Carson Wentz was a hot topic of discussion at the NovaCare complex.
Chatter about the Washington Commanders quarterback’s first game against his former team isn’t limited to the press conference auditorium or the locker room. Eagles coach Nick Siriani sought an edge by interviewing Wentz’s former teammates and members of the organization familiar with his on-field tendencies.
“You never leave a stone unturned,” Siriani said. “Also, I think someone asked me about Hard blows“You watched Hard blows?’ Yes, we looked for information when we played [the Lions in Week 1]. We listened [Vikings coach] Kevin O’Connell press conference? Yes, I was looking for information. Shall I ask people in the building who know Carson about him? Yes, I am looking for information. It will be the same process.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s doing a good job,” Siriani added. “He’s obviously thrown for a ton of yards, and we know he can get hot and be real.”
There are fewer players familiar with Wentz than the 19-month stretch since his trade might suggest, but the Eagles have been a team in transition since the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.
There are roughly two dozen current Eagles players who were on the 2020 roster for a 4-11-1 campaign in which Wentz struggled mightily, was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts in Week 13 and requested a trade after the season. Shortly after the Eagles hired Siriani to replace Doug Pederson, they traded Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick and a conditional 2022 first-round pick.
The dynamic between Wentz and Hurts seemed awkward from an outside observer’s perspective, but Hurts said Wednesday that the two have developed a cordial relationship.
“It’s definitely a mutual respect between us,” Hurts said. “There’s definitely a mutual respect between him going to Indy and now, and I wish him the best.”
Hurts was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft because of the Eagles’ preference for a quality backup quarterback. While Wentz has shown potential to play at an MVP level, injuries have forced the Eagles to turn to their No. 2 quarterback, either Nick Foles or Josh McCown, in the playoffs for three straight seasons.
Hurts was used as a change-of-pace quarterback on multiple snaps in most games, but he didn’t replace the struggling Wentz until midway through the Eagles’ Week 13 game against the Green Bay Packers. He started the final four games of the season and went 1-3.
Hurts said his experience playing for Wentz taught him to be patient, and he praised Wentz’s arm strength and maneuverability in the pocket when asked what he learned from Wentz.
“I just saw he had a great arm,” Hurts said. “He’s a big guy who’s tough to deal with. He just makes some crazy plays in the pocket, so I definitely noticed that when I was a rookie. And he’s still doing it now, dodging and dodging and weaving.’
When asked again about his relationship with Wentz when they shared the quarterback’s room, Hurts said 2020 is behind him.
“I just want to say that we’re focused on the present,” Hurts said. “I’m focused on the present.”
Wentz was traded to Washington (1-1) after a disappointing end to his one season with the Colts. He completed 65.5% of his passes and threw for 650 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. During Wednesday’s news conference, Wentz also played down the significance of the matchup against Hurts.
“It’s a different offense, it’s a different kind of thing,” Wentz said. “Again, we prepare to play their defense. They have a good defense, I know our defense will be up to the task of stopping him and the explosive offense they have. I don’t put a lot of stock in it. It’s a new team, a lot of new faces, so yeah, it’s going to be fun either way.”
Wentz acknowledged that the game against the Eagles might have some extra emotion.
“We’ll find out,” he said. “I’m excited about it just because of the nature of the game. Obviously, they got off to a hot start. … It’s a divisional rivalry, all those things. I’ve been a part of it, I know the emotions that go into it from the other side, so I’m excited about it. But again, you try not to make the game bigger than it needs to be. Every week is a big week. It’s hard to beat in this league. So I know when the first kick goes, it’s going to be football again and I’m really excited about that.”
Hurts enters his first match against his former teammate having had the best game of his career. The 24-year-old went 26-for-31 in Monday night’s 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings and had 390 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
The prime-time performance was the kind of showing that will help prove Hurts deserves long-term consideration as the team’s quarterback. He threw with precision and determination from the pocket and wreaked havoc with his running ability against the Vikings and looked much improved as a passer this season.
Siriani said Hurts had made steady progress over the past two seasons, noting the defender was nowhere near his ceiling.
“I don’t think I know what his ceiling is yet,” he said. “I just keep seeing him get better. I knew he had it, and again, it doesn’t surprise me what Jalen does on the football field because I’ve seen him do it all offseason, all training camp, practice, conference room. I keep seeing it grow steadily.
“Maybe to the outside world, it’s like, whoa,” Siriani added. “I don’t think it surprises any of us in the building because we live with him every day, we see him every day and we see the growth every day, not only on the football field but on the practice field, and in the conference hall.”