Carson Wentz not ready for season to end, but excited for Eagles' future

Carson Wentz not ready for season to end, but excited for Eagles' future

Carson Wentz wrapped up his first NFL season on Sunday with a win over the Cowboys and a feather in his cap (see Instant Replay). He had just set an NFL rookie record with 379 completions.

Yet making history and winning a meaningless Week 17 game weren't enough to appease Wentz (see breakdown of Wentz's day vs. Cowboys). The Eagles' season is over, and far sooner than anybody hoped or would've liked.

"It's cool," Wentz said of making history, "but at the end of the day, we were still 7-9 and we're going home, so that's really all that matters."

Wentz was still on the the fact that he wouldn't be playing in his first NFL playoff game next week, but it wasn't all doom and gloom (see Roob's 10 observations from the loss). The 24-year-old was already focusing on the future, even before he took the field one final time as a rookie.

"Ultimately, we wanted to be playing still in January," Wentz said. "Looking back now that it's over... we're just building something special. We truly believe that in that locker room.

"The guys that will be here next year, I kept saying it to all the guys that I saw, 'It's time to go.' It'll be time to go when we all come back, so I'm excited for the future."

Less than an hour after closing the book on the 2016 campaign, Wentz hadn't really been afforded an opportunity to step back and appreciate everything he accomplished. Between his senior season at North Dakota State, a seemingly endless slew of pre-draft workouts and interviews, then jumping right into his first NFL camp with the Eagles, he essentially hasn't had a break from football in over a year.

And this break is one Wentz doesn't seem quite ready for.

"It's been non-stop for a long time, both mentally and physically," Wentz said. "I haven't had a lot of time to truly reflect on what's all happened this season, so it will be big for me for peace of mind to just get away. Obviously, we still wish we were playing, but that's not the case right now."

So here's a reminder. Wentz completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards and 16 touchdowns. He guided the Eagles to seven wins, as many as they had a season ago under veteran quarterback Sam Bradford, and Wentz did so with a depleted supporting cast on offense.

Perhaps most important of all, Wentz became the first Eagles quarterback to start all 16 games regular-season games since Donovan McNabb in 2009, taking nearly every snap along the way.

"Physically, I'm very blessed," Wentz said. "I'm very fortunate that I am healthy and made it through the whole year that way. My arm feels good. Probably threw about as much this year as I threw in college my whole career, which is kind of crazy, but I'm very thankful that I'm healthy."

Wentz didn't merely survive his rookie season. He gained valuable experience, and at times, even excelled.

"His progression from the start of the year to today is night and day," said Eagles coach Doug Pederson.

"He's really seeing the field. He's surveying the field. He's using his legs. He's a gifted runner. He knows where everybody is going to be. He's got great dialogue and communication on the sideline, on the football field. His leadership ability.

"He's an exciting player to watch and coach, and it's a pleasure having him this year. In his rookie season, to do the things he's done is just amazing, and really looking forward to the offseason and building for next year."

Now that he'll have some time off, Wentz says he plans to get more acclimated to the area, maybe take in a Sixers or Phillies game this offseason. A little time away and a chance to get settled can only add to the comfort level with the Eagles.

But there's no doubt football will never be too far from Wentz's mind, and it won't be long before he's getting the itch to get back to work with his teammates.

"It's a kids' game that they're paying us way too much to play," Wentz said. "It's a beautiful thing. I've always loved the game and I'm just very fortunate, that's for sure."

Wentz wasn't ready for this season to end, but at the same time, he sounds genuinely excited about the next chapter. This year didn't go exactly as planned, with the Eagles missing the playoffs for a third straight year. There were ups and downs, and the rookie signal-caller was far from perfect.

Considering where Wentz came from, suddenly being elevated to starting quarterback after an abbreviated preseason, having just come to the NFL from a Division I-AA program, it was a pretty special beginning. 

"This whole season, I learned a ton," Wentz said. "I learned a ton about different guys, about myself, about the game, and going into the offseason, it's full speed ahead. It's not taking reps with the threes and trying to learn a new playbook. It's we're all in this together."

"We've had a full season under our belt, so it'll be a fun offseason."

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

The Eagles add speed on the outside by drafting West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson in the 5th round (166 overall).

Gibson (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) could be a deep threat the Eagles desperately need. He totaled 80 catches and 1,838 yards (23.1 yards per catch average) in his last two seasons for the Mountaineers.

Before selecting Gibson, the Birds traded back twice. First, the Eagles traded the 155th pick to the Titans for the 164th pick and the 214th pick. Next, as the Eagles were on the clock for the 164th pick, they traded back two spots with Dolphins, to obtain the 166th and 184th picks while giving away picks 164 and 194.

Gibson had a less than stellar performance at the NFL Combine in early March, running a 4.5 in the 40-yard-dash despite his deep threat reputation. He redeemed himself at his Pro Day, however, by reportedly running a 4.39 in the 40.

Gibson also adds value on special teams, as he returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown during his sophomore year and racked up 633 return yards in his junior season.

(More to come)

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

The Darren Sproles comparison is natural, and it's one Donnel Pumphrey is going to hear a lot after the Eagles took the San Diego State running back in the fourth round, 132nd overall.

So what similarities and differences are there between the two running backs?

"He's definitely bigger than me," Pumphrey (see bio) said with a laugh.

Considering Sproles is 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, that is pretty funny.

"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Pumphrey said. "I feel like we're (I'm) very versatile, do stuff out of the backfield, just like he does.

"(The comparison) means the world to me. I watched guys like him when he played for the Chargers.

"I look forward to building a relationship and looking up to him and getting different pointers on how I can get better each day. I'm excited."

Pumphrey? He stands 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but he did a lot of the same things on the college level that the electrifying Sproles has done in the NFL.
 
Pumphrey piled up an NCAA-record 6,405 rushing yards in four years at San Diego State, breaking the Division I rushing record of 6,397 yards set by Overbook High graduate Ron Dayne.

Pumphrey, 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting this past year, surpassed 1,600 yards and 17 touchdown runs in each of his last three seasons, including a Division-I best 2,133 yards last year -- 10th-most in Division I history.

He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his career to go with 99 catches for 1,039 yards and finished with 67 total TDs, including five receiving.

Pumphrey also finished his career ranked fifth in Division I history with 7,515 all-purpose yards, eighth with 67 touchdowns and ninth with 62 rushing touchdowns.

He's the only player in NCAA history with 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

Sproles has said the 2017 season, his 13th, will be his final NFL season. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 525 receptions and nine return touchdowns in a brilliant career, including the last three with the Eagles.

The Eagles moved up seven spots in the fourth round to draft Pumphrey, shipping their second fourth-round pick, No. 139, and their seventh-round pick, No. 230, to move up to No. 132.

Despite his lack of size, Pumphrey has never been hurt and averaged 21 ½ touches per game for the duration of his college career.

"I just try to make guys miss, and when it's time to get down I get down," Pumphrey said.

"I don’t think about injuries or anything like that, I just play football to play it. I know injuries come with the game, but I just give my all every time I step on the field. I haven't gotten hurt, and it's been a blessing."

The Eagles are unsettled at running back, with Ryan Mathews in limbo and only 2016 fifth-round draft pick Wendell Smallwood and Sproles also in the mix.

In Pumphrey, the Eagles get a back who survived a staggering 1,158 touches in college.

During the last four years, he had more than 200 more carries than any running back in Division 1 -- 1,059. Justin Jackson of Northwestern was second with 855.

And he never missed a game.

"I've been running the ball since I was about 6 years old and it hasn't taken a toll on me," Pumphrey said.

"Offensive line does a great job getting me to the next level where I'm not able to really take on big hits. I'm just ready to be an Eagle and show everybody what I'm about."

Pumphrey is the first San Diego State player the Eagles have taken since linebacker Matt McCoy in the second round in 2005.

The fourth round is the highest the Eagles have taken a running back in seven years since they drafted all-time franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy in 2009.

The last running back they selected in the fourth round was Correll Buckhalter out of Nebraska back in 2001.

Buckhalter's former teammate, Duce Staley, is now the Eagles' running backs coach and is a big fan of Pumphrey.

"I built a relationship with Duce Staley at the combine," he said. "He said he loves the way I played. I'm just excited to learn the different aspects of the game from him.

"I can't wait to … learn from guys like Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and just learn from all the coaches and just doing what I have to do to get better each day," he said.

"I'm ready to do whatever it takes to show that I can earn a role on the team."