Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz Is A Work In Progress
The Eagles have provided their fans with ample reason for disappointment lately.
The Birds are 5-6 after losing six out of their last eight games. Philadelphia’s playoff hopes are on life support following a home loss to a previously struggling Packers team.
The struggles have naturally raised concerns about rookie head coach Doug Pederson. The quality of Philadelphia’s roster, which Howie Roseman is once again responsible for, is also in question.
But while there’s a lot of room for negativity when it comes to the Eagles’ outlook, there’s also a promising sign for the future: Carson Wentz.
Yes, the rookie quarterback’s numbers aren’t pretty lately. Wentz has thrown just four touchdowns to seven interceptions in his last seven starts. He hasn’t been stockpiling Rookie of the Week awards like he was earlier this season.
But as those who actually watch Wentz perform can attest to, the numbers don’t indicate the whole story. The 23-year-old passer is still showing flashes of franchise quarterback potential despite a supporting cast that’s far from ideal.
Against the Packers, Wentz was without the Eagles’ leading rusher, the Eagles’ top wide receiver, and three of the team’s starting offensive linemen. Wentz had a fifth-round rookie at running back. He had a receiver who joined the team in August and two undrafted rookie free agents at receiver. His offensive line consisted of a backup left guard, a rookie making his first NFL start at right guard, and a third string option at right tackle.
Compare the dearth of talent Wentz is forced to work with compared to the situation that Dak Prescott is in. The Cowboys’ rookie has the benefit of playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. He’s playing with a potential MVP candidate who can take a lot of pressure off of him. Dallas’ receiving corps is unquestionably better than Philadelphia’s lackluster group. It doesn’t hurt that Prescott has a future Hall of Fame tight end to throw to, either.
Defenders of Sam Bradford might question why Wentz is getting the benefit of the doubt that the veteran passer did not. The reality is that excuses can only last so long in the NFL. Wentz won’t be a 23-year-old rookie forever. Eventually in his career, the Eagles will hope he’s able to make up for some of the team’s deficiencies. That’s what a franchise quarterback should be able to do; elevate the talent around him.
But Wentz isn’t at that point yet. And it’s important to remember the plan wasn’t even for him to play right away this year since the Eagles had Bradford and Chase Daniel on the roster. Instead, Wentz is ahead of schedule. And the Eagles are still encouraged by his development so far.
“I think he’ll definitely be in front of the curve, and it’s still a work-in-progress,” said Pederson. “If you look kind of fast forward to this upcoming offseason, we get a chance to really work with him and spend time more so on his mechanics and obviously the details of that. But he’s working on it every day. It’s definitely improved.”
“Again, you saw it early in the [Packers] game, and really throughout the game. We’re still working on his eyes, progressions of plays, understanding the offense and working through that. It’s small strides, but at the same time it’s going in the right direction.”
Wentz also sees improvement in himself in a way that outsiders might not be able to recognize.
“A lot of it is probably things you don’t see,” the rookie passer said. “Just mentally, grasping the concepts and progressions and different things like that. Protection wise, I feel very confident with. I think it’s just the mental side of things and playing faster and faster each week.”
Pederson’s recent comments about how he feels the team is “headed in the right direction” might have some rolling their eyes, but he’s not wrong if Wentz continues to progress.
The aforementioned flashes of Wentz’s star potential are apparent in moments when he’s juking out Damarious Randall or dodging Julius Peppers, despite being face masked by the veteran pass rusher, in the back field and rushing for a gain. Philadelphia’s first scoring drive against the Packers is another example of Wentz’s prowess.
Just because Wentz’s overall outlook is positive doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. He obviously still has issues with sailing passes, such as the interception he threw on Monday night. These demonstrations of inaccuracy were painfully present during offseason practices.
To get caught up in the struggles, though, and declare Wentz a bust would obviously be premature. He’s shown enough promise to make the Eagles excited about his future. Expectations will rise as the Eagles give him more weapons and he’s had more time to mature in the NFL.
For now, Wentz has five games left in his rookie season. He’ll certainly be motivated to do his best to help the Eagles qualify for the post-season, which isn’t incredibly likely right now. But even if the Birds don’t make the playoffs, the team can at least take solace in the promise Wentz provides for the future. He’s a work in progress with plenty of room to grow.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Some of the things that really stuck out to me was realizing a game that I love, I didn’t get a chance to play.” Nelson Agholor talks about his experience of being inactive during Monday night’s game.
How far do the Eagles fall in this week’s NFL Power Rankings?
“I’m going to hold you accountable to the strictest letter of policy, but I’m not going to tell you what the policy itself is and that creates the problem.” Taking a closer look at Lane Johnson‘s lawsuits against the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Take a look at Carson Wentz‘s cleats for this week’s game:
— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) November 30, 2016
Doug Pederson regrets the use of his second challenge on a Jared Cook two-yard catch, writes Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.
“If you can stop them, get them off the field, just an opportunity to keep them in a second-and-long situation knowing, yeah, that obviously it was an incomplete pass, knowing you were going to be out of challenges. Just needed something to keep them really at a little bit longer yardage at that time and try to help our defense.”
On Wednesday, Pederson changed his mind, acknowledging that it was a play that was not worth challenging.
“That second one in the [Green Bay] game, I probably would have kept [the challenge],” Pederson said. “It was a two-yard gain and [I could’ve] kept it at second-and-8. The thing was, too, with where [the Packers] were on the field, at that point [I was thinking], ‘Hey, let’s go second-and-10 over second-and-8, and try to keep them back a little bit. Two more yards, this and that, I was trying to play all that in my head at the same time.
“But that would be a challenge that I would [take back]. That’s part of going back to the process of self-evaluation in making those decisions. I would probably hang on to that and keep it for a situation that didn’t [end up] showing up in the game.”
After missing Monday night’s game with a stomach bug, right guard Brandon Brooks was back at practice yesterday, pens Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
At least he was able to watch the game from his hospital room. He thought rookie Isaac Seumalo did a nice job filling in for him, but it didn’t make watching the loss any easier.
“Obviously, you want to be out there with your teammates,” Brooks said, “but unfortunately, I was stuck to a hospital bed.”
When he was with the Texans, Brooks had a history with stomach ulcers, but said that wasn’t the problem. He wasn’t worried about ulcers because he previously had an endoscopy and is convinced that problem is gone. Brooks said he just caught a stomach bug this time and is already feeling better. He was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
“I’m good to go,” he said. “Back to business as usual. Practiced today, felt fine. Just stay hydrated, stick to bland foods and just go from there.”
Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz will meet with the media at 10:40.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.