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 this week’s edition of the Wentz Report. For those that are new, this is a weekly film breakdown that focuses on Carson Wentz’s weekly, and cumulative performance. The previous three Wentz Reports can be found here.
Interceptable Throws (IT)
In previous reports, I’ve used the term interceptable pass. In an effort to distance from that term, I’m going to start using interceptable throws. This will still cover the same idea and concept Interceptable passes did — ill advised throws that were or should have been picked off with context provided.
This first one is on a short corner to Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery doesn't exactly get his head around quickly to locate where the ball is going, but to the short side of the field, if Wentz wants to throw this, he likely has to throw it further towards the sideline and a little sooner to eliminate the risk. You also have to tip your cap to Casey Hayward. Bad throw or not, this was a really good play from the veteran corner who was as good as advertised this past week.
What really stinks about this pass is that Wentz did everything right beforehand. The blitz comes and Wentz slides well to elude the rush, and then launches to the opposite side of the field, way down the field. Looking to the left, it looked like Wentz had a receiver open and he even glanced that way.
The still image shows Wentz looking in that direction as he’s sliding and the receiver, who appears to Mack Hollins, with separation. It’s hard to tell if his eyes were in that direction, but his head definitely was and the receiver had separation. I’m not sure if maybe the safety shifting that way discouraged the throw, but it looks like he would've had enough room to drop it in there with the way he was playing on Sunday. Instead of going to that receiver, he went across the field to Marcus Johnson and Johnson had to become a defensive back to break up the interception.
Managing the Pocket and Throwing against Pressure
Overall, Wentz did a good job of managing the pocket, but it’s easier when your offensive line is dominant most of the day.
It’s easy to criticize a quarterback’s completion percentage against pressure, but context of a play is important. Often a quarterback is trying to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack because the play hasn't had time to develop, or the receivers aren't winning. While Wentz has had his struggles against pressure, opportunities to win in those situations are dependent on more than the quarterback.
In the play above, all of Wentz’s reads are to the left side of the field, even the hi-lo routes from the right side. Wentz doesn't move off the receivers on the left side to anticipate Ertz coming open across the middle. The pressure gets in Wentz’s face and a dangerous pass comes to Ertz late. As far as pocket manipulation, Wentz really had nowhere to move here to extend the play with the right end flashing past him. It would help Wentz if he was able to get through this progression quicker or throw it away to keep the ball out of harm’s way.
As for this one, no receiver came open before Wentz started dancing. There was no where to reasonably go with this ball and on the edge of field goal range, Wentz can’t take a sack here. The stat sheet shows that he threw an incompletion against pressure, but context shows that he got rid of the ball, kept it out of harm’s way and kept his team on schedule for points on third down.
I believe this is one Wentz could've made, but no chip comes from Smallwood as he comes out of the backfield as a rusher comes blistering towards Wentz. The Chargers showed man coverage the entire way and Wentz, as I’ll point out later, recognized it pre-snap all game long and made the right plays. Here he wants Ertz, as Ertz had been winning one-on-one all game long, but the blitz gets there and Wentz can’t get enough on it as it falls incomplete. It’s hard to know what Smallwood’s responsibilities were off the play-action, but typically you’ll see a chip or a check and release from the halfback in these situations. Wentz recognized the matchup he wanted, and had it, he just couldn't deliver.
Here Wentz knows he’s going to get hit and still delivers an accurate pass to Alshon Jeffery to move the chains. The pressure is generated as right guard Brandon Brooks has to pick up stunt from the defensive line. This in turn leaves Lan Johnson on the edge with two pass rushers. Against the blitz, Wentz hangs tough and delivers. This all happens with Wentz snapping his head back across the field to find Jeffery.
This play was designed to get Wentz on the move, but when it’s not there you have to throw it away. While the plays Wentz makes out of structure are awe inspiring, when they aren't made, they often lead to big hits and occasionally mistakes. Here Wentz takes the hit and chucks a pass towards the end zone. While I didn't think the defender had enough of a chance to deem this an IT, it’s a dangerous throw and a risk that didn't need to be taken. The Eagles scored a touchdown here, but redzone turnovers are backbreakers. The smart move is to just throw it away and play for another down. the next play the Eagles scored, but there will be times, if this trend continues, where these plays will turn into turnovers and if they do, it shouldn't be a shock.
Pre-Snap Reads, Progressions and Footwork
It’s been only four games, but it seems like the days of Wentz locking onto his first read and staring them down have disappeared. I’m noticing it so little at this point that I’ve started specifically looking for it to double check.
As far as footwork, I’ve noticed some occasional collapses, but those are also fading. Again, with this game it was easier to stay clean and not sacrifice mechanics because the offensive line did an outstanding job.
I want to start with the Eagles’ first touchdown on Sunday. First, this was a good play design by Doug Pederson. The combination of Ertz and Jeffery creates a hi-lo read and the defenders come up on Ertz who crosses their faces. That leaves a vacancy and opens a throwing lane to Alshon Jeffery. Wentz is quick and decisive with this throw and the Eagles take and early lead. I want to get back to the play design though. The halfback slipping out of the backfield occupies the flat defenders and forces the defenders to play with outside leverage and off of Jeffery. Another good thing about the hi-lo read is that it keeps both reads in the quarterbacks line of vision, allowing them to react quickly.
This is a good pre-snap read from Wentz and allows him to decide where he wants to go with the ball. The Chargers show man coverage again, so it will be up to Nelson Agholor to get separation off the line and win one-on-one. Throughout his cadence, you can see Wentz peeking that way to ensure the Chargers stay aligned in this look. Agholor wins off the snap and gets the boundary. Wentz proceeds to drop a dime in the bucket for a big gain.
This is a play that I talk about a lot, the three-level stretch concept, or the Sail concept. This route combination is designed to stress three levels of a defense and schemes receivers open really well. It’s the same concept that the Eagles ran against the Giants on the catch by Jeffery that set up the game winning filed goal from Jake Elliott. The Chargers stay disciplined though and only concede the underneath route to Ertz, which Wentz easily completes. This again is quarterback friendly as it keeps all three reads in the quarterbacks line of vision and allows him to hit his receiver based on the defense’s reaction. What I want to point out as well is Wentz’s footwork. Again, clean pocket as Ertz did a phenomenal job knocking a rusher to the ground before releasing, but the lower body mechanics were consistently good in this game.
Wentz’s mechanics and progressions are on display here again as he works to both side of the field and moves his body well through these progressions. He finds Torrey Smith on the final drive for a nine-yard gain.
Similar to the last play, Wentz doesn’t see anything he likes and snaps back to the other side of the field where he has Alshon Jeffery. His lower body moves well with him again as he gets it inline with his target to keep the offense on schedule. The offensive line holding strong helps here, but we’re not seeing a pause from Wentz mid-play to reel it back in.
Again, on third down Wentz’s first read to his left isn't there, or is #Shortofthesticks. Wentz doesn't panic, or hesitate to think, but instead snaps his head and lower body around to hit Wendell Smallwood for a first down. Again, it’s only four games and Wentz looked good in four games last year, but we’re seeing more consistency within his improvement. Time will tell if these traits hold in Week 10 or Week 12, but for now they’re helping to propel Wentz to success.
I wanted to throw this one in, because it’s the second time in three weeks where I’ve noticed Wentz reading a defense making the right decisions that he didn't make last year. Above, the Eagles run the Dagger concept. Last year, Went threw an interception to Kam Chancellor on this route combination. In Week 2 against the Chiefs, Wentz didn't make this throw because Marcus Peters was wandering underneath and this week he notices the defender dropping underneath in the throwing lane. Learning, growing and actively reading these coverages from snap-to-snap show the progression of Wentz. He’s reading and reacting post-snap accordingly. For bonus points, he throws the ball away and lives to play another down.
Accuracy and Anticipation
I genuinely thought overall, this was the best game of Wentz’s career, and it could have been even better.
This might be the best throw of Wentz’s career. If not, it has to be top three and it’s unfortunate Torrey Smith couldn't hold on. The Chargers drop everybody pre-snap to defend against the conversion. Wentz drops back, looks off the safety to his left, keeps his feet moving perfectly and throws with outstanding trajectory. Unfortunately, Smith can’t hang on as the coverage was good. As excellent as the ball placement is, this is an anticipation throw. Smith hadn't gotten into his break before Wentz wound up to throw. My favorite part of the throw?
Right over the underneath defender. This couldn't have been executed any better. pic.twitter.com/5kbGod7CI3— Tyler Jackson (@TjackRH) October 2, 2017
Right over the outstretched defender. A perfect pass and well executed play on Wentz’s part.
Here the Eagles run the RPO action again and the pre-snap look helps make the decision easier. The Chargers are showing man coverage again, meaning Ertz will be isolated one-one-one against his defender with a deep safety in the middle of the field. The run action from the offensive line draws the linebackers up and clears the middle of the field. Wentz leads Ertz perfectly and hit’s him in stride to increase the success rate.
It would figure that the day Wentz’s deeper accuracy starts to click, Torrey Smith has a case of the dropsies. Again this is a perfect pass to Torrey Smith up the seam and he simply can’t hang on. Wentz executed well, but Doug Pederson deserves credit for calling plays that benefit Wentz mechanically. Pederson knows that mechanics don't fall in line at once, and can often take years to perfect and line out. This play call benefits Wentz because he doesn't have to do too much with his feet. He does enough, but most of this throw is made with his arm. On an episode of Birds Breakdown earlier this year, Sean Cottrell, also of BGN, noted that different plays require different footwork or lower body mechanics. Credit to Pederson and for putting Wentz in position to make plays, but also credit Wentz for executing efficiently.
Again, this is all arm and a perfect throw over the defender, right in the bucket to Ertz. Similar to the last play, Wentz executes the necessary footwork. This throw goes right to the perfect spot and leads Ertz to more open field.
It was hard to be critical of Wentz in this game. He had near perfect blocking and a run game to rely on, but Eagles fans have been screaming he’s needed that since Dak Prescott had unparalleled success with both. I mentioned in the open that Wentz had the best game of his career and it could've been even better. Two drops from Torrey Smith and a touchdown that Wentz himself may have missed. I try to be fair and show where Wentz struggles and succeeds on a consistent basis each week. If one pass goes high or his footwork gets out of whack for one play, that’s an anomaly for a single game. If he’s consistently throwing passes high and behind receivers, that will be shown because it’s a consistent them throughout a single game.
Cumulatively, Wentz has improved drastically on his footwork and mechanics. His showing motion also seems to have tightened up and his mechanics are holding up more efficiently in pressure as opposed to how they did last year. Wentz is effectively moving through his progression and has shown accuracy in improvement. One area of concern that remains is Wentz still tends to erratic with the football, as evidenced by his ITs. He has to take better care of the ball and cut down on hits. The ability to extend plays is exciting, and can turn into big plays, but it’s not going to always be that way. It wouldn't be surprising to see a game like his one in Cincinnati last year if he doesn't tighten it up.
Despite Wentz’s perceived improvements, only time will tell if they stick. The Eagles were 3-1 nearly a year ago before Wentz started to breakdown. It’s now up to him to continue upon his improvements and if he can, the Eagles will continue their early season winning ways.