reasons to make a trade in the first round: 

1. Trading up: If there’s a fall-off point in talent in the first round, it makes sense to move up to get a difference-maker. The Eagles are sitting at 25, so if they have 20 players they think are first-round worthy (even though their grading scale doesn’t work by round), there’s a chance they’ll have to move up to get one of those top players. They’ll do their research, but won’t truly know if one of those top-tier players will be available at 25 until the players start getting picked off the board. 

2. Trading down: If the Eagles are on the clock at 25 and they have, say, four players who are graded equally or close to it, they could add value by moving back three or four spots. They would get more or better later-round picks and still get a player they view as an equal to whomever they’d get at 25. 

3. Trading down: If they’re on the clock at 25 and they don’t think any of the players are worthy of that pick, they can hope someone else sees value there. In that case, they can trade back and get into a pocket of that round or the next round where they’d feel more comfortable making a pick. 

Since he became the Eagles’ GM in 2010, Roseman has been in charge of eight drafts (not including the 2015 draft under Chip Kelly). In those eight years, he has made 25 draft-day trades and four of them include first rounders. That’s over 3.0 per year and he’s never not made a trade during the draft. (This doesn’t include the two trades in 2016 to get in position to draft Carson Wentz; those happened before the draft.) 

Of the four Round 1 trades, two were to trade up, two were to trade down. 

• In 2010, the Eagles traded picks Nos. 24, 70 and 87 to move up to No. 13 to draft Brandon Graham. 

• In 2012, the Eagles traded Nos. 15, 114 and 172 to move up to No. 12 to draft Fletcher Cox. 

• In 2014, the Eagles traded No. 22 down to No. 26 to draft Marcus Smith. The Browns wanted Johnny Manziel. The Eagles also got No. 83. 

• In 2018, the Eagles traded out of the first round (No. 32) when the Ravens wanted to draft Lamar Jackson. The Birds ended up trading back up higher in the second to take Dallas Goedert the next day. 

Roseman has talked before about the usual talent cutoff in first rounds. There are only a certain amount of “difference-makers” atop every draft — it differs by team — and on Tuesday, he said most drafts don’t have “32 legitimate first round grades” on players. He, of course, didn’t say whether or not this is one of those years, as to not tip his hand. But the Eagles are already running through all the hypothetical situations. And this is the time where preliminary phone calls between teams about draft-day intentions start happening. Roseman always says trades happen because of relationships around the league. 

So the reason Roseman didn’t answer the question on Tuesday is because he probably really doesn’t know what’s going to happen when the draft kicks off. He certainly has more of an idea than he let on — I still think the Eagles are in prime trade up territory — but there’s no point in tipping his hand. 

The only thing we know for certain: Roseman isn’t one to shy away from draft-day moves, so there’s a good chance we see one again next week. 

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