When the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to Pick 2 in the 2016 NFL draft they were hoping that Carson Wentz was still available.
Lucky for them, he was, and the Eagles got their man. The art of drafting a future star comes down to thousands of hours studying film and watching grass roots football. But there’s no guarantees and watching film doesn’t always answer the questions.
How would Wentz handle adversity? Act and react under pressure? How will he carry himself off the field? We’ll have to wait and see. NFL teams repeatedly get it wrong; there’s invariably more draft busts than successful players.
There has been a long history of quarterbacks being drafted 1-2. Perhaps the biggest loser from this is the Cleveland Browns who completed a blockbuster trade and sent their second pick to the Eagles in this year’s draft.
In total, they sent five draft picks to the Browns: Pick No. 8 in the first round, pick 77 in the third round, pick 100 in the fourth round, a first round pick in 2017 and a second round pick in 2018.
When Wentz arrived at the Eagles this preseason the franchise had low expectations. At one-point coach Doug Pederson announced that he was going to be redshirted and remain on the sidelines for his rookie season behind starter Sam Bradford and back-up Chase Daniels. Pederson recently told upi.com, “We don’t know it will be his entire rookie year; we can’t speculate that far out. But going into the season, there is a good chance it starts that way.”
But the talented Eagles coaching staff were able to fast track the education process that saw Wentz excel in all areas of the game. Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich were former NFL quarterbacks. Their knowledge coupled with Wentz’s ability to be a quick learner has proved invaluable.
Wentz’s preseason form was excellent. Although playing against vanilla defences, he showed the ability to put the ball on the numbers on multiple occasions, and more importantly, he gives hope to Eagle fans. Philadelphia supporters have a history for being brutal, you throw one interception and the crowd will start booing you, just ask Sam Bradford and Nick Foles.
The dramatic Sam Bradford trade to the Minnesota Vikings gave Wentz the opportunity to become the starter for the Eagles. Ironically, no rookie quarterback has ever started Week 1 in team history.
Carson Wentz reminds me of a young Andrew Luck. He is incredibly tough and shows poise in the pocket, his maturity level is years ahead of his age and he understands the game so well. The fact that he is calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, reading blitzes and defensive schemes with ease in only his second professional game is impressive.
Wentz commands the offense and is always in control. It doesn’t seem like you’re watching a rookie quarterback. He possesses outstanding physical and mental tools. He executes the game plan methodically. He is so clean with the football and doesn’t make mistakes. He always has two hands on the ball while in the pocket and has had zero turnovers in his first two games which is remarkable for a rookie.
Another impressive parts of his game is his ability to read defensive schemes and change the play at the line of scrimmage. Peyton Manning was the master of the no-huddle offense and dissecting plays the defensive coordinator would throw at him. Watching Wentz do this so early in his career is remarkable.
The ability to process information so quickly is a natural gift. Wentz has this gift. We saw him in the no huddle offense call the shift, call the formation, call the motion, call the play, determine the snap count and preview some reminders to make sure all his receivers were on the same page. And even more impressive is the ability to say it to his teammates with a certain tone, the ability to speak in segments, communicate and annunciate.
After their week two victory in Chicago the Philadelphia Eagles coach, Doug Pederson told nfl.com, “The dialogue on the sideline with players and coaches with him is something a nine – or 10-year vet would do, and it’s just showing his maturity and the ability that he has to play quarterback.”
High praise from the coach who played quarterback at the professional level and had one of the best apprenticeships under former head coach Andy Reid. Wentz spent five years at North Dakota State where he won five straight national titles. But already, he has gained a lot of credibility in his first two weeks as an NFL starter.
The Eagles executive vice president, Howie Roseman, explained his first interaction with Wentz on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football on Wednesday.
“We drive to the Fargo Dome and Carson Wentz is waiting outside to greet us,” Roseman said. “So right there, think about that – how smart is that? We take him up, we take him into the meeting room, his ability to recall, his knowledge of the offense and of what is going on in the National Football League, watching tape with him and him directing it. I remember walking out with our coaches who have been with all these great people and said ‘this is off the charts.’
“Then we go onto the field and when you watch him warm up, you just see him start to run and he’s like a gazelle,” Roseman continued. “He’s got this long stride and then he just throws the ball – it’s accuracy, it’s arm strength, it’s velocity. You just kind of hear it whip by you. But for us, it was also about fit – for Philadelphia, for our organisation.
Even outgoing US President Barack Obama was talking about Wentz, “Some of you may have seen Joe Biden at the Eagles game,” President Obama said. “He told me, ‘Barack, you got to get on the Wentz Wagon. We got a new quarterback. We got hope in Philly.”
The Wentz Wagon will get full incredibly fast. This week, Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles will face another test against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wentz will undoubtedly be doing his homework. He’ll be watching film, figuring out how to dissect their defence and how he can do better. The Sky is the limit for the Eagles and Carson Wentz.