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 to Week 1 of the Wentz report. As mentioned above, this is a weekly film room piece that will be used to evaluate Carson Wentz on a week-to-week and cumulative basis.
Interceptable Passes (IP)
Each week I’ll provide clips of the passes that I believe are interceptable (IP for short), or close to it as it’s a subjective statistic in some cases. Each pass is different and context can provide clarification, so each pass will come with my explanation.
Wentz’s first IP of the season comes on the offense’s first play of the year. The decision to make this throw wasn't wrong. We’re led to believe, based on Wentz’s physical measurables and tape, that he has the arm strength to make this throw. Unfortunately, one of the criticisms of Wentz is that his deep ball hasn't proven to be accurate thus far. Our own Benjamin Solak has been adamant that it’s an area Wentz needs to improve on, as evidenced here. Football is often described as a game of inches. A few inches further and this is a touchdown, but it falls short into the hands of Josh Norman who doesn't maintain control.
Of all of Wentz’s IPs, this was probably the most egregious. Some will point to the ball getting tipped, but regardless I believe this one was going to be intercepted. With three receivers to his left, Wentz never looks that way. The only receivers to Wentz’s right are a running back in the flat and a wide receiver running to the corner. Wentz’s eyes telegraph this play the entire way and the Redskins only rushed three, giving them an extra man in coverage. The best decision would've been to throw the ball away and live for another play.
On this play the pocket was crowded, but there was a sliver for Wentz to step up and deliver a ball further downfield. The accuracy down the field was problematic in this game. Several times Wentz put the ball in harms way on deep throws. A big argument for him last year was that he didn't have receivers to make plays downfield or get behind the defense. Although Agholor didn't get much separation, if any at all, Wentz still missed Torrey Smith for two potential touchdowns. On the play above the ball hits the cornerback in the arms and could have easily killed a drive that ended in a field goal, giving the Eagles a halftime lead.
Context of this play is important. 10 seconds left in the half and the Eagles want to take a shot for the end zone. Typically that’s going to be a hail-mary type situation and I won't count last second heaves in the end zone as IPs, but this is different. I understand taking the shot, but because the Eagles were in field goal range and ultimately came away with a field goal, this has to go in the negative column.
This was the final potential IP I had Wentz down for. I didn't chart it as an IP, and my reasoning is because Alshon Jeffery seemed to have more possession of the ball than the defensive back did. This is a subjective statistic so I can understand if it’s viewed as an IP.
Managing the pocket
My goal here is to look at sacks and how they develop. Are they unavoidable? Again this tends to be subjective, but by understanding the play design and watching how Wentz goes through his progressions it becomes easier to come to a conclusion.
For the first sack of the year, I believe it was avoidable. The pass rush flashes to Wentz’s right even after the edge rushers fly by him. To Wentz’s left there is more open room to move and even a check down if he chooses to take it. If not, he can throw the ball away. Instead Wentz tries to scramble to his right and ends up in the arms of Preston Smith.
This one could fall under pocket managing or progressions but it exemplifies some of Wentz’s best traits. Everything works in sync here as Wentz eludes the rush that the blitz produces, keeps his feet moving, keeps his eyes up and moves through his progressions to make a side throw off his back foot that only his receiver can get to.
I have this chalked up as an unavoidable sack. Wendell Smallwood does an awful job picking up the linebacker blitzing up the middle, choosing to help the guard chip. Wentz had nowhere to go with this pass and had to eat it.
Wentz has a receiver running open deep up the seam, but a blitz from the left that Sproles isn't able to pick up quick enough eliminates the opportunity to hit that play in stride. After getting out to his left, Wentz should throw this ball away down the left sideline, out of bounds. As I mentioned earlier, Wentz’s ability to extend plays can come back and hurt him in situations such as this. There’s not a play to make, but Wentz holds the ball too long and kills a drive with an intentional grounding penalty.
Reads, progressions and footwork
More criticisms of Wentz are his stone feet that stop moving, he locks onto his first read and stops to think when the first read isn't there.
Wentz will take sacks trying to extend plays with his feet or find a receiver and make something happen out of structure. Not many quarterbacks have the ability or athleticism to do what Wentz can do, but it comes as a double-edged sword. Wentz can take some of the sacks he took trying to make something happen in Week 1, or he can extend a play and hit a home run. On the third play of the season, Wentz did the latter. Above you can see Wentz drops back and keeps his feet moving while moving his eyes from the left, where the Eagles have two receivers running a Hi-Lo concept, to the right and back to the left before Isaac Seumalo is nearly pushed into him. From there Wentz is able to extend the play in a manor that we saw Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo do. Keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling for his life, Wentz hits a wide open Nelson Agholor. Bonus points for Lane Johnson who stonewalls Ryan Kerrigan on the play.
Again, Wentz works through his progressions quickly and keeping his eyes to the left, he moves the linebacker in that direction opening a passing lane in the middle of the field. With pressure coming from the left Wentz delivers a perfect pass right on Zach Ertz.
Again, Wentz maneuvers in the pocket well, keeps his eyes left which moves the linebacker in the middle of the field to that direction. Wentz then whips back to the middle of the field where finds an open Ertz in the vacated zone.
Wentz started his read to the left before making a safe decision to move to his right, but Darren Sproles was wide open in the flat with yards to pick up. This is another throw that with context would’ve been harder for Wentz to make with the defender closing in to his left. He has to move throughout his reads quickly, but if he had a passing lane, and was able to stay on a read towards the middle of the field, he may have been able to get the ball in Sproles’ hands for a big gain.
These are plays of note that don’t really fit into the previous categories of evaluation
There’s been a lot of talk about the throw on this play and how Wentz has to be better, but to me there’s even more blame for Wentz to shoulder. Look at the offensive line and how they’re blocking on this play. I believe that this was a designed run-pass option (RPO). Essentially Wentz has the ability to call run or pass and elects to go with Agholor on the play. Wentz had to know that was going to be a backward pass and still had a lackluster attempt to get the ball to Agholor. In theory the play design is nice. The offensive line draws the defense one way with the guards pulling, leaving the wide receivers to block one-on-one. If Wentz is going to make that call, it has to be perfect.
One thing I wanted to see Wentz get better at was leading receivers into space and accuracy down the field. There were times last year that Wentz delivered the ball to his receivers, and it was catchable, but a receiver would have to reach behind them or reach up to haul it in. Passes like that often eliminate YAC opportunity. While this play didn't garner much YAC, it was a nice precise pass that moved the ball down the field.
Sometimes you have to take the easy one, and that’s what Wentz should have done here. Agholor was wide open to his left and had room to run after the catch. This was a fringe IP for me, but I couldn't definitively get a look to see how much of the ball Josh Norman was able to get. If he was able to get both hands on it, I would've labeled it an IP, but when there isn't definitive proof, I want to give the quarterback the benefit of the doubt.
Again, on the first play Wentz sees the blitz coming and gets rid of the ball quickly on an accurate strike to Ertz. On the second play he delivers the ball perfectly to Sproles in a spot where he can secure and create YAC. I show plays like this because Wentz struggled at times with his accuracy further downfield. Wentz was late and may have missed on a pass or two, but largely, he was accurate in the intermediate levels of the field and delivered the ball in perfect spots for his receivers.
This goes back to deep ball accuracy. Wentz has to hit on these plays in order to keep the defense honest. If he continues to struggle, it’s not going to matter if receivers can win deep. When watching the Bengals/Ravens game, the Ravens forced Andy Dalton into mistakes by crowding and jamming his receivers, forcing them to win and forcing Dalton to hit them. There was one play in particular where one of the Bengals’ receivers opened up deep, but Dalton missed him. Plays like that change the game. The first time Wentz missed Smith, it didn't hurt the team because the IP was dropped and the team scored two plays later, but connecting on these passes throughout the season can change the complexion of your offense.
What makes that last overthrow frustrating are the stellar plays that Wentz can make like this. He perfectly eludes the rush, keeps his eyes downfield, directs traffic and makes a perfect throw on the run rolling to his left. If Wentz can continue his growth, keep the ball out of harms way and continue to utilize his athleticism, he’ll be a positive game changer.
Some final stats I had for Carson Wentz
- 4 IPs
- 7-of-12 for 95 yards with two sacks when blitzed
As always, I’m open to feedback and willing to learn. If you saw something I didn’t, or have any questions, feel free to send me a tweet at @TJackRH. As I mentioned, I plan to make this a weekly installment to help the fanbase, and all those who care to read, understand and evaluate Wentz on a week-to-week and cumulative basis with evidence of my work.