We live in a time where information is available in an instant. NFL players are keen to post their grind on social media and with the first phase of the Eagles OTA program officially underway, we can expect to see plenty of Instagram stories, snapchats and tweets from the reigning Super Bowl champions. The preparation for their title defense begins now and of course there are many storylines that will shape the days between now and September. But for now, all eyes will be on Carson Wentz.
The franchise quarterback had his special sophomore season stripped away in week 14 when he tore his ACL on a daring touchdown dive against the L.A Rams in the third quarter. Wentz ended his season with 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions, completing 60% of his passes in the process. At the time, that was thought to be a dagger in the heart of what was an astonishing Eagles season. As we all know, that wasn’t to be the case.
But with Wentz rehabbing from his surgery, questions are going to be raised. Will Wentz play next season? How active will he be during Training Camp? The pride of North Dakota State met with the media yesterday for the first time since the end of the season and shed some light on this very concerns. Preseason seems unlikely and patience is a virtue for Wentz and the Eagles, who seem intent on not rushing the recovery and rightfully placing health at the top of the priority list. But that brings us onto an interesting point. Will Wentz attack the game differently upon his return?
The dual-threat singal-caller made a name for himself by becoming Daredevil last season. Magic would be one word to describe some of the most sensational play ever seen in an Eagles uniform, dangerous would be another. That was something former Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, mentioned in a recent press conference:
“It definitely went in one ear and out the other early on,” former Eagles offensive coordinator and new Colts coach Frank Reich said recently about what he told Wentz during the QB’s rookie season in 2016, regarding instructing him to be more cautious when running. “It didn’t go exactly like this, but this is just made up to protect the innocent or protect the guilty, however you say it. We would say to him, ‘Hey, you just need to kind of back off on some of this tackling stuff.’
“And he didn’t quite say it like this, but it was essentially, ‘No. I’m not backing off. This is me. This is how I play.'”
It does seem peculiar that Reich would say this after leaving the team, but Wentz responded to a similarly positioned question yesterday and it made his former offensive coordinator’s answer seem very real.
“As far as overall changing my style, that’s not going to happen.” Wentz said calmly. ”…I think I’m always going to learn. From first year to the second year, I learned quite a bit on how to protect myself. Going in and watching it again, there are things to keep learning from.” Wentz would later tell the media.
The Eagles are no strangers to the term ‘ACL’ when it comes to their quarterbacks. Sam Bradford was traded to the Eagles while still recovering from his second tear and of course, Donovan McNabb tore his ACL back in November 2006. Bradford’s name probably isn’t the best to compare recovery form to due to his ongoing fragility, but McNabb’s return to the field can be a strong drawing point.
While his numbers took a slight tumble, he would be entering his eighth season that year. McNabb returned in the 2007 opener and led the Eagles back to an NFC Championship game one year later. It’s easy to say McNabb struggled in his first year back from an ACL tear, but with Kevin Curtis as his lead receiving option and an offensive line that allowed him to be sacked more than any other year in his career, it’s not hard to see why.
Wentz won’t have those setbacks. The Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in football, a balanced offense and a receiving corps that only elevates his play. Wentz is not only filled with confidence, but hungry after watching the team lift their first ever Lombardi trophy from the sidelines. There is going to be an extra sense of caution from the coaching staff, who may hold their breath every time Wentz takes off, but that’s the quarterback they drafted. You can’t take that daredevil aspect out of his play when it’s what makes him the incredible talent he is. Subtle adjustments and better awareness? Perhaps. But don’t expect Wentz to be a completely different quarterback.
Wentz mesmerized in his second season and while there were definitely a few situations that he’d like back, it was easy to forget it was just his second year in the league…a year which when drafted was designed to be his first on the field. There is a lot of growing room left for Wentz, who may have the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the NFL. To completely remold the game of a quarterback who thrives on turning dead plays into works of a magician would be a travesty.
You can take the dog out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the dog.
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports