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Getting the practice reps now should spur Wentz's development

If Sam Bradford hadn't been traded, Carson Wentz would have spent the last two weeks watching Bradford and Chase Daniel take all the quarterback repetitions at practice. He would have had a subservient role to the starter in meetings. He would have answered questions at his locker rather than from a podium in front of a dozen cameras.

If Sam Bradford hadn't been traded, Carson Wentz would have spent the last two weeks watching Bradford and Chase Daniel take all the quarterback repetitions at practice. He would have had a subservient role to the starter in meetings. He would have answered questions at his locker rather than from a podium in front of a dozen cameras.

And he wouldn't have played and had success in the Eagles' 29-10 season-opening victory over the Browns last Sunday. Even if Wentz had struggled and the team had lost, just having the experience would have been a positive step in the rookie's development.

Two weeks ago, Wentz was the third-stringer and was set to spend the next 17 weeks watching and learning. There was always the chance that Bradford would have gotten hurt, or that the Eagles would have decided late in the season to officially begin Wentz's career.

But ideally, coach Doug Pederson said, he would wait.

Things changed. The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater, they made an offer for Bradford, and the Eagles couldn't refuse. Wentz went from low man on the depth chart to the top - a rapid rise that some said would either stunt his growth or expose him to likely injury.

"There's no question it will help his development," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "You can get a lot out of mental reps, but it's always better doing it live and feeling everything else.

"And then the dynamic of building the chemistry with the offense, and with the team, and the city, the media - the whole thing."

It's a no-brainer now, because Wentz proved that he was more than ready. But even if he wasn't, the Eagles were saving valuable time by accelerating his education. Each week he checks off boxes. Last week, it was his first game. This week, it's playing on the road in Chicago and on Monday night.

At some point, it will be losing and it will be failing. The Eagles want to win every game this season, but Wentz's development, in the bigger picture, is more important. This past week alone, he experienced winning, being the toast of Philly, having President Obama refer to his debut, and having the No. 1 selling NFL jersey in the nation.

"It's crazy how much I can focus in on football and not let a lot of this get to me," Wentz said. "It's still just football."

The football part has been significantly altered, however. As the No. 3 quarterback, Wentz wouldn't have even taken snaps during team drills. Bradford would have had all the repetitions while Daniel would have taken the scout team reps. Now Wentz gets every rep.

"That's how it is everywhere," Daniel said. "You're preparing one guy to play and that's it."

The No. 2 quarterback may not be getting an opportunity to run his team's plays, but the scout team - aside from giving the defense looks from the upcoming opponent - does allow him to get work in game simulation.

"It becomes muscle memory," Daniel said. "The hardest part about being a backup is you don't always get the physical part of practice."

Wentz would have had to make the most of mental repetitions, as he obviously did during the preseason, when he missed three weeks with fractured ribs.

"How dialed in he was even as the No. 3 was foundational for what you saw on Sunday," Reich said. "It just requires the maturity and the discipline to stand there and say, 'What would I call? Where would I go with this ball? What would my protection call be?' "

But there is no substitute for live football. Aaron Murray, who was signed to the practice squad Tuesday, essentially took over Wentz's role as the third-stringer. To make up for the lack of snaps, he said, he grabs a coach and a young receiver after practice and throws against "air" (no defense).

"I'll go and do the routes we worked on that day versus air," Murray said. "That's really the only way I can get those reps."

Wentz was deferential to Bradford and Daniel the moment they met, but particularly in the quarterback meeting room.

"When you're the second or third you're there to support the No. 1," Reich said. "Yeah, you got to get yourself ready, but there is a pecking order."

Wentz mostly deferred to Bradford during film study and kept his questions to a minimum. But when the meetings were over or the Eagles had practice, he would use that time to go deeper with Reich or quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.

"We had a lot of side conversations," Reich said. "He had the maturity to understand that 'OK, I maybe shouldn't say all this in the meeting.' But we would get out of the meeting and we'd be on the practice field and he's coming over and talk to Flip and I."

That is likely how Wentz would have approached the season had Bradford not been dealt. But the offense is now being catered to his preferences and he's leading the conversation.

"He talks like he's been in the league 10 years," Reich said. "Like it's unreal. He has no problem telling you what he's seeing, how he's seeing it. This is what's so exciting to me. I think I'm listening to a 10-year vet."

It's important, Reich and Daniel said, that the game plan is tailored to the quarterback's liking. Some coaches, though, don't always take the advice. Daniel has two career starts, but in only one did he have a full week to prepare.

"Luckily, I've had coaches like Andy [Reid]. If I didn't like something that week, he's like, 'We're not calling it,'" Daniel said. "Same with Doug. If Carson doesn't like it, he ain't going to call it. You don't want to put your quarterback in a position that he feels uncomfortable with the play calls."

Wentz has been the first player in the building at 5:30 a.m. - along with the other quarterbacks - since being named the starter. But he said his schedule would have been the same even if he were still the No. 3.

"It's a quarterback thing," Wentz said. "It's part of preparations. So whether you're the starter, third-stringer, your preparation doesn't change. You always got to stay ready."

Wentz is following the lead of Daniel, who picked the schedule up from Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The days are long Wednesday through Friday - 5:30 a.m. to around 7:30 p.m. Mondays are off days. On Tuesdays, the quarterbacks work from 8 a.m. to around 3 p.m. Saturdays are for the walk-through and finalizing the game plan.

It's unclear whether the timetable would have been the same if Bradford were still here.

"We never got to that point," Daniel said.

Wentz had experience in college dealing with the media and public attention, but it has increased over the last nine months, and dramatically over the last two weeks. He's learning on the fly. The Eagles are protecting him to a degree, but there are many more obligations.

The additional responsibilities of being the starter, though, have made it easy to focus on football.

"We're so busy," Wentz said, "you just block it out."