Philadelphia Eagles

What are Doug Pederson's expectations of Carson Wentz in Year 2?

What are Doug Pederson's expectations of Carson Wentz in Year 2?

It's not exactly like Carson Wentz was flying under the radar last year.

As Eagles training camp in 2016 approached, there were still plenty of eyes on the young quarterback. But a year ago, Wentz was gearing up for a season of watching football in a baseball cap, with clipboard in hand.

That was the plan even through training camp, all the way until Teddy Bridgewater went down in Minneapolis and the Vikings came calling for Sam Bradford.

It wasn't until the Bradford trade that Wentz's redshirt year became a rookie season that saw him complete more passes (379) than any rookie in NFL history.

Yeah, a lot has changed, including the expectations of the 24-year-old quarterback as he enters his sophomore season in the league.

So, what's realistic?

"Realistically," head coach Doug Pederson said after spring practices concluded, "we want to see, and I've said this before, we want to see incremental growth."

As a rookie, Wentz completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions — good for a passer rating of 79.3. If he steadily increases his play in 2017, there's a good chance he will become the first 4,000-yard passer in Eagles history.

What the Eagles really need out of Wentz is more consistency. He had five games during his rookie season with a passer rating of over 90, but he also had five games with a passer rating under 65.

Perhaps what will help his consistency and his growth are the Eagles' new weapons. This offseason, the team added Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount in free agency and drafted receivers Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson. Pederson said it will help Wentz to be able to rely on those players and the run game more in his second season.

"I don't want to keep a box on it," Pederson said. "I don't want to keep a lid on it. He thinks a lot like I do, sort of out-of-the-box thinkers, which is good to have. He's creative and just understanding the overall structure of the offense, the plays, the situational football. He'll be so much better in those areas. We'll see increases and incremental growth in his play this year just by observing that."

During the offseason, the thing most folks said was different about Wentz wasn't his mechanics — that he worked on with a private QB coach. Instead, the biggest difference was as a leader.

Sure, Wentz is considered to be a natural leader by Pederson and the coaching staff, so much so that Pederson hasn't had to direct him at all in terms of leading his teammates.

But there's a clear difference this year. Instead of being a third-string rookie preparing for a redshirt season, Wentz is the man. He even gathered his teammates in his home state of North Dakota last week for some workouts (see story).

As he enters Year 2, he's the unquestioned leader of the team.

Pederson pointed to Wentz's willingness to accept blame for mistakes as well as his excitement for teammates after they make a good play as examples of his leadership.

"I think those are steps you want to see from your young quarterback," Pederson said. "You've seen it with the greats in the game. You've seen it with the Peyton Mannings and the (Drew) Breeses and (Aaron) Rodgerses and Tom Bradys and those guys. You see it with those guys. And he's starting to apply that in his own way with the guys on the team.

"You've been around [Wentz] now for a year and you know he's got one of those sorts of infectious personalities, people sort of gravitate toward him because of his work ethic and that's what we've seen with him this spring."

NFL Notes: Ravens OL John Urschel, 26, retires after 3 seasons

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USA Today Images

NFL Notes: Ravens OL John Urschel, 26, retires after 3 seasons

OWINGS MILLS, Md.  -- Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has retired from the NFL after just three seasons.

Urschel, a former fifth round pick from Penn State in 2014, received notoriety for pursuing his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the offseason. He started 13 games over the past three seasons and was expected to compete for a starting role at center or guard. Instead, he will pursue other interests outside of football.

"This morning, John Urschel informed me of his decision to retire from football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in a statement Thursday. "We respect John and respect his decision. We appreciate his efforts over the past three years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Broncos: RB Devontae Booker expected to miss 6 weeks with wrist injury
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Broncos coach Vance Joseph's first training camp got off to a rough start with word that Devontae Booker will undergo wrist surgery Friday and is expected to miss six weeks.

Booker was pushing to unseat C.J. Anderson as Denver's starting running back. He suffered a hairline fracture during organized team activities in June, marring a solid spring for the second-year pro as he bounced back from a rough rookie season that followed two knee surgeries.

The Broncos had been planning to split first-team snaps at training camp between Booker and Anderson, who is returning from a torn meniscus that sidelined him over the last half of last season.

If Booker's recovery goes well, he will be back in time for the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 11 (see full story).

Vinny Curry healthy, feeling like himself at start of training camp

Vinny Curry healthy, feeling like himself at start of training camp

After signing a huge contract extension last February, the 2016 season was a major disappointment for Vinny Curry. 

Curry finished the year with just 2 1/2 sacks and played just 43 percent of the team's defensive snaps. That wasn't good enough production for a player who just signed a $46.25 million extension. 

On Wednesday, as Eagles veterans reported for training camp, Curry said he fought through injuries during the entire 2016 season. Curry sprained his MCL in the third preseason game and said the injury lingered, although he wasn't listed on the Eagles' injury report past the first few weeks of the season. Curry also claimed he dealt with a lingering hamstring injury. 

"It was just a snowball effect of different type of things," he said. "I couldn't do what I do at 100 percent. You could see a flash of it, but then I couldn't finish it. There was something just missing there. I fought through it, showed guts. This year, though, I'm feeling good, feeling healthy, feeling relaxed, feeling like myself."

Curry, 29, said he's now 100 percent healthy and expects to be the type of player the Eagles thought they were getting when they gave him a big contract extension last winter. 

After the Eagles handed out a huge contract to Curry, fans expected the type of production that saw him pick up nine sacks in a limited role in 2014. Instead, they got a part time player who finished with the second-lowest sack total of his career. There was a lot of criticism coming Curry's way in 2016. 

"I was able to block it out," he said. "We got a great PR team. But at the end of the day, we all know that I wasn't 100 percent, so it wasn't like I was hanging my head low. It is what it is. That's just sports. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody wants to be a GM or a reporter, or everybody wants to get ahead of the next person to report something. I could not play now and just start talking trash about you and it's not going to ruin your day. You're just going to be like 'oh, what's Vinny's problem?' " 

Last season, the Eagles tried to let Curry start as the team's left defensive end, but eventually Brandon Graham beat him out for the job during camp. During this spring, Curry took over Connor Barwin's old spot as the right defensive end. That's the way Graham sees things staying: Graham on the left, Curry on the right. (The Eagles also have Derek Barnett and Chris Long fighting for time.) 

"I think it's set in stone," Graham said. "I like the left side. Vinny playing on the right. I think sometimes you just want to switch, sometimes it's good to give people a different look. But I think it's pretty set."

The sides defensive ends play, especially in the NFC East, is extremely important. The right defensive end will constantly go up against left tackles, normally a spot that has the best player to protect the quarterback's blind side. In the NFC East, that means going against Washington's Trent Williams for two games and Dallas' Tyron Smith for two more. That means a quarter of the schedule is against one of the best left tackles in football. 

Is Curry up for it? 

"I think he'll be fine," Graham said. "It's all about, like anything, when I had to move to the right side, and play the left tackles, you get used to that side as you take reps and then you get that signature move that you like. And then you have to study your guy and know what he's been getting beaten off of and incorporate that for that week. I think with Vinny and the coaching that we have in that room, he should be really good in Year 2 of this system."

Does Curry have something to prove this year? 

"Just have to get back to being me," he said. "That's it."