Commanders’ new QB1 Carson Wentz settles in as training camp begins

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Carson Wentz got into it early on during organized team activities and a minicamp, and he got an even better feel for it during a brief trip to California this month.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday morning, when Washington COs opened training camp in Ashburn, that their new quarterback made his biggest strides toward building relationships with his teammates.

“In the beginning for me, it’s just finding that timing and that chemistry with the guys,” Wentz said. “You get a little bit in the spring. You get a little in the summer on your own. But now that you’re here against defence… just understanding guys and how they come in and out of breaks, in and out of cuts, finding that chemistry so I can get the ball out in time where it needs to be and just start to working that chemistry with those guys – that’s really the focus for me from the start. But also to build this culture, this chemistry, with all the guys on and off the pitch.

Wentz continues to answer questions about his past after being traded twice in two years, by the Philadelphia Eagles and later by the Indianapolis Colts. His sometimes erratic game as a quarterback is also often questioned. Commanders, however, repeatedly asserted that they considered him a significant added value, largely due to his athleticism, strong arm, and prototypical build for his position.

“What he does day to day will tell me everything I need to know about him,” said defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, team captain. “He arrived, he worked, he got involved in the team and he is exactly what we expect from a quarterback. So I have no questions. … He gave me no reason to doubt him.

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But among Wentz’s biggest tests, in large part because of his past, he will make that connection with his teammates – on and off the pitch.

“For me, it’s seventh year. Things are different,” Wentz said. [it’s a] relatively young team, younger dressing room. So how do you build relationships? … Every locker room looks different, but you just have to be intentional and build that chemistry and relationship over time. There’s a lot of great guys in there, and it’s been fun getting to know them.

Wentz was introduced to organized team activities and a minicamp in the spring. Then, in early July, after wide receiver Terry McLaurin signed his lucrative three-year contract extension, the two lined up in California with a handful of teammates for pitching sessions.

For a few days at Huntington Beach, Wentz and fellow quarterback Taylor Heinicke ran with tight end Cole Turner, running back Antonio Gibson and wide Jahan Dotson, Cam Sims, Dax Milne and McLaurin.

“I think it was beneficial to go on the court, obviously, for a few days and then start building that chemistry that I talked about,” Wentz said of the workout. “But also, just off the field, going to dinner with every guy, going to lunch, lunch. Just be around them. Go and just have fun with the guys, get to know each guy, where we’re from, what we like, what our hobbies are.

“Guys are in different seasons of life. I have two children and [am] married, and [there are] lots of singles, and there’s just a different kind of atmosphere. Getting together and kind of building a relationship was a lot of fun.

What did Wentz learn? McLaurin likes to golf and Dotson, a rookie, “does nothing but play video games.”

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But learning their style and timing on the pitch continues to be a work in progress.

Wentz will be McLaurin’s eighth starting quarterback, and without spring training reps to help smooth the edges or fix timing issues, the two are just getting started.

Typically, Wentz said, a quarterback can tell early on if he’ll have a good connection with a receiver. Sometimes it takes time to build.

“Everyone is unique. Everyone is different,” he said. “Some days you come here and you’re going to have like 20 rehearsals with the guys. Some days you won’t have a single one. And so that’s part of it. But you start seeing the tendencies of the guys early on and start to understand how they come in and out, what they do well and how we can work together. And so I like what I see there. I think we have a dynamic group and a lot of very good playmakers We just gotta find a way to get it into their hands; I gotta find a way to get it into their hands and let them play their games.

During team drills on Wednesday, Wentz and McLaurin already seemed to have a good connection, which started during their time in California. But it is not yet a clean operation.

On one play, Wentz threw a deep ball down the right sideline which McLaurin caught with both hands while falling backwards to evade a defender. On another play, Wentz kicked the ball low, but McLaurin dove to pick it up just before it hit the ground.

“Him and Terry was pretty cool to see,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He threw one over there; Terry went there and got it. And then another, he threw a little behind Terry. And I’m like, ‘Wow, he missed that.’ But Terry came and said, ‘Hey, I got out of this too soon.’ So you can see that they already communicate with each other, which was really cool.

Gibson spent the majority of Wednesday’s practice on the side court with coaches. He had to deal with a hamstring issue in the spring, so the team plans to “step him up” in training camp, Rivera said.

“We’re not going to throw him out right away and do something,” the coach said. “We want to make sure there’s nothing left. So I would almost call it an abundance of caution.

In Gibson’s absence, rookie Brian Robinson Jr. took nearly all of the first-team reps.

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