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Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, Commanders’ Carson Wentz proclaim ‘mutual respect’

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Carson Wentz has been a hot topic of discussion at the NovaCare Complex.

The chatter about the Washington Commanders quarterback’s first game against his former team isn’t limited to the auditorium that holds news conferences or the locker room. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has been searching for an edge by polling Wentz’s former teammates and members of the organization familiar with his on-field tendencies as well.

“You don’t ever leave a stone unturned,” Sirianni said. “Just like, I think somebody asked me about the Hard Knocks, ‘Did you watch the Hard Knocks?’ Yeah, we were looking for information when we played [the Lions in Week 1]. Did we listen to [Vikings coach] Kevin O’Connell’s press conference? Yeah, I was looking for information. Am I going to ask the people in the building that are familiar with Carson about him? Yeah, I’m looking for information. That will be the same process.

“He’s doing a nice job over there from what I’ve seen,” Sirianni added. “He’s obviously thrown for a bunch of yards and we know that he can get hot and be really on.”

There are fewer players familiar with Wentz than might be suggested by the 19-month window since he was traded, but the Eagles became a team in transition after cutting bait with their 2016 No. 2 overall pick.

There are roughly two dozen current Eagles players who were on the 2020 roster for the 4-11-1 campaign in which Wentz struggled mightily, was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts in Week 13, and requested a trade in the aftermath of the season. Shortly after the Eagles hired Sirianni to replace Doug Pederson, they traded Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a third-round pick and a conditional pick that became a 2022 first-rounder.

The dynamic between Wentz and Hurts seemed awkward from an outside observer’s point of view, but Hurts said Wednesday the two of them have a cordial relationship.

“It’s definitely a mutual respect between the two of us,” Hurts said. “When he went to Indy and now here, there’s definitely a mutual respect and I wish him nothing but the best.”

Hurts was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft because of the Eagles’ prioritization of a quality backup quarterback. Even though Wentz had flashed potential to play at an MVP level, injuries caused the Eagles to turn to the No. 2 quarterback, either Nick Foles or Josh McCown, in the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.

Hurts was used as a change-of-pace quarterback on a couple of snaps most games but didn’t take over for a struggling Wentz until midway through the Eagles’ Week 13 game against the Green Bay Packers. He started the final four games of the season and went 1-3.

Hurts said the experience playing behind Wentz taught him to be patient, and he complimented Wentz’s arm strength and pocket maneuverings when asked what he learned from Wentz.

“I just saw he has a great arm,” Hurts said. “He’s a big guy, hard to tackle. He just makes kind of crazy plays in the pocket, so I definitely took notice of that when I was a rookie. And he still does it now, kind of ducking and dodging and weaving.”

When asked again about his relationship with Wentz while the two shared a quarterback room, Hurts said 2020 is behind him.

“I’m just going to say, we’re focused on the now,” Hurts said. “I’m focused on the now.”

Wentz was traded to Washington (1-1) after a disappointing finish to his one season with the Colts. He has completed 65.5% of his passes and thrown for 650 yards and seven touchdowns, with three interceptions. During a Wednesday news conference, Wentz also downplayed the significance of facing off against Hurts.

“It’s a different offense, it’s a different kind of everything,” Wentz said. “Again, we’re preparing to play their defense. They got a good defense, I know our defense will be up for the task of stopping him and that explosive offense that they have there. I don’t put a lot of stock into that. It’s a new team, a lot of new faces over there, so yeah, it’ll be a fun one either way, though.”

Wentz did concede there might be some extra emotion playing against the Eagles.

“We’ll find out,” he said. “I’m excited for it just because of the nature of the game. Obviously they’ve started hot. ... It’s a divisional rivalry, all of those things. I’ve been a part of this one, I know the emotion that goes into it from the other side, so I’m excited for it. But again, you try not to make the game bigger than it needs to be. Every week is a big week. It’s hard to win in this league. So, I know once that first kickoff goes, it will be football again and I’m excited for it.”

Hurts enters his first matchup against his former teammate coming off the best game of his career. The 24-year-old went 26-for-31 in Monday night’s 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings, and accounted for 390 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.

The prime-time performance was the type of showing that will go a long way toward proving Hurts deserves long-term consideration as the team’s quarterback. He threw accurately and decisively from the pocket while also wreaking havoc with his running ability against the Vikings and has looked much improved as a passer so far this season.

Sirianni said Hurts has made steady progress during the last two seasons, noting the quarterback is nowhere near his ceiling.

“I don’t think I know what his ceiling is yet,” he said. “I just continue to see him get better. I knew he had that in him, and again I’m not surprised by anything that Jalen does on the football field because I’ve seen him doing this all offseason, all training camp, practices, the meeting room. I see his growth just consistently all the time.

“Maybe to the outside world, it’s like, whoa,” Sirianni added. “I don’t think that surprises any of us in the building because we live with him everyday, we see him everyday and we see the growth everyday, not only on the football field but on the practice field and in the meeting room.”

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