When the Eagles decided to let Nick Foles walk in free agency, they didn’t just let go of the only quarterback in franchise history to win a Super Bowl. They also lost an elder statesman, so to speak.
Since Carson Wentz arrived three years ago, the Eagles have been careful to surround the quarterback with “mature” players, players older than he was in order to help him learn and grow.
Veteran backup Chase Daniel had first dibs on the job. After a year, he departed and Foles entered.
Everyone from Howie Roseman to Doug Pederson to all the quarterbacks always raved about how great the quarterback room was. There were, presumably, no animosities, no phoniness, or any whiff of discontent.
That positive atmosphere doesn’t figure to change much, especially after a 10 minute sit-down with one of the room’s newcomers, Clayton Thorson, on Friday when the Eagles convened for a three-day rookie minicamp.
Thorson came off as very likeable, someone wiser and more mature than his 23 years of age would indicate.
Of course, finding that next quarterback to “fit” is what this franchise wanted.
"We’re very conscious of the culture," owner Jeffrey Lurie said prior to the draft, when the Eagles selected Thorson in the fifth round out of Northwestern
"We’ve had an incredible quarterback room, with Carson, Nick, and Nate. It’s one of the reasons they’re all so poised for success. That quarterback that we bring in – let’s say it’s this year’s draft or next year’s draft – it needs to be a great fit in that room, so you’re not just drafting a player that can be a good backup quarterback, but somebody that can help the culture with the quarterback who is starting.
“You want a relationship that is healthy, where they help each other. That’s a key part of it, too."
Thorson certainly gave off that vibe Lurie and the front office want. He married Audrey Gross last June 16, a woman he met seven years ago when he went to Wheaton North High School and she attended Wheaton South High School.
“Being from Wheaton you tend to get married early,” said Thorson.
Wheaton is a community of just over 50,000 people according to the 2010 census and is located about 30 miles west of Chicago. The 2000 census said that there were more than 19,000 households of which 36.7 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them and 61.4 percent were married couples. So, yeah, responsibility and maturity would seem to come at a young age.
Thorson made 53 straight starts at Northwestern, but it could be a very long time before he makes another one – if he ever does. He won’t make it an issue, though.
He’s not going to come in and demand playing time now and probably never will.
“I just view it as a great opportunity to learn from those guys,” said Thorson. “They’ve been here for a while. Carson is the guy. And so, to learn about this offense from a guy who’s an MVP candidate every year is just a good opportunity for me. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Wentz, who turns 27 on Dec. 30, is now the veteran in the quarterback room, even after Monday's expected signing of Cody Kessler, who just turned 26 on Saturday.
Nate Sudfeld and Luis Perez, who has is work cut out for him to crack the top three on the depth chart, are both 25.
Just because Thorson is the youngest, doesn’t mean he won’t fear speaking up if it helps.
“I think any time you can make your teammates better that’s what you’ve got to try to do,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to do. Any time I can make my teammates better I’m going to say something to them.”
For now, especially this past weekend, it’s all about adjusting to life as an NFL quarterback.
“Carson and Nate will get a lot of the snaps soon, this is a chance to get one-on-one work,” said Thorson. “From what I’ve heard even when those guys are here, they’re still working one on one with me and trying to develop me. I think that’s one thing that’s pretty cool about the Eagles is they want to develop guys. And so that’s something I really look forward to.”
Fitting in, obviously, is just part of the equation. Thorson must show NFL talent, too. And the rookie camp was the first step in trying to show that.
“Obviously how they command the huddle, see that confidence that exudes,” said Pederson. “How well they spit out the verbiage, the terminology, how well they pick that up. There are going to be mistakes, that's part of this weekend.
“We try to throw different concepts at them and see how well they can handle that as a young quarterback and sort of introduce them to what it's like, whether it's a regular-season install or a training-camp install, and then physically see them out on the field. You just don't want to bog them down, because then they can't go play and be free and relaxed in practice.”