ATLANTA -- Malcolm Jenkins has had the stall across from Carson Wentz in the Eagles locker room for the last three years. He’s shared captaincy with the quarterback for the last two. And he’s spent countless hours practicing, meeting and traveling with Wentz.
Jenkins said that he didn’t know the Wentz who was depicted in a recent Philly Voice article, which quoted anonymous team sources as calling the 26-year-old “selfish,” “uncompromising,” “egotistical,” and playing “favorites.”
“The way it was trying to be portrayed is that he’s toxic in the locker room or somehow is a divisive personality, which I don’t think is the case,” Jenkins said Wednesday. “Does that mean everybody gets along with him? Probably not. But that’s normal in any locker room.
“That’s the unique thing in our locker room, and one of the reasons we’ve had success over the last two years -- and he’s been a big part of it -- is that we don’t have those types of guys in our locker room. That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect all the time.”
Jenkins was one of a dozen or so leaders on the Eagles who objected to the article almost immediately after it was posted online a week after the season ended with a playoff defeat against the Saints. Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, and Chris Long were some of the notable names who took to social media in defense of Wentz.
Even former Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, who was traded to the Panthers last offseason, felt compelled to publicly lambaste the headline alone on Twitter, saying that he “bet his newborn child 99 percent” of the story was false.
Smith, who joined Jenkins here for the NFL Players Coalition news conference that announced the recipients of its 2019 grant program, expanded on his comments Wednesday.
“Unless [Wentz] turned into somebody overnight, that’s not the guy that I know,” Smith said. “You can debate about the other things that people are saying about playing favorites. I can’t speak on that. That’s all opinions anyway. But attack his character -- no way.”
Smith said that he didn’t read the entire article, but that he felt the Eagles’ season ending as it did -- without another championship and with the argument between Wentz and backup quarterback Nick Foles still alive -- may have led to the negativity of the article.
Wentz wasn’t contacted for the story and has yet to publicly respond to some of the charges made in the piece. One section, again citing only anonymous sources, made the claim that he had over-targeted Ertz at the expense of others, and that Foles was running Doug Pederson’s offense as scripted.
But Wentz threw to Ertz (on 26.4 percent of his attempts) only slightly more than Foles did (22.8 percent). And when he did, he completed 77.4 percent of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt. As for the notion that Foles significantly targeted receiver Alshon Jeffery more than Wentz, the numbers don’t back it up: 19 percent of Foles’ throws went to Jeffery compared to 18.5 percent for Wentz.
“Last year, you never knew where it was going and we didn’t have any issues,” Smith said of Wentz’s pass distribution. “We were winning. Winning cures all wounds, right? I just think when you lose, people look for things to highlight.”
The most scathing parts of the Philly Voice story painted Wentz as an unaccountable diva. But aside from an anecdote about a “highly respected teammate” calling out the quarterback for not being “a team guy,” there was little detail.
Jenkins said that Wentz, unlike so many quarterbacks who were drafted high, wasn’t initially thrust into a leadership role with the Eagles, and even after three years, he hasn’t been very vocal. But he has led by example and picked his spots when he’s wanted to speak up.
“He’s organically come into his own leadership style,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got plenty of other guys. He’s a great player on the team. He’s a great teammate in the locker room. And, really, anything outside of that is going to be normal.”
Many coaches and teammates, and even Wentz, have talked about his type-A personality. He’s driven, competitive and a grinder, even after he suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries. But Foles and reserve quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who have spent the most amount of time with him, have said that Wentz had been nothing short of supportive as the team played on without him.
Jenkins isn’t in all of the same meetings as Wentz, but he said he had never seen him yell at a teammate.
“I haven’t seen him directly be confrontational at all. He’s always positive,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think he’s as vocal a leader as most ‘franchise quarterbacks’ you see. But I think that’s a reflection more so on the other leaders we have on the team.”