PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is coming off arguably his worst performance as a pro, in which he turned the ball over four times in a 17-9 Week 12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. As you might imagine, the city of Philadelphia has been calm and measured in its response.
OK … not really. Fans are pitted against fans in a furious debate over how much blame Wentz, 26, should shoulder for his play and whether there’s legitimate reason for long-term concern when it comes to the once surefire franchise quarterback.
So what’s up with Wentz? Let’s explore:
Just how bad has it been?
Wentz ranks 30th in yards per attempt this season (6.52) and 21st in completion percentage (62.6). The offense is 23rd in passing yards per game (217) under his stewardship. In losses to the Patriots and Seahawks the past two weeks, Wentz fumbled a total of five times and was responsible for five turnovers (two interceptions, three lost fumbles). The Eagles are now 0-3 in games in which Wentz has multiple turnovers this season.
What kind of issues are popping up?
Wentz has been inconsistent in his short and intermediate throws, as evidenced in the first drive against the Seahawks on Sunday when he threw behind tight end Zach Ertz across the middle and sailed one well over the head of running back Miles Sanders down the left sideline. Eagles coach Doug Pederson referenced mechanics when this issue was brought up. “It’s not the yips,” he said. “There are times when it’s just a matter of setting your feet as a quarterback and just delivering a short throw, or getting your eyes on target a lot sooner than you do.”
The coaching staff felt Wentz was pressing against New England, at times opting for low-percentage throws into coverage downfield when he had an open receiver underneath. He has gotten better in this area overall but can fall into the habit of trying to will a big play to happen rather than letting the offense work for him, which makes the whole operation feel like one giant struggle.
It also bleeds into the area of awareness, where Wentz will sometimes hold onto the ball too long or hang in the pocket for an extra half-second to try and make something happen despite the walls collapsing around him. That’s often when the ball will end up on the turf.
Chris Mortensen, Ryan Clark and Tim Hasselbeck make their picks for the NFL teams that have underperformed the most this season.
What factors need to be considered?
First, the fourth-year QB is working with probably the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL. The group ranks 31st in yards (1,118) and yards after the catch (335) and last in yards per reception (10.75). The Eagles rank fourth in drops (17) and second in receiving fumbles (5). Not a great combination.
Injuries have stripped Wentz of many of his top playmakers. He has been without speed receiver DeSean Jackson for almost the entire season and was missing all three of his original starting wideouts — Alshon Jeffery, Jackson and Nelson Agholor — Sunday because of injury, leaving him with a group that included Mack Hollins, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Jordan Matthews and Greg Ward, who was called up from the practice squad late in the week.
Rewatched the @Eagles vs Seattle game. That’s the single worst game I have ever seen at the WR position when it comes to details/being where you’re supposed to be when your supposed to be there/& not fooling the QB. I try to be positive-BUT THAT WAS AWFUL. They hung their QB out
— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) November 25, 2019
The Eagles’ best two linemen, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, did not play Sunday, either. Mix a leaky front with a bare-bones receiver group and some questionable playcalling in spots, and you get a quarterback who is well out of his comfort zone.
“I would love for you to stand back there and play quarterback in the National Football League and take some of the shots that these quarterbacks take,” Pederson said. “Look at the game [between the Packers and 49ers Sunday] night. Aaron Rodgers is affected in the game because he is getting hit and knocked around off his spot. So it affects guys, and yet he’s tough, he stands in there, he makes some great throws down the field, doesn’t shy away from that contact.”
Despite these obstacles, Wentz is eighth in QBR (63.0), has thrown 17 touchdowns to six interceptions and has 10 TDs to zero interceptions in the red zone for a passer rating of 97.8.
How does Wentz project moving forward?
Expect his play to pick up starting Sunday in Miami (1 p.m. ET, Fox). He’ll likely have Johnson and Brooks back, and one or more of his starting receivers as well, which will stabilize things.
Still, it’s probably going to be a slog on offense for the remainder of the season with a lack of speed on the outside and nagging injuries affecting expected production out of key contributors such as Jeffery. As safety Malcolm Jenkins noted after Sunday’s game, playing complementary football down the stretch will be key. With the defense operating at a high level, Wentz and the offense need to be strong on ball security and timely in their attack.
Big picture, Wentz is still capable of being the high-end quarterback who flashed so brightly in 2017. But defenses have worked to limit some of his strengths at the same time the Eagles have pulled back on the amount the QB uses his legs in the name of career longevity. It’s on the coaching staff to come up with a counterpunch and find ways to use his greatest strengths while not overexposing him to harm.
And it’s on Wentz to correct some of these bad tendencies, such as fumbles and holding onto the ball too long, which should no longer be an issue in Year 4.