Is Carson Wentz fully recovered? It’s been a been a major talking point since Ian Rapoport suggested that he wasn’t. David J. Chao, MD suggested it would be unrealistic to suggest it was possible less than a year out from surgery. This talking point has bled into several factors of Wentz’s game: deep ball accuracy, accuracy on the move, and his running ability as a scrambler.
Let’s deal with these points in order.
THE LONG BALL...
If I were to ask you point-blank, “is Wentz less accurate throwing the ball downfield this year?” Many would likely say yes. The data tells a different story.
Pro Football Focus tracks throws over 20 yards and goes beyond completion percentage to paint a more accurate picture of a quarterbacks’ performance. But even if you value completion percentage, you might be surprised to discover that the stats don’t change much from 2017-2018.
Pro Football Focus Deep Ball Analytics (2016-2018)
Deep Passing Completion: 33% > 38% > 39%
Deep Passing Accuracy: 36% > 45% > 44%
The fact is Wentz hasn’t seen a significant drop, or a drop at all, in his downfield accuracy. He ranks slightly above average in this regard, similar to last year. There’s a dip in the frequency of touchdowns and the interceptions have remained stable, which adds to the negative perception because those are plays that everybody remembers.
#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
For instance, this ball that travels 55 yards in the air is slightly underthrown, but chances are much better for a Nelson Agholor reception if Marcus Lattimore isn’t in a coverage designed to take this concept away. This interception doesn’t happen without poor decision-making process post-snap, which I would I would argue, and have argued, has been the bigger issue.
Wentz is also taking these shots at a slightly lower tick than last year, which is why many clamored for a deep ball threat to be added before the trade deadline.
THROWING ON THE RUN...
Armchair doctors have made their voices heard en masse and would have you believe that Wentz is inaccurate at speed. This is false. He’s been accurate early in his recovery and he’s been accurate later on in the process.
Eagles fans rejoice: Carson Wentz looks like Carson Wentz pic.twitter.com/5uPaScV1X2— Patrick (@pmc1423) October 12, 2018
I’ve reached out to those with the required data and they’ve told me Wentz’s accuracy on the move remains a plus, just like it was last year. In my own research, I found the same over the last three weeks. I charted his movements in those three games and his success while throwing on the run. I added to the Next Gen Stats chart to visualize those findings.
I’m not sure where this narrative started or why, but what I can tell you that it’s extremely exaggerated. You would know that if you watched Wentz last night against the Washington Redskins.
Wentz on the move 30 yards downfield. 5-man blitz w/Agholor in the slot vs Swearinger which is a mismatch on vertical routes - pic.twitter.com/j9XCUgUfZw— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 4, 2018
To be fair their two elements to this; one of accuracy and one of frequency. I did similar charting of Cam Newton’s scrambles and found him to be a mostly stationary quarterback. Watching Wentz, I get the same feeling. His launch points from the pocket are at a higher frequency than most quarterbacks. This is true for last year and this year.
Though I won’t dismiss it as the same, finding the real truth of the matter requires much more charting. Eyeball tests, vague assurances from others, and memories of last season aren’t good enough to prove anything about this question. But for now, we do have more evidence regarding frequency in his scrambles that result in runs.
MAKING THEM PAY...
In terms of rushing attempts, is Wentz scrambling less frequently and less effectively? Yes. This year he has only 9 runs that have moved the chains. Last year he had 27. Wentz was so spectacular as a scrambler last year that it’s almost unfair that he be expected to achieve that level less than a year after major knee surgery.
But the world isn’t fair. He was always going to be judged against last year regardless of the circumstances. Even if you remove sneaks from the equation, he converted with his legs roughly three times as much last year. However, it should be noted that scrambling opportunities arrive from random chaos. That chaos doesn’t carry over week-to-week and the ability is clearly there, even if it’s not being frequently utilized or is slightly less explosive.
He did this in his first week back, folks.
To play devil’s advocate, isn’t that what some where asking from him? Wasn’t him taking fewer physical risks a big talking point this off-season? So the question becomes is he running less because he’s seen a significant drop in his mobility or because he’s being more careful?
I don’t think Wentz is ever going to change who he is, which is an aggressive at-all-costs quarterback. The truth regarding his mobility probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two camps barking at each other. The problem becomes when the gray area gets ignored for the sake of hammering a talking point. He can be less dangerous on the move while still being highly effective. Not an exciting take, I know, but one that I’ve hopefully shown is correct.