Kyle Brandt recently stated that he thinks Carson Wentz is a top 5 quarterback. That got me thinking about what needs to happen for Wentz to fulfill that prophecy in 2020.
Outside of staying healthy, here are five things that need to break his way to prove Brandt correct.
Be a big timer...
I’m not talking about the rap duo of Birdman and Mannie Fresh, I’m talking about what PFF calls “big time throws”. Here’s how they define it...
“In its simplest terms, a big-time throw is on the highest end of both difficulty and value... the big-time throw is best described as a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.”
Wentz’s ability to suddenly lift the spasmodic Eagles’ offense is the most attractive part of his game. In 2017, he had the most big time throws on money downs and in the red zone, and last year he still was among the leagues best at firing these off.
The message here is continue to let it rip and hopefully the new weapons will allow him shine.
A little accuracy goes a long way...
Wentz was middle of the pack across the various analytical sites when it comes to delivering accurate passes. For instance, PFF ranked him 19th of 35 quarterbacks for “on target” passes. NextGen Stats ranks Wentz 23rd of 39 quarterbacks in their xCOMP% metric, a far cry from his top 10 finishes in both 2017 and 2018. So while Wentz wasn’t terribly inaccurate last year, he’s certainly capable of achieving better results.
The saving grace for Wentz was his deep ball, which has remained solid stable after a shaky rookie season. In the last three years, he’s seen throws of 20+ yards with an adjusted completion rate of 44.6%, 44.4% and 44.6%, which has ranked anywhere from 8th to 14th in the league. This goes back to his ability to consistently make big time throws.
If Wentz is to be a top 5 quarterback, it’s the short-to-intermediate throws that need to be cleaned up. Considering how accurate he’s been in the past, it’s not a tall task.
Help a brother out...
There’s a lot of ways the Eagles’ supporting cast can help out Wentz more than they did in 2019, obviously...
If Wentz holds up his end of the bargain in terms of accuracy, then the Eagles should thrive after the catch. Part of having a successful YAC game is placement and Wentz had his part to play in how poorly the Eagles were after the catch last year.
Still, it can’t all be on him; somebody has to make a defender miss every now and then. The Eagles didn’t have a single receiving threat on the positive side of NextGen Stats xYAC metric. That means all things considered, the Eagles’ weapons severely under-performed in this aspect.
Compare that to a team the Eagles are reportedly trying to borrow from, the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo had the 3rd highest percentage of his total yards come after the catch. This is a testament to Garoppolo’s accuracy and Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, but it’s also a big credit to Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. They both rank at the top of the league in YAC average.
Overall, the Eagles have to do a better job scheming guys open, Wentz has to do a better job hitting them in stride, and once they have they ball somebody has to make some doggone plays. That’s of course if they even caught the ball. Catching the ball would also help.
Be a two-handed monster...
Wentz hit a career high for fumbles (16) last year and there’s really no excuse for it. It comes down to fundamentals.
This is exactly what Gruden was preaching to him during his QB Camp w/Wentz... notice the teaching points & film they show - pic.twitter.com/yPDj5CfeCc— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) December 17, 2019
I’m not saying Wentz needs to change who he is to be successful. He’s excellent at extending plays and working outside of structure and to take that away would be neutering his game entirely. He doesn’t have to be a shrinking violet like Jared Goff to be successful.
Still, there are quarterbacks that have that same wild factor to their game that didn’t put it on the turf nearly as much as Wentz. There’s always going to be some risk with how he plays, but he has to recognize that and clean up how he handles the pigskin.
Wentz can continue to build off his impressive close to the 2019 season by being a little petty. After four straight wins and a division title with a group of ragtag nobodies at key positions, the Eagles most controversial move in the off-season was to select Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts at 53rd overall. Should this piss off Wentz a little bit? Absolutely.
I’m not saying Wentz should be coddled. I’m not saying he should be moping about the Eagles desire to protect the team by always trying to have a quality backup. I’m saying he should definitely use it as a motivator. This should serve as a chip on his shoulder to the point where by the end of 2020 the discussion surrounding Hurts will be, “wait, who?”
By the end of 2019 there was no question that this was Wentz’s team. 2020 should be no different. Maybe the best case scenario for the Hurts selection is it causes Wentz to go all scored earth on the league.