Carson Wentz Needs to Learn How to Protect Himself in NFL

Carson Wentz wasn't always a quarterback. 

In fact, during his first year playing football as a fifth-grader in Bismarck, North Dakota, Wentz was forced to play running back. 

"I wanted to play quarterback, but they let the other kid for some reason," Wentz said after his press conference on Friday at the NovaCare Complex. "And they just gave me the ball every time instead."

That other kid's name was Mike. 

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Mike will forever hold the distinction of being the starting quarterback during Wentz's first year of organized football. Eventually, of course, Wentz got to play quarterback and was pretty good at it - good enough to eventually be the second overall pick to the Eagles in the 2016 draft. 

As for Mike, well, Wentz isn't sure what happened to him. 

Good or bad, Wentz never really lost the mentality of a running back, he admitted. At North Dakota State, he often became a runner, racking up over 1,000 yards rushing with a 4.8 yards-per-attempt average.

The 6-5, 237-pound quarterback would often lower his shoulder to pick up an extra few yards. That was fine playing against FCS competition, but it won't fly in the NFL. It's the kind of thing the Eagles are going to want to eliminate from his game now that they've invested a great deal in the franchise quarterback. 

"I would say the number one thing with him is learning how to protect himself," head coach Doug Pederson said on Thursday night. "He's in the National Football League. I love his aggressiveness when he's running out of the pocket. I think it's part of who he is, it's part of his chemistry, but in the National Football League there's going to come a time when you've got to get down or out of bounds and those are some things that he'll learn as he goes."

The difference between Wentz's running hard in college and his approach to the NFL will, in part, be in the play calls. The Bison had plays that were designed runs for Wentz - in those plays, Wentz said he felt like he took on the role of a running back once he started to run. 

Another thing: Wentz doesn't know how to slide. It seems simple enough, but he isn't the first Eagles quarterback to lack the skill. Remember Nick Foles and Michael Vick? 

Instead of sliding, Wentz has been known to dive, something he thought he got better at last year as a senior. Even dating back to his high school baseball days - which Wentz said were a long time ago - he admitted he was a dive-head-first kind of guy. 

A reporter in the crowd suggested that maybe Wentz's older brother, Zach, could perhaps teach him. After all, Zach is moving to Philly with his younger brother and played college baseball. "I could probably ask him for some pointers," Wentz said with a smirk. 

Jokes aside, the Eagles need Wentz to protect himself more in the NFL. A quarterback is only as good as when he's healthy enough to play, so reducing the unnecessary blows is of the utmost importance.

"There's different ways of protecting yourself," Wentz said, shortly after admitting he didn't know how to slide. "It's going down, it's falling down, it's going out of bounds, it's sliding. I mean, it is what it is. But I'm going to learn how to protect myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to get hit either."

Neither do the Eagles.

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