“Do you hear those people screaming?”
That’s how the call started with Carson Wentz. He was in Philadelphia for the NFL draft, and the PR person calling to connect wanted to make sure I could hear him.
It might as well have been the theme of the draft. Philly fans crushed it, booing lustily, giving us moment after moment of viral-quality crowd reactions. And their quarterback (deep Terrell Owens voice) was there as the de facto host.
Working with Courtyard by Marriott, the official hotel of the NFL, Wentz met with fans, took pictures, and did the proverbial baby kissing during the draft. There were no reports of battery throwing or snowballs.
Wentz has staved off such a fate (at least for now) after he shined for the first month as a rookie, then struggled as defenses adjusted and his offensive skill players either got hurt or forgot how to play football. Coming into Year 2, expectations are high for Wentz, not just because they added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but because the Eagles gave up a ton to draft him.
A year later, Wentz sounds much like he did his own draft weekend: poised, congenial, and polished. If he can translate those traits onto the field this season for the Eagles, Philly fans will have many more reasons to cheer than boo.
It has to be surreal for this weekend, with the draft in Philly a year after the Eagles traded up to get you.
Yeah, yeah it’s been – it’s been a crazy year, but now a year removed, it’s a little different vibe, a little different feeling this draft weekend but still exciting. Exciting for the teams, exciting for all the incoming rookies and everything, but a little less stressful at the same time.
Now Philly fans are notorious right, so did you have any expectations, any hesitations about what that would be like when you first got drafted?
You know I’d heard. I’d heard pretty much everything but at the same time it was kind of exciting. It was one of those things where I’d much rather have a fanbase like this that’s passionate, that cares, that’s so invested, than be the other way. It makes it that much more enjoyable to play. It’s pretty cool, but they obviously do get a bad rep at times, but you know what? I love it. I love it. I love their high expectations, and everything. I’m wired the same way. So, I think it’s a great fit.
A lot of things that were said about Mitchell Trubisky, the low number of starts, he didn’t play the year before because of another quarterback – a lot of that same stuff was said about you. Do you think you needed an adjustment period? Do you think it hurt you and can that be overcome?
Every team has their own evaluations. Every team has to go and see how is this player going to respond? Yeah, there are some similarities there, but Mitch is his own guy and we all learn different. We all adapt differently. I’m excited for him. I’m excited for him personally because I know him. He’s represented by the same agency, so getting a chance to meet him and spend time with him – about two months ago I was with him for about a week. He’s a great kid with a bright future.
It seems like the college game is changing and teams in the NFL are start to adapt. They’re going to some more read-options, and run-pass options in a more spread out game. Is it something you think the NFL can bring more into the game? The phrase you always here is, they want to make it easy for the quarterback. It seems to me you should always want to make it easy for the quarterback.
Yeah, there’s some of it. There’s definitely some of it if you watch on Sundays and every team has their own little wrinkles, but I don’t think it will ever make a full integration into the NFL quite like has in college. You never know though. This game is always changing. It’s such a pass-heavy league vs. where it’s been in the past so you really never know. I think it’s cool the great teams, the good offenses, really utilize some of the ground game, the power-type stuff but also mix in the spread-empties. I think we do a good job of that in Philadelphia as well.
Your first month in Philadelphia you came out and really played great. What do you attribute the early success in that part of your game to?
You know, as a team we were prepared. I’d been preparing, but I had limited opportunities to work with the ones [first-team offense]. I found out I was the starter eight days before the first game, so I had limited opportunities, but I’d been preparing the whole time. I knew my number would get called at some point. I didn’t know how or when, but it happened and I just ran with it.
After those first couple games, we struggled … ended 7-9, not where we want to be, but at the same time, you look back and watch tape, it’s a play here. It’s a play there. The whole season would have been different. It’s not like we were getting blown out of the water. We were right there in so many ballgames. We just have to find a way to win.
I was going to ask about that because you had some games here and there where you put up some good numbers, but it seemed like after the first month the offense really struggled. What changed there?
It’s hard to put your finger on one thing. We just made too many mistakes. We hurt ourselves at times turning the ball over probably more than we would have liked. And we struggled in the red zone. That’s tough because three points vs. seven points is a big difference. And that adds up over the course of the game, over the course of a season.
But you know, like I said earlier, we were there in every ball game and we just didn’t find a way to win late in some of those games. We have to learn from it and come out better next year.
What’s the area where you feel like you’re trying to improve this offseason so you can take the next step?
I think just being consistent with the footwork. A lot of that has to do with tying in the routes and concepts that we have. The biggest thing for me is working with these receivers, these tight ends, these running backs and getting that extra time with them that I never really had last offseason. Last year it was you’re learning so much and I was getting reps with the threes at the time. And you’re head’s kind of spinning.
Now, this year, I know the system. I know the playbook. Now it’s just kind of developing those relationships and sorting out the finer details of our offense.
And you got some new toys to play with.
Yeah, getting Alshon (Jeffery) and Torrey (Smith) is big and bring a lot of ability. They’ve proven it. And in the locker room, that’s what I’m most excited about is they bring some veteran leadership that can really help out some of our guys in that room.
How early after you were drafted did someone say, you have to go to Wawa?
Probably within the first two weeks of being out here.
Ok, last thing. I need to know what your first experience was at Wawa and what your order was.
Wawa is great. Turkey, bacon, avocado sandwich is pretty prime. You can’t go wrong with that one.