Carson Wentz spreading love, passes and leadership
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Carson Wentz can't stop smiling.
Whether he is posing for pictures or greeting fans, signing autographs, or playing football, the second-year quarterback always seems to be in a good mood.
"I just tell everyone I'm a normal dude that's blessed to play this game," Wentz said.
The Philadelphia Eagles gave Wentz a few more reasons to be happy in the offseason when they signed wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They should help a passing offense that ranked 24th in the NFL last year.
"It's really nice having a guy like Alshon - not only (his) catch radius, but he has some of the strongest hands I've ever seen," Wentz said. "The thing with Alshon and I, it's all about building that chemistry and building that relationship. I've already seen it in OTAs and mandatory minicamp. And I'm excited. You can just see, it's kind of a different animal throwing the ball to him. He covers some ground. It's nice to have a guy like that."
Wentz had 3,782 yards passing in his rookie season, but only threw for 16 touchdowns and was 29th with 6.23 yards per attempt. The Eagles haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. They had only one wide receiver catch more than 40 passes in 2016: Jordan Matthews had 73 receptions for 804 yards.
Jeffery averaged 70 catches and 1,046 yards over the last four seasons with the Bears. Smith has averaged 17 yards per catch in his career, including an NFL-best 20.1 average in 2015.
Smith played with strong-armed QBs Joe Flacco in Baltimore and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. He's impressed with Wentz's arm strength.
"It didn't take long to see that he's got 'it.' Big guy, big arm, and he knows the game," Smith said.
Wentz had a busy offseason. He made several appearances in Houston during Super Bowl week before going to California to work with a QB mechanics coach. He went on a mission trip with Matthews to Haiti, delivered a sermon at First Assembly Church in Fargo, North Dakota, hosted the offensive linemen at his home in New Jersey, had the wide receivers visit him in Fargo for workouts and bonding and opened his AO1 Foundation .
"He's a great leader," Smith said. "He's a guy you want to play for and play with. I look at him in the huddle and, man, I can't wait to see what it's going to be like on game day. He's not going to be flustered. He's going out there making great throws, so we know that if we do our jobs, we're going to make big plays."
Championship-starved fans who haven't celebrated an NFL title since 1960 are so excited about this season that more than 23,000 people came to an open practice on a beautiful Sunday morning.
They gave Wentz the superstar treatment, cheering his every move.
"I was kind of blown away," Wentz said. "You can just tell the atmosphere here, the passion here and just how excited everyone is for Eagles football this year."
Wentz started all 16 games last season, but was the No. 3 QB throughout training camp until Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota eight days before the season opener. He has come a long way in one year.
"This summer, I was like chomping at the bit to get back here," Wentz said. "Last summer, I was just trying to breathe. It was such a whirlwind offseason. Mentally, I'm in a way better place. I come in and I know what to expect."
Coach Doug Pederson sees a more confident No. 11.
"He knows what we're doing offensively and you see that when he's got the ball in his hands," Pederson said. "I'm seeing the command of the huddle. I see him dialoguing with his teammates, even before reps and after reps. He steps in there with a lot of confidence, and that's what you want. He's leading the football team."
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