Earlier this week, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich spoke with reporters for the first time since the end of the 2016 NFL regular season. Reich was asked about a number of different subjects, including the progress he’s seen from Carson Wentz.
Reich named three positives he’s seen from Wentz: leadership, pocket movement, and accuracy.
I think the positives I've seen, it's obvious just a year under his belt, just from a leadership standpoint, just kind of coming in and ownership of the team and just being comfortable with the guys, guys being comfortable with him. It's not – it's just totally different – last year coming in here as the No. 3 quarterback.
On the field, I just think his pocket movement has been really good just in the drills we've done and the team drills that we've done. There are some specific things. In this game there's a lot of pressure on the quarterback all the time, so little subtle movements without going further than you need to, going further up in the pocket than you need to. Just little subtle movements in the pocket are very important for the quarterback, and then to be able to reset and throw with accuracy. And as a quarterback, you're always challenging yourself on accuracy. ‘How accurate can I be?’ And I think so far his accuracy has looked very good.
The leadership aspect is something Wentz has talked about this offseason. The situation is obviously much different now compared to last year. He’s the unquestioned starter.
As far as accuracy goes, I can’t say Wentz has looked super sharp during OTA practices. I’m not saying I know better than Reich; I’m just sharing my personal observation.
Pocket movement is definitely an area where Wentz excels. This is one of the biggest areas of improvement we saw from Wentz later on in the 2016 season. The second Washington game really sticks out in that regard. I remember him constantly dodging defenders while playing behind a patchwork offensive line. Wentz’s pocket movement was also on display in the second Giants game when he pulled off that crazy move to elude oncoming pass rushers. Let’s watch that again.
Reich talked more about Wentz’s pocket movement in detail.
Yeah, well, I'll give you one specific example that I think Coach DeFilippo has done an exceptional job with Carson on. Looking at the tape from last year, I alluded to it briefly earlier, there’s so many times where you get enough field to rush and you want to climb in the pocket. Well, it's easy once you start climbing just to keep climbing because like, ‘boom,’ here comes the pressure, let me climb up in the pocket, step up in the pocket, and all of a sudden your momentum takes you further than you need to. There's a sense of climb the pocket, then reset and go through your progression from there.
And as we looked at the film last year, there were times when that happened, and you can drill it. One way is just play a lot of games, so that's the thing that Carson got to play a lot of football last year, which is a huge plus. But the other thing you can do is you can drill it, you can drill it, you can try to simulate the game. It's not the exact same, but I think we do a pretty good job. Coach DeFilippo does a really good job of simulating that as much as he can in practice.
And the quarterbacks – and this goes for all of our players – we talk to them all the time, you've got to put yourself in the moment. You've got to be able to find a way to be in a drill and feel like it's the Super Bowl. I can't underestimate that enough. You have to be able to do that because you can't have contact all the time. You can't have all team play. So you have to as a player get in a drill and make it seem like it's the Super Bowl. And the guys that can do that and can picture that and can visualize that find ways to get maximum amount of benefit out of those kind of reps, and I think Carson is showing to be one of those guys.
Check out video of Reich’s entire press conference via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page. (Click here or watch below.)
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich is speaking now!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Monday, June 5, 2017
Full transcript below, with some thoughts of my own added underneath select quotes.
Q. You have a whole bunch of different new receivers working with QB Carson Wentz. Because first team works with first team and second team and so forth, how are you going to get him and all the new guys coordinated, in sync and so forth? (Les Bowen)
FRANK REICH: It's just a lot of reps. Like you said, we've got ones working with ones. There's some crossover, but it's not just the teamwork. It's individual drills. It's find a little time. It's these guys spending time in the building talking. It's always better to do it, obviously, but it all kind of factors in there. But between all the OTA reps and then you get in training camp, I'm pretty confident we have sufficient time to kind of work out the kinks, get the timing that you want.
Q. Has Carson's release gotten quicker? (Tim McManus)
FRANK REICH: I think Carson's release looks good. I don't know if it's gotten quicker. I've always thought Carson has a good release. So yeah, he's like all our other players, trying to fine-tune things, working on mechanics, fundamentals. Every player does that that I've ever coached. I think like each of our players, he's tried to tighten a little something up you see here and there. I think he's looked really good. I'm excited about how he's looked. He's worked hard. [Eagles quarterbacks] Coach [John] DeFilippo is doing a great job.
I wish you guys could sit in some of the quarterback meeting rooms and watch the drill tape and see. We pick at everything. That's what we as coaches do, so you pick at everything. We try to find the positive things, reinforce those. If we see something we don't like, you bring it up. Carson and all of our quarterbacks, our players in general, are just great students. They all want to learn and grow. They demand a lot of themselves. So yeah, I think everything has been going [well].
Q. This team did a lot in the offseason to address the offense. What is your view of who was brought in, and how long does it take to build that chemistry with so many new guys coming in? (Ed Kracz)
FRANK REICH: I think it takes a little bit of time, but the guys work hard at it. They spend a lot of time together, get a lot of reps, as many reps as they can. I think the offseason is sufficient, and then you get in training camp and you iron those things out. Guys are pros, and they find a way of working it out. They find a way of working it out. Everybody is a year older, a year more mature. They get the new guys in.
I was actually thinking about it this morning doing a little workout on the bike. It's almost like when you're making – just thinking about coming here and talking to you guys – it's like you're making a meal and you're bringing in fresh ingredients, but you've got your old staples, and you're trying to put together a recipe that's going to taste good. It's going to look good. Add the right seasoning, try to do things, isolate guys, try to do things in formations, taste it a little bit, see if it tastes good, right, work it a little bit more. ‘I don't know, we need a little bit more here.’ That's kind of what we're doing right now, going through that process.
Q. Along those lines, RB Donnel Pumphrey, how do you see him fitting in this year and the role he'll have? (Zach Berman)
FRANK REICH: He's looked good. Really, you can just tell. Obviously all that productivity he had in college. He came in and it's like, okay, here's a guy, you know, he was a stud in college with all of his productivity. How is he going to fit into a pro system? Can he do it all? He had so much yardage from the backfield – how productive can he be if we move him around and as a pass receiver? And it's early. You don't get too excited about it just yet, but I am excited about his ball skills. I'm excited about his route-running skills. I think he's on the right track.
BLG Note: Pumphrey has been working in the slot a lot at practice. Sounds like he might play more wide receiver than running back for Philadelphia, at least as a rookie.
Q. What does WR Dorial Green-Beckham have to show to kind of make sure he has a spot on the team? Because obviously you guys are pretty crowded at wide receiver now. (Martin Frank)
FRANK REICH: Yeah, it is crowded, and this is the NFL. It's competitive. It's competitive, and that's a position that we needed some more productivity out of this year, and so I think we did a good job of making that a competitive room this year.
So the whole key for receivers is just being playmakers, being consistent, showing you can get open versus press coverage, make plays on third down, make plays in the red zone, find ways to make big chunk plays. In this league it's hard to go – we say it every year – it's hard to go 12, 14 plays all the time. So you've got to stay on the field. You've got to make those plays right on third down, but you've got to find ways to make chunk plays. So who does that consistently? Who can make chunk plays consistently? Who has a knack of making contested catches? And then who has a knack in the red zone?
Q. Did DGB not do enough of that last season? (Martin Frank)
FRANK REICH: I think it was a growing process for everybody. First year, first system, rookie quarterback, you know, the whole deal. I thought he did some of that, and I'm encouraged with DGB. I'm a fan. He has traits that are unique in his size and length and his strength. You saw it a few times last year, every now and then when we're watching the clips from last year and you see he's hard to tackle. Once he gets a ball, he's so big and strong, and he's athletic and he's got good feet for a guy that's that big. He's in a good situation and it's going to be a competitive battle.
Q. Last year Carson's quarterback reps were split pretty evenly between the three quarterbacks. This year, percentage-wise, how do you see them getting split? (Jimmy Kempski)
FRANK REICH: They won't get split as evenly as they got split last year. Carson will get more of the reps. That'll ultimately be determined by [Eagles head] Coach [Doug Pederson], what percentage of the reps Carson will get, but he'll get more of the reps.
Q. Did you have any issue with Carson working with a passing coach? (Matt Lombardo)
FRANK REICH: No, I don't have any issue at all to be honest with you. As coaches we would love to … Believe me, I would have loved to give him a few weeks off of rest and then, ‘Come on, let's go, let's get in the lab and let's work.’ That's what – back when I was playing and Coach Pederson was playing – that's what we did. We took a little bit of time off and we were back in the building, throwing with receivers and talking to our coaches. But that's fine. I mean, it's a different era. You can't do that anymore. Carson is like a lot of our players. They have an itch to get better. If I’m a player, I'm going to find ways to get better.
BLG Note: Lol. That story about the Eagles being upset with Wentz seeing a QB guru was such bullshit.
Q. How much of that pocket movement is natural and how much can be taught? (Dave Zangaro)
FRANK REICH: I hadn't thought about putting a number on it, but a lot of it is taught. A lot of it is taught. I don't know. My knee-jerk reaction is to say it's 50/50. Some of it is natural. But it has to be taught. It comes with playing a lot, and obviously Carson has played at every level, but it's different at this level. You've still got to teach it and engrain those habits.
Q. Is there more of an opportunity to have two-running back sets in this offense? (Jeff McLane)
FRANK REICH: Yeah, that goes back to the cooking illustration. I think we're always trying to formationally and personnel-wise mix ingredients together and taste it and see how it presents itself, see what it tastes like, what it feels like. And so now with some new personnel, that's what we're doing.
Q. Can you provide an overview on the offensive line and kind of what you think you have with that group? (Dave Spadaro)
FRANK REICH: I love our O-line. I thought last year felt the same way. We just have more depth and more strength this year. I think it's one of the strong points of our team. I think we have great leadership there. I think [C] Jason Kelce is a great leader up front. He's a quarterback up there. The guy is as smart of a football player as you can get, and he just is very versatile in the things that he can do for us up front. I think we're really good at the tackle position, obviously – two of the better tackles in the league – and then our guard situation is … I mean, our second-team guards should be starting on most teams. So it's a very competitive room, really good room; good for our team.
Q. What do you think you're getting in WRs Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson? (Zach Gelb)
FRANK REICH: Really like the receivers we got. Obviously Gibson, he's got the trait of speed that you just can't buy. That's shown up on the field some. Mack Hollins is kind of a build-the-speed guy with great length and tremendous ball skills. That's flashed already. He's got tremendous ball skills. Very smart, very good feet for a big man. Very excited about his development.
Q. I’m assuming that Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had a lot to do with the decision to bring in G Chance Warmack. How helpful is their history as far as getting the most out of Warmack here? (Paul Domowitch)
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I think it's really helpful, because here's a guy who was a very high draft pick, and for whatever reason, just wasn't getting the productivity at his position that was probably people were expecting. But I think there is something to the chemistry of having with a coach that you've played some of your best football with, and then the room, the culture of the room is so good. Stout is a great coach. I think he'll bring out the best in Chance.
Q. Carson said one of the things they worked on down in Southern California with Adam Dedeaux was the footwork. When he came back, what kind of changes did you see in that regard? (Jeff McLane)
FRANK REICH: Some of it is weight transfer. Obviously we talked about it at some level, and he told me the two or three things that they were talking to him about – always talking about target line, everybody is always talking about target line. You talk about weight transfer. It's like a golfer. It's like a golf swing – weight transfer, move hips and stuff like that. And so I think that there are things that you can do to kind of practice those movements.
Like I said, everything from the technical, mechanical side that I've seen with Carson has all been pretty good, and it's all … I've always looked at it like there's a natural progression with every player, and he was just like every other player who's coming in as a rookie. Just needs to continue to work on that. I think his footwork has been good.
Q. Last year at some point you had said that the running game was a little inconsistent or needed to be a little more consistent. When you're talking about the offensive line and the running backs and things like that, do you find that this group can be a lot more consistent to help protect your quarterback? (John Barchard)
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I'm excited about the run game. Last year I think we finished 11th in rushing offense. I think we finished fifth in run efficiency. I won't go into that stat, but when we were running it, we were efficient. But I just think we need to continue … Excited about getting [RB] LeGarrette [Blount] in, the role that he'll play. You know with Coach Pederson we're always going to be … All the backs are going to be involved. They're all going to contribute in a big way. He'll play a major role. He's a big, strong back. You can already see the vision and the experience, the feel, the knack that he has even in the drills that we're doing right now. So, [we are] excited about that.
And then we just need to score more points early so we can be in some more four-minute offense late in the game and don't have to get in kind of pass mode early in games. If we get in that mode, we're going to be in good shape. If we can get in run mode, that's going to be a big-time advantage to our team.