Wentz excited to face Eagles after 'whirlwind' tenure in Philly originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
ASHBURN, Va. — Carson Wentz took the podium on Wednesday with a smile on his face, excited for what will transpire over the next few days.
It’s a big week for the 29-year-old quarterback. The Washington Commanders are set to host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, which will be the first time Wentz gets to face his former team since they traded him to Indianapolis two springs ago.
Wentz was peppered with questions about his time in Philadelphia, a tenure he called a “whirlwind” but said he looks back on fondly for the most part. He’s unsure what emotions he’ll feel come Sunday afternoon but is looking forward to the matchup overall.
“A lot of really great memories from my time there. A lot of great friends, a lot of great relationships that I made,” Wentz said. “So, [there] definitely will be some mixed emotions in terms of those things. … My time there was a whirlwind. It was wild. The NFL is a whirlwind, but I’m grateful to still be playing and I’m excited about this [game].”
Besides the mere fact that Wentz is set to face his former team, he’s eager to match up against Philadelphia because of the division rivalry aspect. Having played for the Eagles for five seasons, Wentz is plenty familiar with the physicality and the overall nature of NFC East clashes. Sunday marks the first time he’ll experience a divisional matchup as a Commander.
“I’ve been a part of this one and know the emotion that goes into it from the other side,” Wentz said. “So, I’m excited for it.”
Sunday’s matchup certainly carries a little extra meaning for Wentz, but the quarterback is doing his best to downplay it. Wentz called every week in the NFL “a big week” and said that once the opening kickoff occurs, “it’ll be football again.”
A decent amount of players have left the Eagles since Wentz last played there, along with former head coach Doug Pederson. But a solid number of teammates from Wentz’s final year in Philadelphia remain with the franchise, including the quarterback that became his successor.
Jalen Hurts was asked about Wentz by Philadelphia media on Wednesday and spoke highly of his predecessor, calling their relationship a “mutual respect” and that he wishes “nothing but the best” for him. Wentz attempted to downplay this specific storyline, too, citing that he’ll be matched up against the Eagles’ defense and not Hurts himself.
“We’re preparing to play their defense. They’ve got a good defense,” Wentz said. “I know our defense will be up for the task of stopping [Hurts] and that explosive offense that they have there. But I don’t put a lock of stock into [facing Hurts]. It’s a new team, a lot of new faces over there. It’ll be a fun one either way.”
Wentz did admit later on that how the 2020 season unfolded — a rough individual start before eventually being benched for Hurts — caught him off guard. He expressed that going through that experience helped him grow not only as a football player but as a person, too.
“Things change and you have to learn to grow up and adapt,” he said. ” At the end of the day, I’m thankful for it, thankful for the changes that life has brought. I’ve grown a lot from it.”
If Wentz is treating this week any different, it’s hardly been noticed. Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin said he hasn’t seen a change in Wentz’s preparation, something head coach Ron Rivera echoed. McLaurin then went on the compliment his quarterback, praising Wentz for going through the game plan with each of his receivers individually.
“I really like how he comes up to the receivers and we kind of start talking through the game plan and how we want to attack the defense,” McLaurin said. “He does a really good job of talking to each receiver on the certain plays they may have for the week and talking through the catch point, the release and what he’s thinking as well.”
One aspect where Wentz did open up a little bit was when he was asked what it was like playing for Eagles fans, a group that is objectively one of the most passionate fan bases in the entire NFL.
“It was a lot of fun. Obviously, we had a lot of success there. Winning the Super Bowl up there was pretty special, being a part of that was pretty cool,” Wentz said. “It’s quite the city, quite the fan base, quite the experience. I’ll definitely cherish my time there. But being on the other end now, it’ll look a little different hearing them.”
Wentz quickly turned the page though, reiterating his excitement to be in Washington and how he’s been able to take on a different role with a younger squad.
“It’s been great. It’s a younger team with a lot of guys that are hungry,” Wentz said. “Hungry to win, hungry to find success and to sustain that success. It’s been fun to be a part of it, kind of having a different leadership role being one of the older guys in the locker room. It’s been fun to be part of it. We’re just getting started here. Hopefully, we can find a level of play that’s consistent.”
Through two weeks, offensive coordinator Scott Turner has given Wentz the keys. The quarterback has thrown seven touchdowns over the first two games and is second in the league in passing yards. Between Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson and others, Washington has put together a talented skill group around Wentz. They believe there’s still plenty of room for more growth, too.
“I think we’ve shown we’re capable of being an explosive offense with the way we can spread the ball around and create mismatches all over the field,” Wentz said. “We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of playmakers that make my life easier. So it has been fun when we’ve been clicking out there. We’ve just got to find ways to be consistent when we’re doing it.”