Leading up to the Carolina Panthers Week 7 tilt, Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz had only thrown one interception. Since then he’s thrown five. He wouldn’t throw one against the Panthers, but a particular decision late in the game proved costly and was largely criticized so I’ll show it anyway. It also speaks to a core flaw in Wentz’s game right now.
There are two types of mental processing for quarterbacks: pre-snap and post-snap. Right now Wentz is struggling with the latter.
Down 4 points with 37 seconds to go, the Eagles were on the Panthers 14-yard line facing 3rd & 2. Pre-snap motion confirms the Panthers are in zone. In this case, the leverage of the defenders show it’s cover 2. This type of coverage should allow Alshon Jeffery to be open on a post in front of the safety if his first read to the boundary side is covered.
November 20, 2018
On the left of the formation his eyes start with the Flat-7 route combination where cornerback Donte Jackson is in a pickle. He has to protect against the corner route of Zach Ertz in this situation. He does so by sinking to a depth that leaves Wendell Smallwood open in the flats. Wentz doesn’t take it. Big mistake.
Next he moves his eyes to the shallow middle where Dallas Goedert is darting across the screen. Wentz gives a slight hitch, but he knows where he’s going. He’s already decided Jeffery will be open in front of the safety and let’s it go without confirming the depth to which linebacker Luke Kuechly has dropped. It leads to an incompletion into double coverage a missed opportunity.
His next interception would come a week later against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Benjamin Solak broke this down on Twitter and did a great job explaining the nuances of the play.
Carson Wentz interception in Q1 against the Jaguars: INTERIOR PRESSURE was the main culprit here— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 30, 2018
YES: Wendell Smallwood was open
YES: Carson made a good read throwing to Perkins
YES: Jalen Ramsey made a killer play
In short, it’s a double post wheel concept and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey did a fantastic job of dropping to undercut it. However the same problem arises; Wentz did not confirm post-snap that Ramsey was dropping into that deep zone. The throw was there before Wentz had to move. It was not there after he had to reload and throw off his toes. The initial read was correct, the final decision was not.
If you were left baffled by Wentz’s interception to Leighton Vander Esch in the Week 10 Dallas Cowboys’ loss, you weren’t the only one. On the live viewing I couldn’t fathom how Wentz couldn’t see Vander Esch dropping into his hook zone, but the answer was really simple.
On the Wentz pick, 1t drops & takes shallow, meaning LVE doesn't have to come down, leaving him in the hole in front of the dig.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 12, 2018
Much like the Kuechly INT late against the Panthers, Wentz doesn't confirm post-snap. pic.twitter.com/7H61vcVALk
All it took was a dropping defensive tackle to relieve Vander Esch of his shallow responsibilities and he was free to gain depth. Wentz, again, doesn’t confirm post-snap what he believes a defense would execute from the pre-snap look.
Last week in 48-7 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, Wentz would have one of his worst days in his career. He threw three interceptions, two of which were thrown when the game was out of reach and were thrown out of pure desperation. Those are forgivable considering the circumstances, but the first interception follows the theme of the flaw being detailed.
The Eagles are running a play-action concept known as “Yankee”, a variation of “Burner” which is a staple of offenses around the league. The Saints counter with a form of “dropkick” coverage designed to take away the post route from the opposite side and deceive quarterbacks by darting a safety into underneath coverage against the deep over.
#GoSaints are in "dropkick" coverage vs Yankee (post/deep over), which is the perfect call. Allows Lattimore to pass off the deep over & get to the post.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 19, 2018
Either Wentz sees him drop & throws it anyway or he's looking at Ertz underneath, either way, poor choice. pic.twitter.com/Dz1lsvg0sO
Once again, Wentz fails to recognize the danger post-snap, resulting in a Marshon Lattimore interception. That makes four weeks in a row that a processing error has led to a costly result.
Last year while working with Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, Wentz showcased the ability to learn from his early mistakes and not repeat those errors in similar situations later in the year. This year that process is taking a bit longer. It’s not a fatal flaw and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, but offensive coordinator Mike Groh will have to turn these mistakes into teaching moments and help Wentz correct them.
The next six weeks will tell us if that process took place. If it does it’s likely too little too late for this season, but in terms of long-term development of a young quarterback it would be an encouraging sign for the future.