Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pederson Explains Wentz’s Struggles
After an impressive start to his NFL career featuring several records and even more comparisons to Hall of Fame quarterbacks, Carson Wentz is beginning to come back down to Earth. In his last two games, the 24-year-old North Dakota State product has recorded his lowest marks of the season in completion percentage, yards per pass and passer rating, among several other categories.
Against the Vikings, Wentz turned the ball over three times to the NFL’s first-ranked defense. But while Doug Pederson explains how his quarterback needs to improve, he’s also quick to point to the only statistic that truly matters.
“Well, he’s still winning football games. That’s obviously the ultimate stat,” Pederson said. “He missed some throws yesterday and this is something that now as we get deeper into the season — he is a first-time starter; he’s a rookie. And just the longevity now of the season, I’ve got to make sure that we’re keeping things very familiar for him where he can just execute and play.
“There were, again, a couple opportunities to make catches and we didn’t. [We] had a couple drops, so it would have helped in those situations. But he continues to manage the game extremely well and puts our team in good situations, and the run game specifically.”
The question about Wentz’s recent poor play isn’t whether the quarterback is all of a sudden a bust, but how he can return to his high level of play he showed in the Eagles’ first four games. Wentz isn’t trying to do too much, Pederson explained, but the rookie does need to sharpen up around the edges.
On the fumbled handoff to Darren Sproles, Pederson indicated it was Wentz’s fault as the ball was bobbling even before Sproles tried to take the ball. There were also a few bad shotgun exchanges between Wentz and Jason Kelce, including dropped snaps, which Pederson attributed to Wentz.
“A little bit center, a lot of it quarterback actually. It’s something as a quarterback, again, he just took his eyes off the ball, was looking at his read, whether it was a defensive line or a linebacker, and just didn’t secure the football,” Pederson said. “Kelce wasn’t perfect. The balls were off to the right just a touch and so it was a little bit of the center, a little bit more of the quarterback just taking his eyes off the ball. ”
When Wentz wasn’t having occasional fumbling issues, he threw the ball more inaccurately against Minnesota than he did against previous opponents. Wentz sailed the ball too high several times on Sunday, something he significantly improved on throughout the offseason, which Pederson says is a mechanical issue.
“That’s why we practice and we work on these things because you think it would just be second nature for any player in the National Football League, but if we’re not continuing to work on the little things and the detail things that pay off in games, which includes setting the target line, especially on throws to your left as a right-handed quarterback, and setting your feet, we just have to keep working that stuff,” Pederson said.
“It’s just where you set your lower body and your feet on your direct line to the receiver. It’s putting your lower body in position to make the throw and being able to drive off your back hip, especially when it’s a clean pocket. Sometimes when your feet are not on the target line, you tend to throw high and you tend to throw inside of a receiver, which is what we saw a little bit yesterday. We just have to continue to drill it and drill it down to where you get in the game and it does become second nature.”
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“We haven’t played how we wanted to the last two weeks, but if you ask anybody on our defense, they’d all say we think we’re the No. 1 defense in this league.” After two bad games, the Eagles’ defense came to play against the Vikings.
“Obviously, I thought he forced a few early with a couple of those picks. But really settled in and managed the game.” Carson Wentz didn’t have his best game, but he got help from the rest of the team.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Carson Wentz needs to do less “gunslinging,” opines Les Bowen of the Daily News.
On the second interception Wentz threw, in the first quarter, I definitely had the feeling that Wentz tried to force a ball that he would have thrown away three or four weeks ago; I think maybe now, subtly, not even consciously, he thinks he should be able to make a play, fit the ball into a tiny window.
To this, I say, “No. No. No. No, no, no, no, no. Not when you’re throwing to Nelson Agholor and there are three defenders around him. That is never, ever going to turn out well.”
Wentz said afterward that it was third-and-11 “and I was just trying to do too much.”
He said he saw Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham in the same area and “I should have just ate it, tried to make a play and scramble or something, but, yeah, I just tried to force it.”
This was more comforting than Wentz’s assertion earlier in the postgame session that, “It’s football. You’re going to make mistakes. Those things are going to happen.”
Beau Allen’s fumble recovery near the end of the first half was a special moment for the defensive lineman, from Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
While many players wear pink on their cleats or gloves for breast cancer awareness month, Allen sports the pink bow in his hair. His mother, Susie, a breast cancer survivor, was in attendance Sunday afternoon for her son’s third career start.
So was his father and a bunch of cousins and other family members. Allen, from Minnetonka, Minnesota, got 15 tickets for his family that flew in from Minnesota for the game. And thanks to Bennie Logan’s injury, Allen got the start.
“It was cool like that,” Allen said of his fumble recovery. “I am from Minnesota. It’s kind of funny how sometimes the ball pops right out in front of you like that. It’s nice. It’s funny how that works out, though.”
Allen’s fumble recovery — on Rodney McLeod’s strip sack — gave the Eagles the ball back with good field position and about three minutes to score. They ended up kicking a field goal to take an 11-3 lead into halftime.
We’ll have more on Sunday’s game.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.