There are a lot of narratives that have divided the NFL community when it comes to the opinion of Carson Wentz. This will be a weekly installment that focuses solely on the Eagles’ young signal caller, with analysis, evidence and statistics along with context to provide a deep dive on Wentz’s play.
Welcome back to the Wentz report. For all previous Wentz Reports, make sure to check back here. Another week, another outstanding game from Carson Wentz who has solidified himself as the MVP front-runner nearly halfway through his sophomore season. We’re now at the point to where it feels as though every time Wentz steps on the field, the Eagles are going to score points. That’s a feeling fans of teams with quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady get. No distance feels too long and no team feels unbeatable. Now, onto what gives fans that feeling.
As usual, this is a subjective stat that touches on every aspect of Wentz’s game. Over the last three games — in 85 combined passing attempts — I have charted Wentz at only two interceptable passes, and that includes this game. You can find the previous interceptable passes in the attached link above.
I know the term “arm punt” was thrown out for this one, but on second down I wouldn't necessarily say this was the case. Wentz may have been chucking deep to see if they could draw a flag or to possibly give Torrey Smith a chance to make a play, but Smith’s route didn't break that deep and the defensive back became the receiver. Either way the Eagles were deep in their own territory, so situationally it makes a little sense to try that, but the best opportunity would have likely been if Wentz had led Smith across field as opposed to upfield.
As you can see, the safety gave up the inside leverage as Wentz was beginning his windup and Smith had the corner beat inside. If Wentz leads Smith across the field as he did with Agholor against the Cardinals, there’s little chance the safety recovers enough to make a play on the ball. Wentz doesn't do that and caps off a mistakes filled drive.
Pre-snap reads and progressions
Carson Wentz has completely blown away the perception that many evaluators knocked him for last year and that is that he locks onto his first target consistently. While he did struggle with that during November and December last year, he’s consistently shown the ability to move from read-to-read. Part of what has allowed him to be successful is his work before the snap. Wentz is identifying defenses based on pre-snap alignment or motion and changing plays or using route combinations to one side of the field to help him diagnose a coverage which allows him to anticipate where to go with the ball when he moves back to the other side.
Pre-snap Wentz is scanning the field during his cadence. On his left, he sees Ertz one-on-one against a safety. Brett Kollman did a video on Wentz this week, in which he made a key coverage alignment point. When a safety is matched up on a tight end, that’s usually a good indicator of man coverage. If it’s a corner, it’s likely zone. Wentz sees this as he’s scanning and the play call is perfect. Trey Burton, next to Alshon Jeffery who is split out wide, is running a rub concept that forces Jeffey’s man to navigate through traffic. This springs Jeffery open for Wentz, but he knew that would be open immediately based on the coverage look.
Here you can see Wentz changing things up pre-snap. He moves Corey Clement over and uses a play fake to bring the underneath defenders up. This causes a momentary hesitation which allows Nelson Agholor to slip in behind the safety for a touchdown. He puts it up high to ensure it doesn't get batted down in the crowded part of the field and Agholor hauls it in. It looks like he notices a Cover 3 look pre-snap, which is what allows this to work. With Cover 2 in the short field, the safety is likely there to make a play on Agholor or the ball. Most teams will go to Cover 2 in the red zone because in a congested area you get more defenders underneath that crowd the field and there’s not as much field to defend. Kudos to Wentz for identifying the coverage pre-snap and changing to a play that takes advantage of this.
Again pre-snap it looks like he’s identifying the single-high coverage and changes the play to add play-action. Washington ends up coming out in man coverage and the play fake brings the linebackers up. Ertz, who has been phenomenal this year against man coverage and in the middle of the field, wins off the line and Wentz gets the ball to him immediately.
You can’t hear it, but Wentz kills the play pre-snap. He may have killed from one passing play to another. The passing concept they run here is called the double China, with the two outside defenders running short in routes and receiver in a nasty split running a corner route. Wentz is looking to see what the safety does. When he crunches down on Ertz, Wentz is going to the corner route with Alshon Jeffery. Unfortunately, Wentz doesn't throw a very good ball here and Jeffery hardly has a chance at all to make a play on it. The Eagles run this play well, as Zach Ertz scored on it Week 17 against the Cowboys last season on a play I broke down here.
Again, you can see Wentz’s work pre-snap as he’s changing things up, likely based on the single-high coverage he gets pre-snap. This tells him that he’s likely to get a one-on-one situation for Alshon Jeffery. A beautiful fade pass is put where only Jeffery can make a play on it towards the sideline.
This was another game where Wentz was able to find his first read often because of his pre-snap work, but when he was forced to cycle through, he did so efficiently. Early on in the game when he was taking sacks, receivers weren't getting separation even as he was working through his reads. Credit to Washington for tying the receivers up and forcing Wentz to hold it, but again when his first read wasn't there, he didn't panic or lock on. In the GIF above, Mack Hollins is likely the last read in this progression. This is similar to the three-level stretch plays I've discussed in earlier Wentz reports, where the vertical route to used to just clear space and serve as a decoy. Alshon Jeffery at the second level is likely the first read with the underneath receiver to that side of the field as the safety blanket. The safety bites on Hollins’ double move and Hollins slips past him. As soon as Hollins gets into his break and the safety lays off, Wentz notices it immediately and fires deep. A perfect strike for the longest pass in two years, according to Matt Harmon and Next Gen Stats, leads to six points and the Eagles’ first touchdown of the evening.
Again, just another stellar job of working through your progressions and knowing where each receiver is going to be on a play. Wentz starts off reading left, moves back right and pressure arrives right on. Wentz doesn't let the pressure completely disrupt and delivers another good pass to Corey Clement who did an outstanding job of hauling in the ball and keeping his feet in bounds.
Managing the pocket
Wentz took sacks in this game early, but part of that can be attributed to the inability of receivers to get open. On the first sack, all of the receivers are running stick routes. Zach Ertz, who he wants to go to is covered, and Wentz — in a step of growth — does good not to force the ball for a potential turnover. Before he can move on, the pressure arrives off the edge and drops him.
Again, at the top of Wentz’s drop nobody is open and the linebacker has a free rush at Carson Wentz on the blitz. Lane Johnson doesn't slide to pick him up because he’s concerned with Ryan Kerrigan who has dropped into coverage. The immediate pressure forces Wentz outside the pocket and destroys the structure of the play. What Wentz should've done is kept rolling outside the pocket and attempt to pick up yards before going out of bounds, or just throw it away. Instead he tries to elude the rush and takes an unnecessary sack that forced the Eagles out of field goal range for a play.
Just another poor decision by Wentz. He eludes the first rusher and resets his feet, but he has to see the next one coming and be aware of the one behind him. The smart play would've been to just throw it away and avoid the hit altogether. I don’t want Wentz to play scared, but I would prefer for him to play safe and avoid hits if possible. A QB injury is part of why the Eagles are currently NFC favorites, so I’d like for Wentz to take better care of himself.
Throwing with accuracy and anticipation
Starting off with this throw to Ertz is a no-brainer. Wentz was throwing to a spot and essentially throwing Zach Ertz open. The best passers in the league to do this. Take Tom Brady for example. It’s often discussed how his receivers are shifty and always open, but a quarterback plays just as big of a part in that as the receiver does. Brady is excellent at throwing his guys open into space, and we’re seeing Wentz add that part to his game and flash it on a consistent basis. Here Wentz hits Ertz perfectly in stride and puts touch on this ball which doesn't allow the trailing defender to make a play on it and allows Ertz to secure more YAC.
We’re seeing Wentz get better at this play as well. Agholor is freed up as the play fake brings the linebackers up and Wentz puts it in a position that leads him. Last week against the Panthers, Wentz put this pass behind Agholor which was a touch adjustment that he couldn't make. Here, Wentz puts it out in front and the Eagles keep the chains the moving.
Wentz doesn't struggle for arm strength, but that being said, this is still a tough throw. From the opposite hash, this ball travels about 21 yards downfield to the far sideline and it leads Nelson Agholor perfectly to the sideline. Wentz doesn't even get the opportunity to step into this throw, making it that much more difficult. A year ago, Wentz was late on these passes, or sailing them high. This year he’s on the money and it’s truly fun to watch.
A shorter Wentz report this week, but the Eagles are managing Wentz’s workload well, which makes for fewer plays to analyze. My original intent with the Wentz report was to provide a weekly analysis of Wentz’s performance with context because he was so polarizing, forcing opinions from one extreme to the other. As it appears that most people are coming to the conclusion Wentz is a franchise QB, the motive behind the Wentz report appears to have largely been met with Wentz staking his claim as the MVP front-runner. With that being said, I’m attaching a poll to allow the BGN readers to decide if they would still like to see the Wentz report each week. If so, and you'd like to see some changes, feel free to leave feedback and questions in the comments and I’ll adjust accordingly going forward.
(Click here to vote in the poll below if you can’t see it.)
Keep the Wentz Report?
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