There's something that's just so natural about it, the ability to sense pressure — sometimes without seeing it — and slide around an invisible block of space in the middle of a football field.
It almost seems like Carson Wentz was born with the ability to move in the pocket.
But it's not all natural.
"A lot of it is taught. I don't know," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "My knee-jerk reaction is to say it's 50-50. Some of it is natural. But it has to be taught. It comes with playing a lot, and obviously Carson has played at every level, but it's different at this level. You've still got to teach it and engrain those habits."
Does 50-50 sound right?
"That's probably accurate," Wentz said. "A lot of it is just a natural feel, innate, but you can train that. You can teach it a little bit, but it's really just training and getting those reps and really just getting the feel for that, for sure."
For the most part, Wentz was pretty good at moving in the pocket during his rookie season; but he spent part of his offseason trying to get better in that area. At times during his rookie year, Wentz would avoid pressure only to struggle getting set and tossing an inaccurate pass.
As a rookie, Wentz struggled considerably when he took a long time to throw. According to ProFootballFocus, when Wentz threw with more than 2.6 seconds in the pocket, his passer rating was just 67.7; he had a completion percentage of just over 52 percent with four touchdowns and nine interceptions in those situations. Moving around the pocket is great, but it's equally important to be able to reset and be ready to throw after moving. That's part of what Wentz needs to get better at.
This offseason, Wentz worked with private QB guru Adam Dedeaux; the two worked mostly on his footwork. And it's shown. In fact, Reich mentioned Wentz's in-pocket mobility right after leadership when asked about the positives he's seen from the QB the last couple of months.
The Eagles are trying to help him as much as they can.
While nothing truly takes the place of game reps, the Eagles try their best to create those situations on the practice field.
"Looking at the tape from last year, I alluded to it briefly earlier, there's so many times where you get enough field to rush and you want to climb in the pocket," Reich said. "Well, it's easy once you start climbing just to keep climbing because like, 'Boom,' here comes the pressure, let me climb up in the pocket, step up in the pocket, and all of a sudden your momentum takes you further than you need to. There's a sense of climb the pocket, then reset and go through your progression from there.
"And as we looked at the film last year, there were times when that happened, and you can drill it. One way is just play a lot of games, so that's the thing that Carson got to play a lot of football last year, which is a huge plus. But the other thing you can do is you can drill it, you can drill it, you can try to simulate the game. It's not the exact same, but I think we do a pretty good job. Coach (John) DeFilippo does a really good job of simulating that as much as he can in practice.
"And the quarterbacks — and this goes for all of our players — we talk to them all the time, you've got to put yourself in the moment. You've got to be able to find a way to be in a drill and feel like it's the Super Bowl. I can't [stress] that enough. You have to be able to do that because you can't have contact all the time. You can't have all team play. So you have to as a player get in a drill and make it seem like it's the Super Bowl. And the guys that can do that and can picture that and can visualize that find ways to get maximum amount of benefit out of those kind of reps, and I think Carson is showing to be one of those guys."
According to PFF, Wentz had an average of 2.67 seconds to throw from the pocket last season; just eight players had more. A lot of that extra time came from his own ability to buy it. It's something that's still a work in progress, and a lot of it is just feel.
Wentz said there are some guys who aim to scramble when they start running and others who aim to move just enough to buy throwing time. He wants to do both.
"Pocket movement is huge," Wentz said. "It's crucial and knowing how to navigate it. It's a feel thing and actually visually seeing it. Until the day I stop playing this game, I'll always be trying to get better with that."