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Did Carson Wentz “over target” Zach Ertz?

Let’s clear this one up

NFL: Houston Texans at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today a bombshell was dropped by Joseph Santoliquito of PhillyVoice, accusing Carson Wentz of being selfish and egotistical, and that he was causing problems behind the scenes.

There’s a lot in it that’s straight opinion, and everyone is entitled to theirs. The validity of those complaints is up to the reader. (I enjoyed the player who, when given the chance to “define what accountability means” by Doug Pederson, opted to say absolutely nothing.) But some of the complaints are based on stats, and the stats don’t fit the narrative.

The biggest complaint in the piece is that Carson Wentz was “over targeting” Zach Ertz while Nick Foles was spreading it around more. Santoliquito gives one side of the story:

Wentz’s proclivity for playing “favorites” manifested itself in targeting Ertz, who went on to catch a single-season NFL-record 116 passes for a tight end. Over the 11 games Wentz played, he went to Ertz 106 times (an average of 9.6 targets per game), while Alshon Jeffery was targeted 74 times (7.4 targets per game) and Nelson Agholor 60 times (5.4 targets per game). Sources added, without any great revelation, that Jordan Matthews is an Eagle because “of his buddy Wentz.”

Santoliquito does not mention the targets per game rate of that trio under Nick Foles. And even if he did, straight per game averages can be misleading, if one player has significantly more attempts per game, that’s going to effect everyone. So instead let’s look at how Wentz and Foles distributed their passes to that trio, since the takeaway from the piece is that Wentz was targeting Ertz at the expense of Jeffery and Agholor, and Foles wasn’t. The stats simply don’t back up that narrative. They saw pretty much the same distribution of targets regardless of who was at QB.

Wentz/Foles Targets

Wentz Foles
Wentz Foles
Ertz 26.4 24.4
Jeffery 20.3 19
Agholor 15 17.3

To even out Ertz’s 2% difference, he would need 3 less targets in their 11 games together from Wentz and 3 more from Foles in their 7 games together.

Another curious point was Frank Reich’s work with Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz’s performance without Reich. Reich did a tremendous job in Indianapolis and is deserving of all the praise he has received. But Santoliquito appears to want you to think that Luck was superior to Wentz this year because of Reich. The numbers don’t bare that out.

Ask yourself who had the better season: Wentz (279-for-401, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, sacked 31 times) or Andrew Luck (430-for-639, 4,593 yards, 39 TDs, 15 INTs, sacked 18 times)?

The Colts’ offense nearly mirrored the one run last year by the Eagles.

I asked myself. Turns out that statistically, Wentz was the superior passer.

Wentz v Luck

Wentz Luck
Wentz Luck
Comp % 69.6 67.3
TD % 5.2 6.1
INT % 1.7 2.3
Y/A 7.7 7.2
Passer Rating 102.2 98.7
Yds/Game 279.5 287.1

Yes, he got sacked more, but Luck’s 2.7% sack rate was a huge outlier in his career, having been sacked on 5.6% of drop backs, with a season low of 4.2%. Meanwhile Wentz was sacked on 5.5% of drop backs prior to this season’s 7.2%. It’s a safe bet that Luck will be sacked more and Wentz less next year.

The 2018 season was a difficult one for Wentz. He started and ended the season injured while his hugely successful backup added to his legend. The team had a losing record when he started, but only in one of those games did he play poorly. Complaints about how he handled the season shouldn’t be outright dismissed, and when it comes to how people feel, perception is the reality. But some of the complaints are easy to verify. Yes, Carson Wentz targeted Zach Ertz a lot. But so did Nick Foles.