Back in 1992, when the Eagles still held training camp at West Chester University, quarterback Randall Cunningham showed up wearing a hat emblazoned with the words, “He’s back…Scrambling.”
Cunningham was coming off surgery to repair a pair of torn knee ligaments suffered in the 1991 season opener against the Green Bay Packers. Indeed, Cunningham continued to scramble.
Flash forward 27 years, and Carson Wentz isn’t making any such bold predictions after having two torn ligaments repaired in one of his knees two years ago. Granted, Wentz was never the kind of electric scrambler that Cunningham was, but there is no denying that some of Wentz’s best plays have come off scrambles, when he is able to buy more time and extend a play.
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Those are the plays that make him susceptible to injury, and some of the plays it would appear he is looking to reduce.
“He is getting through his reads faster,” said head coach Doug Pederson. :It’s part of the progression of him and his growth as a young quarterback right now. He’s getting to the line of scrimmage, he’s seeing things fast, and he’s redirecting protection. Again, going through his progressions, the ball is coming out of his hand quicker.”
Getting rid of the ball quicker is something that has been noticeable about Wentz throughout training camp. He hasn’t looked to scramble to keep plays alive, even though he could have done that because he wears a red, hands-off jersey every day.
“It's not a conscious decision,” said Wentz, (No. 11 in photo with, left to right in red, Clayton Thorson, Cody Kessler, and Josh McCown) when asked about staying in the pocket. “It's just, I think, it kind of goes back to, you know, playing fast and just seeing and making quick decisions. And, you know, just going through my reads quicker, maybe it's, you know, being another year in the system, and always knowing where my check-down is, my hots are, different things like that.
“That part of my game is definitely not gone, you know, it's still going to be there. But if I don't need to why would I get out of the pocket when the O line is holding up and I can find guys to get the ball to?”
Whether or not scrambling to keep a play alive rather will remain a part of his game to the extent it has been in his first three seasons, we won’t know until the regular-season curtain raises on Sept. 8, because it is very unlikely he will play in Thursday night’s third preseason game, this one against the team the Eagles have practiced against this week, the Baltimore Ravens.
It does look and feel like Wentz will continue trying to make plays inside the pocket.
“Operating fast has always been a priority around here, especially going into this season looking at the weapons we have, for me, it’ just distributing the ball quick, getting in the playmaker’s hands quick and make quick reads, quick decisions, and so far so good,” said Wentz.
The one question that cannot be answered in the type of training camp Wentz has had is: how will he feel when he gets hit for the first time since his last game on Dec. 9?
“I’m really not worried about it,” he said. “Every year it’s always going to be that first hit, whether it’s three months off, six months off, 10 months, 12 months, that first hit wakes you up and it’s football mode again.”
Wentz appeared to be in football mode the previous two days during practices with the Baltimore Ravens.
He had his ups and down against a very good Ravens secondary, but the most encouraging thing was, he didn’t throw a single interception. He also only seemed to vacate the pocket maybe three times among the 60-plus snaps he took.
Those snaps may have to stand as his preseason, because, once again, Pederson didn’t reveal if Wentz would play on Thursday. If not, he certainly won’t get any snaps in the preseason finale against the New York Jets the following week.
“I feel,” said Wentz, “that I am ready for week one.”