Anatomy of a Big Play: Wentz to Clement
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — A couple of weeks ago Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich explained that Carson Wentz knows what he wants on the football field.
"Yeah, assertiveness isn't his issue at all," Reich joked. "He's got plenty of assertiveness."
That manifested itself Monday night against Washington when the Eagles' dialed up a play the second-year quarterback had success with in college at North Dakota State and the result was a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Corey Clement on a convoluted wheel route where the rookie running back was the third progression.
The mechanics of the play were something Wentz felt comfortable with at NDSU so he pitched the idea to Doug Pederson and Reich, who in turn not only put it into the game plan against the Redskins but also went to it at a key moment.
"That's accurate," Rich said when asked about Wentz lobbying for the play.
“Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes you have to find it, you have to call NDSU to get the old film out so I can show them what’s kind of going on, then kind of run it in practice and then convince them on it,” Wentz explained at his weekly press conference on Thursday.
It's rare that a player who has only 23 NFL starts under his belt is pitching plays to his coaches but those kins of intangible traits are the ones that have turned Wentz into a legitimate MVP candidate as the leader of the team with the NFL's best record through Week 7 (6-1).
“It’s cool to have that relationship, that dynamic with Coach Reich, with Coach Pederson, that they respect my opinion and when I bring them things like that," Wents said. "So yeah, it’s definitely a great play. Obviously, it’s been effective for us. I love that relationship that we can just bring up those ideas.”
Reich himself mentioned the play a day earlier as Wentz avoided a strong pass rush and went to his baseball toolbox to sidearm to ball to Clement, who turned up his flat route and made a brilliant catch by tapping his toes to remain in bounds.
“I’ll tell you what, as coaches, we tend not to be too easily impressed,” Reich said. “What impresses us is consistency over the long haul. But I have to say that the touchdown pass to Corey I was impressed.”
Why was Reich so impressed?
"What's also impressive about it, and here's what happens when you're not only athletically really good, but you're mentally really good, is you have to be able to make that decision and know that that guy is going to be where he's going to be at," the OC explained. "And so it was that combination of physical ability to make the play, but also the mental ability to understand the dynamics of what was happening in that moment."
Reich, who backed up Hall of Famer Jim Kelly for many years and also tutored potential future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers, was asked how many QBs could make a play like that?
"You know, not many. Not many," he answered. "I think that's why Carson was drafted where he was drafted, because you could see those qualities in him as a college player. Glad to see that translating to this level."
Reich was also quick to laud the back end of the TD as well.
"That catch was a great catch. It wasn't a good catch, that was a great catch," Reich said. "How [Clement] got his feet down, how he adjusted to the ball, [it was] not a catch that you would have expected him to make. So a credit to him, and Corey is just a football player. I mean, that's what we've seen from day one with him. He loves ball, just love seeing him on the field. That was a big play."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen