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Expect Carson Wentz to come back stronger than ever

From The Eagles.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

Carson Wentz knew it was coming. Like an “A-gap blitz” that he sees during his week of preparation before a game, he knew before he met reporters at the NovaCare Complex the general tone of the questions he would be asked in the 15 minutes of back and forth:

1. Where are you in your rehabilitation?

2. Will you be ready for the regular season?

3. Do you expect to change your playing style moving forward?

The answers to the first two questions – 1. “I’m happy with where I’m at” and 2. “That’s (Game 1) still the goal” are what we’ve heard from head coach Doug Pederson when he’s been asked about Wentz in this offseason. No surprises there. The answer to the third question wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but it’s worth a deeper dive.

Wentz doesn’t plan to change his style. He doesn’t expect to reign in his aggressiveness, the derring-do that became so evident in the final weeks of his rookie season and was a game-to-game revelation in 2017. At 6 feet 5 and 240-plus pounds, Wentz’s ability to escape trouble last season was remarkable. Remember that first touchdown pass against Washington in Week 1 when he broke the pocket, created some room, bought time and shrugged off a pass rush and heaved a throw to wide receiver Nelson Agholor for what turned out to be a spectacular touchdown? We saw it over and over again last year as Wentz established himself as a league Most Valuable Player candidate for the next decade.

As brilliant as Wentz was in the traditional drop-back-and-throw sense, he was every bit as sensational using his incredible athleticism and running ability.Well, now that he’s had a serious knee injury, will Wentz tamp down the whirling dervish stuff, even just a little bit?

“I’m not going to change. I think I’m always going to learn. I know, even from first year to second year I thought I learned quite a bit on how to protect myself. And then going back and watching again there’s things that you just keep learning from,” he said. “But as far as overall just changing my style, that’s not going to happen.”

After offering that quote, Wentz was asked the following: “… you probably won’t have the same kind of mobility at least initially that you had the last couple of years, will that change your approach this offseason in terms of, you know, kind of preparing to be more of a pocket passer initially?”

Wentz’s response: “I guess we’ll see when the time comes. I believe I’ll be fine.”

Here is the key line in Wentz’s response to both questions: “I think I’m always going to learn.” He won’t change his style, and Lord knows Wentz isn’t going to be a drop-back-and-throw robot when he steps on the field in 2018, whenever that is. The concern that the Eagles will be tempted to rush Wentz back is always lurking, because we remember the way Robert Griffin III lurched his way around the pocket upon his too-soon return to action following his rookie-season knee injury. The Eagles aren’t bringing Wentz back until Wentz has shown on the practice field that he can pass every mobility and knee-stability test. When you have a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player (Nick Foles, duh) as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart, there is absolutely no reason to push the envelope with The Franchise.

Look, Wentz has been at the NovaCare Complex almost every day since the season ended. He works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s more motivated to be the very best than anyone I’ve seen (OK, I’ll say that Brian Dawkins was in the same category). Wentz is doing everything in his power to get all the way back, and if that happens before Week 1 of the regular season, then he’s probably going to play (Wentz also said on Tuesday that he doesn’t think he’ll need to play in the preseason to be ready for the regular season).

And when he returns, you’re going to see Carson Wentz, not a Ghost Of Carson Wentz Past. He’s made that very clear, so no need to keep asking, thank you very much. Wentz is older, he’s wiser and he knows he needs to stay on the field. What happened on December 10, 2017 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when Wentz tore his ACL was, really, a freak thing. He was sprinting for the end zone and may or may not have popped the ACL on the run. Or when he was hit. Nobody knows.

The point is, Wentz is putting in the labor now to return to what he was before the injury – the same athleticism, the same instincts, the same competitiveness. He’s clearly added upper-body strength – he’s ripped and has probably added 5-10 pounds – and he’s never worked harder on his body. Along with that, he’s studying film, establishing rapport with new quarterbacks coach Press Taylor and offensive coordinator Mike Groh. Wentz expects to be at the top of his game when he gets back on the playing field.

And just in case you were wondering, you’re going to see Carson. He’ll be smarter and he won’t expose himself to as many hits, but he’s still going to be the beast he’s always been. That’s what he knows. That’s what he does best.

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