Carson Wentz finally gets to take the field with all of his new weapons on Sunday. Can he be sharp right out of the gate, not having played in the preseason? Is he ready to take a hit for the first time since December?
Having what we presume will be a better running game, along with a much more feared deep threat in DeSean Jackson, ought to make Wentz’s job easier than it was a year ago. But doesn’t it also raise the bar for what is considered success?
Have we listed enough questions here or nah?
Reporters got their final preseason session with Wentz on Wednesday, and these were the topics of note. The Eagles’ 2019 offense enters the season with enormous expectations, but the group hasn’t really performed together, except in practice. How is all this going to work?
“I feel more than ready. The offseason’s been great. The preparation, everything, it’s all there … Just trying not to press, I’m just trying to play ball and be myself again. I’m excited to go do that on Sunday,” said Wentz, whose 2018 season ended with a stress fracture in his back, discovered after a Dec. 9 overtime loss at Dallas.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson recoiled like he’d been told Häagen-Dazs’s newest flavor was broccoli-kale, when asked if he planned to “ease in” his quarterback.
“I don't think you ease anybody in. I think you have to go in fully prepared. That's why we practice. It's why you've gone through a grueling training camp, especially at that position and for Carson,” Pederson said. “I think that's how you have a little passive mindset, especially as a play-caller. That's not who I am and that's not who he is.”
Wentz said he ought to have good timing with his receivers.
“The chemistry that you build with your receivers … that goes back to the offseason,” he said. “You get that in practice just as much as in games.”
Wentz is no stranger to coming in cold, having waited until Week 3 last season to test his surgically repaired knee. He debuted against the Colts, the Eagles winning, 20-16. Wentz completed 25 of 37 passes for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It was a strong performance, given the circumstances. Will numbers such as those suffice against Washington on Sunday?
“I don’t think [adding weapons] takes any pressure off his shoulders,” tight end Dallas Goedert said Wednesday, when asked about Wentz. “Probably puts more on ‘em, to tell the truth. I think Carson’s a great quarterback, I don’t think he has to worry about any of it, but you have all these weapons; if something goes wrong, it’s going to be on him, not on any of the weapons.”
Goedert added that practices have been intense and detailed.
“I think we’ll click right away and start the season off right,” he said.
Pederson said he doesn’t want Wentz to try to make any sort of dramatic statement.
“My message to him, and really to the team, is let the offense work for you, let the team work for you,” Pederson said. “Don't feel like you have to do things yourself.”
Wentz reiterated those talking points.
“Distribute the ball, get it to my playmakers early, and get this thing going,” he said. “Taking what’s there, knowing when to take your shots, take your chances, and then just live to fight another down.
“We have a lot of weapons. … It’s one of those things where you’re not going to force the issue, you’re going to get them involved where they need to be. It’s all about finding mismatches, and we’re going to be able to do that in a lot of different places.”
But to Wentz, not forcing the issue doesn’t mean always making the safest play.
“Ever since I came in the league, I’ve always viewed myself as an aggressive-style player … that’s something that, it’s never going to change,” he said. “It’s always knowing what’s the fine line. How do you walk that fine line of being aggressive and pushing the ball down the field and taking underneath stuff?”
Wentz was asked how different the offense might look. It’s hard to recall a September when observers had so little feel for something like that, but Pederson truly kept pretty much everything under wraps.
“That’s a good question. I don’t think we ever try and reform our identity. Coach Pederson’s kinda had his identity and the way he likes to see things done ever since I got here,” Wentz said. “We’re always going to put our playmakers in the best position to succeed. Adding an element like DeSean who can really stretch the field … I think it just opens up so much more in the run game and the underneath game.”
Wentz said he won’t be shaky or uncertain, won’t be fretting over not having been tackled in the preseason.