The last time Carson Wentz had an offseason to work with his teammates in the spring then relax during the break between minicamp and training camp, the Eagles quarterback was on pace to be the NFL’s most valuable player.
That was the offseason leading into the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season.
Wentz had the Eagles sitting pretty at 11-2, winners of nine in a row at one point and a surefire MVP choice that year. We all know how it ended.
So Wentz spent last offseason furiously rehabbing, pushing the timetable-to-return envelope as hard he could, wanting to be back in time for the first game of the 2018 season. He fell short by three weeks then lasted just 11 games before being shut down with a stress fracture in his back.
VIDEO: Carson Wentz revisits his feelings on meeting with the Eagles for the first time in North Dakota
The rehab for his back wasn’t nearly as intense or rigorous as the knee rehab, and Wentz was a full participant from the first OTA to the last and then for all three days of minicamp. He is now able to enjoy his downtime before the team reports to training camp on July 24.
Could 2019 look like 2017, without the season-ending injury?
It absolutely can, and Wentz is a large reason expectations are high as fans eagerly await the start of camp and beyond.
“He's had no limitations all spring,” said head coach Doug Pederson prior to the Eagles’ summer parting of the ways. “And just like I've said previously, we have monitored him just like we've done other players, and he's looked good.
“Number one, I think just he's a little more I would say relaxed going into the spring having some new weapons around him, bringing (WR) DeSean (Jackson) in, being around him, being around the team, the guys, being here, showing his leadership. Those are all things that I've seen and what I've experienced with him this spring, in this off-season. Looking forward to getting him back in July, and I know he's going to continue to work this summer and keep building for the regular season.”
When Alshon Jeffery saw Wentz for the first time after reporting to minicamp, the receiver asked his quarterback if he lost weight.
“He looked thinner,” said Jeffery.
Wentz said no, he is still the same 235 pounds he was last year, but the weight has been redistributed. The quarterback certainly has a leaner look to him thank to a new diet and workout regimen he implemented this offseason, the details of which he refused to reveal.
Whatever this super-secret program Wentz adopted is it’s imperative that it work. Now entering his fourth season, Wentz cannot afford to the injury mishaps that befell him the past two seasons, not only because the team has invested millions in him with a contract extension through 2024, but also because the security blanket known as Nick Foles is now in Jacksonville.
Wentz welcomes the added scrutiny both his health and contract will bring this season.
"I've said this in the past, when you sign up to play this game, you're welcoming that pressure," said Wentz. "That's just part of it. No matter what's happened in the past, not matter what's expected of you in the future, there is always that pressure. For me, that's not going to change how I prepare, how I focus, how I go out and compete every game.
"You just kind of have to block it out a little bit and just keep doing what you know how to do. That's just keep getting better every single day. Like I said, the pressure is always going to be there, so never let it bog me down."
There is no quantifying how much having a Wentz with no limitations in the offseason means once the season starts. It’s easy to assume though, that it certainly is better than the alternative of rehabbing.
“Go back to two years ago when he came off his rookie season,” said Pederson. “He was healthy, he was ready to go. We started out and started well. I think it's important -- every team in the league, I mean, as healthy as you can be going into training camp is a positive.
“Having your quarterback healthy is definitely a positive for us, and all the work that he's gotten with our guys this spring is just going to pay dividends down the road.”