The scene shift said plenty about Carson Wentz's rather rapid ascension into a power position.
During the break before training camp last season, under the direction of Sam Bradford, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks and skill position players gathered in sunny San Diego to get a jump on chemistry-building. (Mark Sanchez chose California for the site of "Eagles West" the year before, too). That was back when Bradford was on top of the depth chart and Wentz was in an awkward spot as an heir-apparent third-stringer.
The show now his, Wentz moved the gathering to his own back yard, asking his teammates to join him in Fargo, North Dakota, during a precious break week.
"They all flew in and they were like, 'What the heck is this place? What’s going on?' " Wentz told the local media following a training session earlier this month on the North Dakota State practice fields. "But they love it. It means a lot that we got this many guys to come out."
"These guys will do anything for Carson," head coach Doug Pederson said as the makeshift minicamp was going on. "They went to Fargo. That's great."
It's another piece of evidence that points to Wentz's growing clout in the Eagles' locker room. Some of that is to be expected. He is the quarterback and a former No. 2 overall pick, after all, and enjoys the full backing of management. It's common sense that if you want to be a part of the ride, you better get on the Wentz Wagon. That said, this is a business where respect is absolutely earned and not given. You don't have to hang around this team long to realize that the respect for Wentz is sincere and far-reaching, which has allowed the 24-year-old to assume a key leadership role in fairly short order.
This despite an inconsistent showing his rookie year. Wentz started out red-hot, becoming the first rookie in NFL history with a touchdown pass and no interceptions in each of his first three games to start a season. He threw five TDs with no picks during that stretch. He followed that up by tossing 11 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions over the team's final 13 games, however, the fourth-worst ratio over that span per ESPN Stats & Information.
According to Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, the players' faith in Wentz was built not as a result of a given play, but because of the command he demonstrated both pre- and post-snap, in good sequence and bad.
"Those guys knew he knew exactly what to do on every play," DeFilippo said. "Now, did we execute the play all the time the way we wanted to? No, we didn't. But they see his confidence, his growth."
DeFilippo added that the way Wentz works and conducts himself day-to-day "has gained him a lot of credibility with our team." Wentz is said to get there before dawn and linger longer than most of his peers. A team employee once joked that some refer to Wentz as "a ghost" who is rarely seen in the NovaCare Complex because he is always holed up in one of the meeting rooms devouring film. Of course, that was during a year when Wentz was making the jump from North Dakota State to the pros and was handed the keys to the car eight days before the start of the season as a result of the Bradford trade to the Minnesota Vikings.
Now that he is in calmer waters, Wentz can exhale and expand his focus.
"Last year [I was] just trying to get my bearings straight, barely knew where the locker room was, a lot of things going on, it was pretty wild," he said earlier this offseason. "So now it's just really just focusing on these guys, focusing on this playbook and how we can start building something special."
His teammates and coaches have noticed a jump in comfort and confidence in the early stages of Year 2. It is the first thing that is mentioned almost anytime Wentz comes up. The quarterback concedes the point. Not that he has ever lacked for confidence, but a greater understanding of the system and his environment has naturally upped his comfort level.
"You can just see it every day in what he does," right tackle Lane Johnson said.
So, too, has the infusion of talent at the skill positions, no doubt. The benefit of having weapons like Jeffery and Smith was already on display during practice this spring and could very well translate into a bump in productivity in 2017.
Pederson is keeping the public expectations in check, saying that the coaching staff wants to see "incremental growth" in Wentz's second season. But with a full 16 games under his belt and an upgraded supporting cast, there is at least a hope that Wentz will take some real significant strides forward.
When it comes to his overall standing in the locker room, he already has.
"It's come very naturally, organically," Wentz said. "As a quarterback here, being a leader kind of goes hand-in-hand. So I've been looking forward to that, and I feel that's continuing to grow every day."