Carson Wentz stepped to the podium next to the NovaCare practice fields Tuesday much more relaxed and poised and confident than he was last summer during his first training-camp chat with reporters.
Sixteen rookie starts and 600-plus pass attempts will do that for a quarterback. So will an offseason without the nonstop craziness that goes along with being the second pick in the draft.
“It’s been a huge difference,’’ he said. “Mentally, I’m just in a way better place. I know what to expect. Know the routine.
“This summer, I was chomping at the bit to get back here. Last year, I was just trying to breathe because it was such a whirlwind offseason.’’
Whirlwind offseason: His whirlwind offseason was followed by a whirlwind summer that saw him suffer a hairline rib fracture in the Eagles’ first preseason game that sidelined him for the rest of the preseason.
No biggie, since he was supposed to spend his rookie season watching and learning as the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel.
Except that, eight days before the start of the season, the Eagles traded Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings and made Wentz the starter.
“That was weird,’’ Wentz said. “It was tough missing roughly half of camp and then having eight days to prepare (for the season opener against Cleveland).
“It was just kind of a microcosm of the whole offseason. Just a whirlwind. Things happened so fast.”
Things have slowed down a lot in Year 2.
“This year, not only having an offseason, but having 16 games under my belt (has made a big difference),’’ Wentz said. “Going through the whole season (last year), knowing what to expect, getting that experience, and now coming through the offseason as the No. 1 guy, I’m just in a whole different place mentally.’’
Busy offseason: It’s not as if he spent the offseason on a couch in Fargo. He went deer hunting in New Zealand and did missionary work in Haiti and a whole bunch of other stuff.
But unlike last year’s frenetic predraft schedule, there was a pace to the last seven months. And plenty of opportunities to breathe.
The Eagles are all-in with Wentz as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. His rookie season was a mixed bag. Most of his numbers weren’t very impressive. He finished 25th in passer rating, 29th in yards per attempt, 30th in touchdown percentage, 18th in interception percentage.
But the Eagles upgraded the cast around him in the offseason, adding a slew of wide receivers and running backs in free agency and the draft.
“I just want to continue to build that chemistry [with the receivers],’’ Wentz said when asked what his main training-camp focus will be. “Obviously now that we have a couple of new pieces and have been working together in the offseason, you want to keep building that chemistry, that camaraderie.
“Just being sharp in everything. Finding the checkdowns. The details for me are the biggest thing you want to continue to refine. You’re never a finished product.’’
Building chemistry: In the interest of chemistry building, Wentz hosted eight of the team’s wide receivers in North Dakota early this month. They spent three days hanging out together, eating bison burgers, paddleboarding, golfing, and, oh yeah, throwing the football around.
“It went great,’’ he said. “We had a lot of fun. We got some really good work in on the field there at North Dakota State.
“Then we went to the lake and golfed, which was a disaster. I’ve never seen so many swings-and-misses on a golf course before. With eight guys, it took us about 4½ hours to play a best-ball scramble.
“But it was good to get that bonding time in, both on the field and off the field.’’
Jeffery a key: No wideout is going to be more important to the improvement of the Eagles’ passing game this season than Alshon Jeffery.
The 6-3, 218-pound Jeffery is a dangerous red-zone weapon. The Eagles finished a disappointing 24th in red-zone touchdown percentage last season.
“Alshon has tremendous ball skills,’’ quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “The way he can track a football in the air. Go up with one hand and get a ball.
“The thing that’s very comforting for a quarterback is when a receiver has a big catching radius. Where you don’t have to be pinpoint-accurate all the time. Because it’s hard. There’s a guy in your face. You’re trying to find lanes.
“When you can throw a guy open and feel confident that he’s going to be able to extend his hands outside his body to catch the football, that gives you a lot of confidence as a quarterback.’’
Said Wentz: “With Alshon, it’s not only his catch radius. He’s also got the strongest pair of hands I’ve ever seen. The thing with Alshon and I, we just need to keep building that chemistry, keep building that relationship.’’