Eagles Wake-Up Call: How To Get Carson Wentz ‘Back On Track’
Through the first four games of Carson Wentz’s career, the comparisons made by his coaches to Jim Kelly, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning didn’t even seem that crazy. The rookie was a long way off of reaching the status of any of those three, but he set records and drew praise from opponents as easily as he guided the Eagles’ offense down the field.
Wentz had the top passer rating in NFL history after four games by a rookie, just beating out a guy named Dan Marino. Wentz’s mark of 103.8 also ranked fourth in the NFL among all quarterbacks this season, but his passer rating in the last six games has dropped to 72.4, the lowest in the league (h/t CSN’s Reuben Frank). The Eagles’ record has suffered a similar fall as they’ve gone 2-5 after a 3-0 start, but according to Doug Pederson, the key to getting Wentz going again is by addressing the run game — not the pass game — first.
“The way to get him back on track is I’ve got to do a better job with the run game. We’ve got to handle the run a little bit better and manage it like we did in the Atlanta game,” Pederson sad. “You can’t put 45 pass attempts on a young quarterback in this league against that defense in that stadium. You’re doing him a disservice. But we’ve got to do a better job as coaches. I said after the game: We’re all disappointed. But I look at myself hard at this one and make sure that I’m doing everything I can to make sure this team is, number one, ready to go, putting our players in the right positions. That’s all part of the evaluation process that I go through.”
Wentz has thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions only once in the last six games, but he’s getting no help from his receivers and opponents still rave about him after they play him. Pete Carroll reportedly said on Monday “there’s no question” Wentz will be “a great player,” noting how well the 23-year-old can already look off defenders and change plays at the line of scrimmage.
In each of the Eagles’ last three losses, Wentz has thrown the ball an average of 45 times. However, part of that is due to the quarterback’s own mistakes. He threw a pair of early interceptions against the Giants that changed Pederson’s play-calling for the rest of the game, and he threw two more picks against the Seahawks.
According to Pederson, Sunday’s pair of picks were a result of forcing the ball down the field when Wentz simply should’ve taken the checkdown.
“There is a little bit of that, and those are all things that we work with, and those are game-management situations,” Pederson said. “And again, with myself, who played in this league and [offensive coordinator] Frank Reich played in this league a long time, we keep constantly talking about those situations with him. I keep saying they’re learning experiences, and they are. Any time you go against a fine defense like Seattle, it’s okay sometimes to check the ball down, and we’ve just got to continue to talk and work through those situations with them.”
Despite the early excitement and recent ridicule, Pederson hit the nail on the head when he referenced the true purpose of this season. While the ultimate goal is to win games, the learning experiences Wentz endures is what will have the biggest impact on the Eagles’ franchise in the long term.
The Birds are currently just a 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, which is ground they can make up by winning their three remaining division games, but Wentz’s development will determine whether this team can compete for years to come.
“It’s obviously a league where we ask guys to perform right away, and whether they’re drafted or undrafted, the pressure to play is right now. Back when I played, it was more, ‘Let’s develop these players, and you’ve got time,’ where now it’s, ‘Okay, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality,’ and we expect a lot from these young players. And it’s probably an injustice on our part,” Pederson said.
“Maybe we need to take a step back as coaches and say, ‘Hey, look, let’s keep developing these guys, let’s keep working and let’s try to figure out ways to use them, number one, and help them be successful on the football field, much like our young quarterback — how can we help him, how can I help him be successful?’ Yeah, there is a fine line. We ask them to do a lot early, but we also know that in the long run, if there is success there, then that benefits not only them but the team down the road.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Eagles signed Paul Turner from the practice squad and released cornerback Aaron Grymes.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor struggled mightily against the Seattle Seahawks and admitted to mental mistakes.
Eight things we learned from the 26-15 loss to the Seahawks.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles should stay patient with the young Nelson Agholor, opines Bob Brookover of the Inquirer.
Benchings, of course, occur all the time in every sport. Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was famously benched in the middle of a Week 12 game at Baltimore in 2008 and rebounded to take the Eagles to their fifth NFC championship game in eight years. McNabb, of course, had displayed oodles of talent before that moment and he played with a boulder on his shoulder the remainder of that season.
The Eagles do not know if Agholor has the talent it takes to be a starting receiver in the NFL and now they are concerned about his mental makeup, too. He’s a hard worker by all accounts, but he’s also wound tighter than a baseball. It would not be at all surprising if [Doug] Pederson and chief personnel man Howie Roseman decide to cut him after the season even though it will require a substantial salary-cap hit of roughly $2.5 million, according to the website overthecap.com. They can simply pass it off as an awful first-round draft decision by Chip Kelly, a maneuver they have exercised before.
It would be better, however, to show some patience with Agholor and [Dorial] Green-Beckham while also working Turner into a receiving rotation that has included Bryce Treggs in recent weeks. Remember, this season was supposed to be about development. Jordan Matthews, at 24 and in his third NFL season, is the senior member of the Eagles’ receiving corps, so it’s possible, even probable, that this group will get better in the near future.
There was a time when it was a given that rookie receivers would struggle early in their careers, expecting that greatness would take at least a couple of years. Then the draft class of 2014 came along and raised expectations at that position. Agholor and Green-Beckham are not struggling to achieve greatness right now. They are striving to achieve competence.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t happy with Agholor’s illegal formation penalty, pens CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank.
“Yeah, its definitely a momentum changer,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “A big play like that puts you right back in the football game. It’s tough to overcome sometimes.”
Malcolm Jenkins was a little more blunt about it.
“I mean, it’s frustrating,” he said. “You would think you can get lined up. That’s the basics of football. When you give up plays like that on a small little thing, you hurt yourself.
“Obviously, you need those points in a tough game where you’re kind of battling, but we didn’t come up with it and got what we deserved.”
We’ll have more from Sunday’s game.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.