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! As mentioned above, this a weekly article that evaluates Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz on a week-to-week and cumulative basis. You can find last week’s Wentz report here.
Interceptable Passes (IPs)
This week, I didn't have Wentz down for any interceptable passes. The Eagles game plan was more conservative this week as opposed to Weeks 1 and 2. The Eagles seemed to want Wentz to take on more of a game manager role. This sort of performance puts into perspective statistics such as IPs and turnover worthy plays. While it’s nice to chart them, they are useless without context. One may look at this performance and think Wentz played well because he eliminated those sort of plays, but it was quite the opposite. Wentz plays with a risky gunslinger mentality. Sometimes this allows him to break the structure of a play and make a throw or play that some quarterbacks only dream of making. When he has the ability to consistently push the ball downfield into tighter windows, he’s going to make more plays that give you hopes and glimpses of a franchise quarterback.
Managing The Pocket
I didn't think this was Wentz’s best day of managing the pocket at all. There were times when his feet would stop moving or he would take off in a full blown run instead of utilizing subtle movements to neutralize the rush and keep the structure of the play alive.
In the play above Wentz has a relatively clean pocket to work with. Lane Johnson was spun around but ultimately recovered and gave Wentz the ability to slide to his right. Another option was to step up, although he may have ended up in the arms of the defensive end. If Wentz manages the pocket better he likely see Zach Ertz streaking open downfield.
Instead, Wentz abandons the pocket and runs himself into trouble. The play ends with a positive gain, but not before Wentz is driven into the ground.
This is another play where Wentz had all of the room in the world to slide left and still keep his eyes downfield. Had he done this he may have been able to work back across the field to his right and see that Torrey Smith had cleared the deep right defender and that Nelson Agholor had slipped in behind the defense.
I understand trying to direct Ertz upfield, but he was the only offensive player on that side of the field, and it was after he broke off his original route. It’s hard to say that — even with sliding — Wentz would've been able to deliver the ball to Agholor with him being outside the numbers on the opposite boundary without the defensive back adjusting, the pocket movement could've extended the play to a better extent. The end result was a scramble for a first down, but it taxes Wentz’s body. All of those hits add up and Carson already has a history of sustaining injuries.
I’m not going to murder Wentz for not taking off here. The reason being is because he’s working through his progression to the opposite side of where the huge hole is developing. What I do think Wentz should've done was dump the ball off to LeGarrette Blount. Fourth down, the last thing you want to do is take a sack. Dumping it off likely won't get you the first down, but it will keep you from likely taking a hit and worsen the opposing team’s field position. Ultimately Wentz takes the sack. He has to be smarter here.
Reads, Progressions and Footwork
I thought Wentz’s feet slowed down as opposed to how they had progressed in the first two weeks. As far as progressions go, the Eagles ran a lot of three-level stretch plays, similar to what they did last year. What this allows the quarterback to do is read three different receivers in the same line of vision instead of moving through reads to different sides of the field. This isn't to say the coaching staff doesn't have faith in Wentz’s ability to read defenses, it’s just a tactic that the Eagles utilized well against the Giants.
The Eagles predominately took the underneath reads during this game, as it was what the Giants were willing to give them. The first play is the Eagles running the three level stretch concept against the Giants last year, and the second play was the Alshon catch from Sunday. On the second play, the Eagles took the second level read to Alshon Jeffery after Eli Apple came up on fake from Wentz. One receiver clears out the deep defender while Janoris Jenkins plays over Alshon on the corner. Apple should've conceded the catch in front of him and played deeper considering the situation. Wentz threads the pass into Jeffery setting up the game wining field goal. In years past, I have trouble believing Jordan Matthews hangs onto that ball, but this is why you bring in a wide receiver like Jeffery. In the NFL, every win matters, especially in division games and while this catch didn't single handily win the game for the Eagles, it set the table.
This miss to Alshon ultimately didn't matter as the Eagles eventually scored a touchdown on this drive, but sometimes you have to trust what you see. Every quarterback will miss an open receiver from time-to-time, but Jeffery is standing wide open in Wentz’s line of vision with nobody within five yards of him. Wentz keeps his eyes locked on Agholor and throws the ball away. You can’t miss the layups, especially against a good defense.
Throwing with anticipation and accuracy
This was definitely Wentz’s worst game in the accuracy and anticipation regard. On numerous occasions he neutralized the opportunity for YAC with late or inaccurate throws.
On this play Torrey Smith has to turn all the way around and adjust to the ball to catch it. Wentz does a poor job of leading him on this third down play that mandates the receiver secures yards to move the chains. I don't think Smith would've secured the yardage necessary to get a first down, but his opportunity to do so was nipped by a poor throw.
This was another one where Wentz killed an opportunity for YAC. Off the RPO, Torrey Smith should've caught this but he had to to stop and reach behind his body to make a play on the ball. Landon Collins was coming off the edge, but from the offensive line view, he wasn't a factor at all. He was completely faked out and flew by Wentz before realizing he kept the ball.
This pass was high over to Trey Burton. One of the criticisms of Wentz was high passes that lead to turnovers, but he had done well at eliminating those throws. In all fairness, going high here was probably the best move as Janoris Jenkins was driving on this route. It’s likely if Wentz puts this lower or inside, Jenkins picks it off. I’m not sure if the placement was by design here is the issue, and if it wasn't, that’s not good.
This is another maddening one. I love what the Eagles are doing underneath, creating a pick with the receiver. This frees up the middle of the field for Wentz to throw into. Instead Wentz throws high and slightly behind Zach Ertz. Ertz still should've caught this ball, but there was nothing but open field for Wentz to lead him into. On the Birds Breakdown podcast, Ben Solak and myself discussed this. Ben thinks that he may have been trying to avoid the ball being tipped at the line of scrimmage, which I can see, but there’s still a lot of field for Ertz to be led to.
What makes that last play maddening is how well Wentz bounces back and puts this throw in a tight window right on the money to Ertz. Fortunately the Eagles were able to get the touchdown here and make up for the points left on the board earlier.
Deep Ball Accuaracy
The deep ball has been an issue for Wentz all year long and that hasn't changed. Wentz has missed three touchdowns on deep throws with general inaccuracy. On this one it looks like his foot may have slightly been turned towards the sideline, which would explain why the ball sailed out of bounds, but even if he had been able to keep it in bounds, it looks like if would've been an overthrow. While it’s nice that receivers are winning deep an stretching the field, the Eagles are going to start seeing teams force Wentz to beat them deep by crowding the LOS. Rome wasn't built in a day, but the deep ball looks much worse than what it did this time a year ago. I can't tell if this is a mechanical thing or just an accuracy issue.
Earlier this offseason I asked Bill Belichick whether or not he believed accuracy was something that could be coached, and his response was that he believes it can be improved, but each player has their ceiling. I don't believe thins Wentz’s ceiling because again, through five games last year, he was relatively accurate downfield, but there seems to be a regression right now.
Overall, we’ve seen improvements in Wentz’s game. At points there are lapses where he reverts to the bad habits that plagued him his rookie year, but he’s still showing the traits that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Although this week called for a different gameplay from the first two weeks, in a way I believe it benefited Wentz. The Eagles were able to run the ball and move it down the field effectively so they didn't need to start from that gameplan. One thing I found interesting was something Sheil Kapadia wrote over at the Athletic. Wentz was changing the calls and audibling into runs based on what he was seeing pre-snap. As much as I focus on the physical aspects of Wentz’s game, it’s important to remember the game is just as much mental, if not more. Wentz isn't a rookie anymore, so it’s not surprising to see him making these adjustments, but that doesn't make it any less impressive or mean that it doesn't deserve praise as well. Sometimes the smart thing to do is to stick with what’s working and that’s exactly what Carson Wentz and the Eagles did on Sunday.