When the Eagles made the decision to trade Sam Bradford and put in a rookie quarterback, a lot of heads were spinning. I’m sure that in Philly they were ready to completely lose it.
But the kid, Carson Wentz, comes out and plays great and what we saw the other day was exactly what we saw in the preseason and exactly what we saw in college. The downfield accuracy is there. The arm strength is there. He’s able to move. The mental processing is there. He’s going to make some mistakes, but all young guys are going to make mistakes. It’s a process. But just like my brother Derek, the game wasn’t too much for him. I wasn’t surprised. I think a lot of us were expecting this.
I was in the minority back in the spring when they were going back and forth between Carson and Cal quarterback Jared Goff as far as who should be the first pick in the draft (Goff went to the Los Angeles Rams with the No. 1 overall pick and Wentz No. 2 to Philadelphia), but there were significant differences in where they were coming out of college and in their ability to make a quick impact in the NFL.
It’s all an estimated guess by everyone who is throwing their two cents in. I wasn’t really that concerned about the level of play that Wentz went up against at North Dakota State, an FCS school. I was more concerned about what Cal asked Goff to do in college as opposed to what North Dakota State asked Wentz to do in college from an offensive perspective.
Wentz was in a more pro-style offense. It wasn’t necessarily the intangibles. (He showed his leadership qualities when he got hurt and worked his tail off to get back on the field.) It was more what they asked him to do at the line of scrimmage. He checked at the line. He moved protections. He threw on time and in rhythm in pro-style concepts. The arm strength was there. Everything was there. He was the clear No. 1 guy for me, and I think for a lot of people.
Watching his first preseason game, it was the same stuff. He wasn’t flustered. It wasn’t too much for him because mentally he was prepared for it. What coach Doug Pederson was asking him to execute, he had seen all of that, and the most important thing when you’re getting into that situation is what you’ve done before.
NFL quarterbacks have to learn protections. They have to learn where the hot guys are and which adjustments to make. In Wentz’s first preseason game, he faced a defense rushing seven and the Eagles only had six blockers. One guy was free. Wentz pointed it out to his slot receiver. The slot receiver made the adjustment. Wentz threw a little 8-yard slant against Cover Zero, with no deep help, and it was a successful play. Right then, you knew. It was his first action in the NFL and right then you knew he understood protections, he understood how to get the ball out with timing – he knows how to beat a blitz.
He was not afraid of the moment. That one play spoke volumes because that’s the hardest thing to teach. If you have that when you come in, you’re already a leg up on everybody else.
Goff, on the other hand, was never asked to throw hots. He was never asked to see the coverage and understand who you’re throwing against. Cal’s system is based on progression – you throw it here or you throw it here. Cal isn’t worried about what coverage the defense is in. They’re not worried about protections. Cal’s plan: Our scheme is going to beat what you run.
That’s great in college. You can score a lot of points doing that. But it doesn’t help you as far as understanding where to go against two-man, where to go against Cover Three, what routes beat certain coverages. You end up going from your X to your Y to your Z and that’s it, and for the most part you can do it, but it doesn’t help you transition your game into the NFL.
I’m not saying that Goff wasted his whole college career in an offense that’s not going to help him transition, because he threw pro-style concepts. This is a small piece to the puzzle. But that piece is huge in the NFL because you’re going to get tested to see if you know your protections, to see if you know where to go against a blitz and if you haven’t had those reps, like Goff hadn’t, you’re behind. That’s why he’s not starting in Los Angeles and Wentz is starting in Philadelphia and it really is that 5 percent to 10 percent of those reps throughout his college career that helped him be ahead.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
From Zeke Garcia, Fresno: How do you expect the Raiders season to go?
I think they’re going to do great. There are some things that happened in that first game that concern you from a defensive standpoint. The secondary, which they spent a lot of money on and had planned to be the most improved part of their team, it looked like it still needed some work. A lot of it is easily fixed. A lot of it is just one breakdown, one guy not running the proper coverage.
But it’s a road win. The 2-point conversion was huge for that team, for coach Jack Del Rio to show them that “I have confidence in you. I’m rolling with the quarterback and with Michael Crabtree. I trust you guys to make this play.” It was so huge for a young football team like that. That can do amazing things to their confidence going forward.
I’m excited to see what happens. The run game looked great – 160-plus yards rushing. There were some good young backs in there running the football. That was kind of what they missed last year, a real spark and a guy that can make something happen inside the tackles other than Latavious Murray. Latavious is a big, strong guy, but you have to have that change-up guy. But with that offensive line, it was only a matter of time until they got it done. If they can stay healthy, the Raiders are going to be an exciting football team.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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