QB Carson Wentz embracing new role as Patrick Mahomes’ backup

Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since this is the first time he’s gone into a season as an NFL backup quarterback, Carson Wentz is still searching for the proper way to go about his job.

It’s not only about preparing himself to play anymore. He also has to support Patrick Mahomes as best he can.

“We’re still early,” Wentz said shortly before the Chiefs ended their offseason practice. “We’re only in here a handful of hours every day and a couple days a week and it’s not quite the grind that it will be. So that’ll keep evolving and kind of how I find my place, so to speak. But Pat and I already have a great relationship and that’ll keep growing and I’ll keep finding ways I can help.

“I’ll find a way to help him whatever way I can, whether that’s off the field, on the field, whatever.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid prefers to have a veteran with years of NFL experience as a backup for Mahomes, mostly to give him a study partner and sounding board for things he might be seeing in the video room or on the practice or game field as he goes through his preparation. The Chiefs have had veterans Chad Henne, Matt Moore and Blaine Gabbert serve as Mahomes’ backups before Wentz.

Wentz, who signed with the Chiefs during the offseason, was with the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons from 2016-2020. The Chiefs are now his fifth NFL team, and fourth in as many seasons. He made 93 starts in eight seasons with the Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Commanders and Los Angeles Rams.

“I thought Blaine did a nice job of [helping Mahomes] when he was here last year,” Reid said. “Carson I know did a nice job when he worked with the Rams [last season], had a nice game for him actually when he played for them right at the end there. We welcome him in. We talked to him last year when we were talking to Blaine and he was holding off for an opportunity to possibly start. It was good to get him in this position and if he has an opportunity to play, he has an opportunity to play.

“Carson looks sharp. He’s picking things up fast, smart guy, and he fits in well. Seems like a heck of a person, and he’s good in that [quarterback] room.”

The manner in which Mahomes needs help from his backup quarterback has changed considerably since he became a starter in 2018. Henne, the backup that year, said he helped Mahomes then with a lot of basic principles.

“Especially early on with film study and identifying defenses, it was definitely beneficial,” Henne said. “With his offense in college, the spread offense, there’s not a lot of protection schemes going on so he had to learn that.

“But then he took over at some point. After that, we would still challenge ourselves. We challenged ourselves in the film room, the study room and even on the field. When we would watch a third-down blitz tape, especially if it was an exotic team like Baltimore, we’d turn on the tape and he’d be, ‘OK, Chad, where’s it coming from?’ He’d use the indicators that we talked about early in his career and then we’d battle it out to see who would figure it out first.”

Henne, who retired last year, said playing with Mahomes helped him become a better player, even though it was late in his career.

“Obviously, he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks ever,” Henne said. “The arm angles, the way he moves, the way he creates, made me push myself. I was an old-school, dropback passer. Playing with him taught me the spread offense and space awareness rather than going one, two, three on my reads.

“I saw what he sees and I was like, ‘Man, if I had known that when I was younger it would have made me a lot better.'”

Wentz joined the Chiefs with more accomplishments than Henne had when he arrived in 2018. He was having an MVP-caliber season with the Eagles in 2017 with 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions before he tore his ACL late in the season.

But he said he’s had much the same experience as Henne, even though he’s been teammates with Mahomes for just a few months.

“He just processes the game really quickly,” Wentz said. “He calls protections, he’s in and out of the huddle and throwing anticipatory throws, all that stuff, all that stuff you see from afar. But it’s just fun to see it and in some respects just see different windows on plays that maybe you didn’t see before because he’s playing so quickly out there.”

For his part, Mahomes indicated Wentz has fit well into a Chiefs quarterback group that also includes two younger players, Chris Oladokun and Ian Book.

“It’s been great, honestly,” Mahomes said. “You see why he was on pace to win the MVP. The guy can make every throw. He’s very smart, intelligent, asks a lot of great questions and he’s been in similar offenses before so it’s easy for him to pick it up.”

Wentz acknowledged that being a backup has been a difficult transition. He wasn’t ready to accept the backup role when the Chiefs tried to sign him last year. He accepted this year only after it became obvious he wouldn’t get a job as a starter.

He signed a contract for one year only in the hope he’ll be able to compete for a starting job elsewhere next year.

“It’s different,” Wentz said. “I’m not going to lie.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can, formulate a relationship with all these guys and just keep getting better on the field . . . You’ve got to always be ready to go when called upon, so it’s no different in that regard.”

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