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McFeely: Yes, Wentz has a flaw; he needs to learn how to slide

CHICAGO--As a junior at North Dakota State, Carson Wentz once ran over a Youngstown State defensive back in the Fargodome by lowering his shoulder and destroying the poor kid near the goal line en route to scoring a touchdown.

Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz runs past Chicago Bears' outside linebacker Willie Young during the fourth-quarter on Monday, September 19, 2016 in Chicago. DAVD MAIALETTI / Philadelphia Daily News
Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz runs past Chicago Bears' outside linebacker Willie Young during the fourth-quarter on Monday, September 19, 2016 in Chicago. DAVD MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

CHICAGO-As a junior at North Dakota State, Carson Wentz once ran over a Youngstown State defensive back in the Fargodome by lowering his shoulder and destroying the poor kid near the goal line en route to scoring a touchdown.

After the game, The Forum's sports writer Jeff Kolpack asked Bison coach Chris Klieman whether his quarterback would be well-advised to avoid such contact and perhaps slide to avoid getting hit.

"No. Why?" Klieman said. "Their kid left the game, not Carson."

Indeed, the unfortunate recipient of the Wentz's 6-foot-5, 225-pound freight train hit was injured on the play and did not return.

That play was show over and over-and over-during the run-up to last spring's NFL Draft. Wentz steamrolling a defensive player.

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It was that way throughout Wentz's two years as a college starter. If he had a chance to take on a smaller defender, he would. The extra yard or two-or perhaps just doling out punishment-was more important than the thought of an injury.

Hint to Carson now that you're in the NFL: Learn to slide. Or fall. Or run out of bounds. Or all of the above.

Now a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles, Wentz apparently has not learned the NFL is not the FCS and he can't take on defensive players with reckless abandon like he did while playing for the Bison.

Well, he can. But at some point it is going to be costly. Wentz took a couple of big, unnecessary hits in his debut against the Cleveland Browns a week ago. He did it again on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears.

The Eagles are 2-0. Wentz has been excellent. He is the toast of Philadelphia and the famous ESPN talking-head types are falling all over Wentz with praise.

It's enough to make the most level-headed young man from Bismarck, N.D., feel invincible.

But Wentz has to learn that he's not.

Twice against the Bears he had a chance to avoid a hit while scrambling for a few yards. Twice he took hits, which means he made the wrong decision twice.

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"I'm my own worst critic. I came off after those plays and was kind of crabby at myself as well. Those are the things that I've got to keep working on," Wentz said. "Everybody is making their mistakes, we have to clean up some things. But that's one thing I'm really going to emphasize to myself."

Wentz got flattened along the sideline in the second quarter when he didn't get out of bounds quickly enough and Chicago's Danny Trevathan hammered him to his back. The quarterback bounced up quickly.

In the third quarter, trying to run for a first down on third and 10, Wentz scrambled for seven yards and didn't slide. Instead, Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis cut Wentz's legs out from under him, sending the quarterback whirling into the air.

"After the first one and then the second one, you just continue to talk to him about protecting himself," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "We had those conversations on the sideline. He understands. It's something that we have to continue to keep talking to him. It's not that I need that extra yard right now. I just need him to protect himself. Get out of bounds when you can, throw it away when you can and use that to his favor."

The point is emphasized more because Wentz continues to take hits in the pocket, too. The Philadelphia offensive line has not necessarily protected him well and Wentz, to his credit, hangs tough in the pocket. He completed several passes against the Bears after which he was knocked to the ground. Such is life as an NFL quarterback. You're not going to go untouched.

That's why it's important to minimize hits when you don't need to take them. Wentz is going to take enough of them already over the course of his first season and his career.

Pederson is doing everything he can to get the ball out of Wentz's hands as quickly as possible in a quick-rhythm passing game.

Now it's up to the quarterback to return the favor to his coach and avoid getting hit.

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Slide. Or fall. Or run out of bounds. Do something besides what you're doing.

Pederson and his assistant coaches are telling Wentz that. So are Eagles players.

"Absolutely. They did. My teammates did. I'm mad at myself," Wentz said. "Those are things that as a young quarterback, I just have to keep working on."

Related Topics: CARSON WENTZFOOTBALL
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