One thing you just don't see at Eagles practice is Carson Wentz leaving the pocket.
You rarely see him rolling out and throwing on the run, you rarely see called bootlegs or moving pockets, you rarely see him take off when the play breaks down.
Now, some of that is simply the product of a controlled environment at training camp. As long as Wentz wears the red jersey, he can’t be hit, so there's no reason to take off and escape pressure.
But listening to Wentz speak Tuesday, it’s more than that.
Wentz, now in his fourth year with the Eagles, said that as he grows in the offense, as he develops a faster ability to process what he sees, there's less and less reason to take off.
I think it kind of goes back to playing fast and just seeing and making quick decisions and just going through my reads quicker. Maybe it’s being another year in the system and always knowing where my checkdown is, where my hots are, different things like that. That part of my game is definitely not gone, it’s still going to be there, but if I don’t need to, why would I get out of the pocket when the O-line is holding up and I can find guys to get the ball to?
It’s fascinating to hear Wentz talk this way because he’s been so effective his first three years — especially in 2017 — making plays on the run, using his athleticism as a weapon.
But it also puts him at risk, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned the last two years, it’s that the Eagles really don’t need Carson Wentz to be at risk.
Doug Pederson spoke Tuesday about how fast Wentz is operating mentally now that he’s in Year 4 and how his ability to process defensive looks and make rapid-fire decisions can only make him more effective as a passer.
He’s getting to his reads faster, it’s part of the progression of him and his growth as a young quarterback right now. He’s getting to the line of scrimmage, he’s seeing things fast, he’s redirecting protection, going through progressions, ball’s coming out of his hand quicker … and those are things that we’ve seen through the spring and through this part of camp.
It’s a tricky balance.
Wentz can be so dangerous when the play breaks down and he leaves the pocket, but he’s also a lot safer when he’s working behind an offensive line stocked with All-Pros.
He said Tuesday it hadn’t occurred to him until he was asked about it that he’s done most of his work this summer in the pocket. But it makes sense.
We’ve seen it with so many other athletic quarterbacks, from Randall Cunningham to Donovan McNabb to Russell Wilson.
As they get older and develop a deeper grasp of the offense, they can be just as dangerous picking apart a defense in the pocket as they can making things up out of the pocket.
I think every year from a mental standpoint, I’ve just taken a leap,” Wentz said. “You see the game faster, you’re reading and reacting quicker.
Wentz has run the ball 144 times in 40 games, but 31 of those were kneel-downs, so he’s actually running about three times a game. But the number of times he leaves the pocket has probably been double that.
Don’t worry. Wentz promises if there’s a play to be made outside the pocket?
He won't hesitate to go.
I feel good going just through my reads and finding a completion and moving on. But when I need to make a guy miss in the pocket? When I need to get out and make a play? That’s still definitely going to be a part of my game.
It’s all part of Wentz’s growth as a quarterback. The less time the ball spends in his hands, the safer he’ll be.
And keeping him safe and healthy is the most important thing facing the franchise this year and for the next several years.
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