Al Thompson
Lane Johnson says this Eagles team is the best he’s seen since becoming an Eagle. Photo by Todd Bauders / contrastphotography.com

A NFL player’s rookie season is one of discovery, trial and error and the process of finding his way to get acclimated to playing with the best players and coaches in the sport.

That first season players often stumble through drills trying to figure out what do do and why it helps them prepare for the season.

Eagles young quarterback Carson Wentz when through that process of learning drills and learning plays while becoming a leader at the same time. It showed on the field sometimes: a missed target, a turnover and on occasion, some confusion.

After getting picked with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Wentz ended up at first as the third string quarterback throughout OTAs, mini-camp and training camp.

Wentz progress was put on hold after got hurt and missed all the preseason games.

His rookie campaign became even more challenging after the Eagles traded starter Sam Bradford. Wentz was thrust into the starting role just eight days before the opener.

He survived to become what many believe to be a franchise quarterback.

This year Wentz goes through OTA drills with much more fluidity and self-assurance, qualities that come with experience.

Veterans on the team have noticed.

“His leadership and his confidence in himself, he’s way more ahead (than last year),” starting left guard Allen Barbre said after an OTA practice. “You [media] guys can probably see it as well. He’s confident in what he’s doing and knows a lot more. He understands the whole offense, so he’s light years ahead of where he was.”

Including the drills.

“He knows everything with the drills,” Barbre said. “Just like everybody else, once you get in the routine, once you understand how it works, you’re naturally going to do better.”

Tackle Lane Johnson agreed.

“He’s been confident since day one but I think just having that year under his belt, all those reps and having so much more (experience), I just felt like the confidence is there even more than it was last year,” Johnson said. “You can just see it every day in what he does.”

Both offensive linemen are trying to back in the groove. Barbre missed the end of last season and the first few OTA practices with a leg injury. Johnson missed 10 games in 2016 for second failed test for PEDs.

The 32-year old Barbre was glad to be on the field on last few days of the OTAs.

“It was good to be out there and moving around,” Barbre said. “I was getting back out there working with the guys, I enjoyed it. I hadn’t gotten to do a lot of drill work so it was good to get comfortable, get my feet under me and feet under me and get used to moving around again.”

Barbre talked about one of the biggest moves the Eagles made when they acquired LeGarrette Blount.

Barbre admits Blount make the Eagles different in many ways.

“Most definitely,” Barbre said. “He’s a power running back, he’s a big running back, great feet. He moves well from side to side. He can run the ball downhill …that helps a bunch.”

According to Barbre, Blount can help the offensive line with his size and elusiveness.

“He takes a little pressure off the o-line,” Barbre said. “I’ve seen him go one-on-one with guys and handle them by himself. Most of the time there’s one guy unblocked. He can handle that.”

Johnson said he like the chippy nature of these OTAs, especially with rookies like defensive lineman Derek Harper, taken with the 14th overall pick out of Tennessee. “His bend is incredible,” Johnson said.

“Doug’s (head coach Pederson) been stressing competition the whole time,” Johnson said. “Even today, (Jason) Kelce got in a little scuffle, the defense was chattering, we were chattering and at the end of the day it’s just going to make out team better. That’s what we need.”

Johnson said the more these units test each other, the more they hold each other accountable, the better off the team will be in the long run.

“This is the best I’ve seen the team look since I’ve been here,” Johnson said. “I’m confident. I’m not talking out of my ass. I feel like we’re in a good spot.”

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

10 Jun 17 - College football, Football, NFL - Al Thompson - No Comments