Wentz’s growth re­lies on abil­ity to make friends

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - SPORTS - Bob Grotz Colum­nist

The Ea­gles com­pleted their off­sea­son work with the cus­tom­ary hud­dle, head coach Doug Ped­er­son ad­dress­ing the play­ers be­fore hand­ing off to the fran­chise quar­ter­back to break it down.

Last year the quar­ter­back was Sam Brad­ford, who was more likely to lay up than shoot for the green.

Car­son Wentz, the peo­ple’s choice, swung for the hole.

“Nice work all spring, way to work,” Wentz said in a video ap­proved by the team. “Way to com­pete, and get bet­ter ev­ery day. En­joy your break, take care of your bodies but let’s not lose sight of our goal. Let’s not lose sight of what were build­ing around here and that’s play­ing into Fe­bru­ary. Don’t lose sight of that.”

That wasn’t the Pro Bowl he was talk­ing about, al­though be­ing se­lected for the game would be a pretty good sea­son for Wentz and other team­mates.

Wentz was think­ing Su­per Bowl. The next one is Feb. 3 at that crazy in­door sta­dium in Min­neapo­lis where Brad­ford plays.

Cra­zier things have hap­pened. Af­ter the 2014 sea­son, for ex­am­ple, the Ea­gles ex­iled Howie Rose­man to an of­fice in an­other zip code and put him in charge of the salary cap and the equip­ment staff. Now he has com­plete con­trol of per­son­nel and a legacy as the guy who de­liv­ered Wentz.

What isn’t crazy, at least for th­ese Ea­gles, is the rap­port Wentz has with his team­mates, which is what the OTAs and mini­camp are about.

Phys­i­cally Wentz did ev­ery­thing a quar­ter­back could do in the off­sea­son. He put the ball in places re­ceivers could catch it and they did — a lot. That was new. Ob­vi­ously it helped to have play­ers who could hang on to the ball like Al­shon Jef­fery and Tor­rey Smith.

The dorks who ac­cen­tu­ated the er­rant throws missed the bond­ing process that be­gan last year when Wentz and the Ea­gles fol­lowed a 3-0 start with a painful 4-9 fin­ish. (Does it get any lower than al­low­ing Tony Romo to put a touch­down on you in his last NFL se­ries?)

We all know the only proven method of eval­u­at­ing a foot­ball team with a lot of new pieces such as the Ea­gles is to see what it ac­tu­ally does when the sea­son be­gins.

Still, the gut feel­ing right now, pro­vided Wentz stays healthy for a sec­ond straight year, is the Ea­gles are look­ing at their first win­ning sea­son in four years. That’s partly be­cause of his im­proved throw­ing me­chan­ics, and largely be­cause of his com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Be­hind the scenes, in the hud­dle and in the meet­ing rooms, Wentz has taken charge. You can only do that when you ac­tu­ally know what you’re do­ing.

Wentz pro­vided glimpses of who he is last year. Don’t let the post-game smile fool you. He has no prob­lem — par­tic­u­larly dur­ing games — ex­pect­ing as much out of team­mates as he does of him­self.

It started in the opener last year when TV cam­eras panned in on a side­line sit­u­a­tion where Wentz was wav­ing his arms and get­ting an­i­mated in front of the right side of his of­fen­sive line seated on the bench. Vet­eran guard Brandon Brooks and tackle Lane John­son were study­ing pic­tures of the pre­vi­ous se­ries, which wasn’t quite one for the ages, when they looked up from the pho­tos and eye­balled Wentz.

It was com­pelling TV. Brooks smiled when shown the screen shot. He said Wentz was ex­plain­ing where the safeties were, what they were do­ing and what the Ea­gles should be do­ing in terms of block­ing as­sign­ments.

John­son ex­pects Wentz to be no less de­mand­ing go­ing for­ward. To con­tact Bob Grotz, email bgrotz@21stcen­tu­ry­media.com; fol­low him on Twit­ter @BobGrotz.

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