The Eagles are back at practice and quarterback Carson Wentz is looking to improve in a lot of different areas ahead of the team’s Week 5 matchup with the Vikings. The QB was sidelined the last time these two teams met, and he’ll need to commit to film review to prepare for a Minnesota defense looking for revenge.
Wentz spoke to the media on Wednesday about what it’s like having Alshon Jeffery back and talked about the team’s third-down and red zone struggles so far this season.
Here’s what the quarterback had to say:
On Vikings prep
Wentz opened up the press conference talking about how he doesn’t personally feel like he’s still working to get up to game speed — despite what Doug Pederson said earlier in the day — and that he feels comfortable on the field and with the targets he has available.
He was asked about both the Eagles and Vikings starting the year off slower than expected, and what the quarterback was expecting to see from Minnesota on Sunday. Wentz said regardless of the record, the Vikings are a great team and are going to give the Eagles their best. They have a physical defense, and especially with how things ended last year, the QB knows that they are going to give it their all.
Wentz talked a little about not being too concerned with other teams having a couple years of film now to study, and that the Eagles are always looking for ways to change things up and maybe do things that are complimentary but different. He said that’s just the nature of the business, as people become familiar with what you’re doing, you have to keep growing and learning at the same time.
On having Alshon back
He was asked about his thought process in throwing up that touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery, and Wentz noted it’s never good to be in a 3rd and long situation, but that they knew the Titans had an injury at corner and that was the time to strike.
Wentz continued that having Jeffery back last week was big for the team, and that he brings big-play ability and and the ability to make some of those contested catches. Jeffery is the kind of guy you can trust to make a big play if he has the opportunity.
On the offense as a whole
Despite getting Jeffery back, Wentz was asked how the offense might look different once Darren Sproles and Corey Clement are back on the field. The quarterback didn’t hesitate to say that regardless of injuries, or whose available, the team has high expectations for the offense each week.
He talked about that being the nature of the NFL — players are always getting hurt or being sidelined from one thing or another — and you have to be able to overcome some of those setbacks and still deliver an efficient product. They aren’t dwelling on the players they don’t have but rather embracing the next man up mentality.
Wentz echoed what Pederson said about the sky not falling and having confidence in the players they have on the roster. He said that they were still trying to figure out who they are as a team, as an offense, but that it’s still early and no one is panicking.
“To echo what Doug said, the sky isn’t falling. We’re 2-2 right now. Would love to be 4-0, but this is just where we’re at. We’re a month in still trying to figure out 100% who we are. But at the same time, we know the guys we have. We know what we’re capable of doing. We realize it’s just a couple of little things here and there. Now, those little things have magnified itself in some of these losses. But there’s little things we can clean up. But there’s no panic in here. There’s no panic on the offensive side, defensive, special teams. Guys are hungry and we know what we can do.”
On what the offense wants to be, Wentz noted “we want to be an explosive offense” and talked about some of the similarities to his expectations last year. He wants to be great in the red zone, to be one of the top teams in the league in third-down efficiency. They want to make more big plays and score quickly.
He continued that he gets “ticked off” when they get pulled off the field on third down because he wants to score every drive, and that’s the mindset of Pederson and the rest of the offense.
On facing former coaches
Wentz was sure to laud the efforts by offensive coordinator Mike Groh in his new role, and admitted that he — and the offense — loved working with Frank Reich the past couple of years, but that they collectively feel like Groh hasn’t missed a beat.
He was later asked about how it’ll feel going up against John DeFilippo this weekend, and what he though of DeFilippo as a coach:
“He was great, honestly. Lot of respect for him as a person and as a coach. I thought he helped me, and really all of us, get better. I loved the way he saw the game.”
So while Wentz admitted that he had great communication and respect for his former coach, he and the offense feel very comfortable with the staff they have this season, and that it’ll be fun to go against him on Sunday.
On situational football struggles
Wentz talked about third down and red zone plays being something the team emphasizes throughout the offseason and each week in practice, and it’s something they need to improve.
He said in some of those third down situations, they’re really hurting themselves on first and second down and putting themselves in difficult spots, whether it’s due to penalties or sacks, negative plays are really affecting them in both of those situations.
Later on, Wentz talked a little bit about some miscommunication among the offense during the loss to the Titans, and said they’ve had to learn that on those 3rd and mid, 3rd and long situations, that they have to be prepared for anything.