Carson Wentz arrived at the NovaCare Complex this week with a new body.
The biceps were bigger. The chest was bigger. He was carrying more weight. Good weight.
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While many young players had to scramble to find places to work out and stay in shape during the pandemic, the fifth-year Eagles quarterback was able to pump iron daily in his home gym, which, needless to say, doesn’t look anything like yours or mine (an exercise bike and a couple of 30-pound weights in the master bedroom).
“The last couple of offseasons, I was dealing with injuries and trying to bounce back from injuries,’' Wentz said Thursday, referring to a torn ACL in 2017 and a fractured bone in his back in 2018.
“This offseason, I was really able to get after it and work out a little harder in my gym and all those things.
“I haven’t gained anything insane weight-wise. But I have definitely gained some weight. I feel really good with where I’m at.‘'
Assuming COVID-19 doesn’t get in the way, Wentz is looking to bounce back from an inconsistent season and replicate his performance in 2017, when he was well on his way to winning the league MVP before wrecking his knee trying to dive into the end zone for a touchdown at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
With his top three wide receivers missing a total of 24 games last year, Wentz still managed to finish tied for sixth in touchdowns-to-interceptions differential (plus 20) and was 13th in passing (93.1). But he also was 26th in yards per attempt (6.7) and 17th in completion percentage (63.9).
His 96.0 third-down passer rating was well below the league-best 123.7 he put up in ’17, and while he finished fifth in interception percentage, only New York Giants rookie Daniel Jones had more fumbles than Wentz (16).
So there is plenty of room for improvement, and he knows it.
“Red zone [the Eagles finished third in touchdown percentage inside the 20] and third down [fourth], that’s something I’m going to focus on every year, whether we’re first in the league or last in the league,” he said. “Because I’ve realized over the first couple of years of my career that those downs make or break ball games.‘'
With DeSean Jackson back after missing all but three games last year with an abdominal injury, and the addition of three speedy rookie wide receivers, Wentz is hopeful the Eagles won’t be the plodding offense they were last year, when nearly a third of their touchdown drives were 10 plays or more.
The Eagles finished 28th in the league last year in pass plays of 30 or more yards with just 15.
“We had a lot of long drives last year,’' Wentz said. “Hopefully getting DeSean back, and with some of these young guys, it will lend itself to some more-explosive plays. But if we’ve got to put together 15-play drives, then that’s what we’ll do.‘'
Wentz has been impressed by what he’s seen of rookie wide receivers Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins.
“They’re all fast,’' he said. “They can roll. I’m really excited about that. They’re all natural ball-catchers.‘'
Wentz also knows he needs to improve his pocket presence. After fumbling 16 times as a rookie, he fumbled just nine times in 2017 and 2018. But he fell back into bad habits last year and was hanging on to the ball too long.
“I’ve limited my interceptions over the years,’' the quarterback said. “But I just have to keep getting better in the pocket as far as holding on to the ball. Know when to say die and when to get out of there and stretch the play out.