Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz Is Not Being Set Up For Success
To say Carson Wentz didn’t play well during the Eagles’ 32 to 14 loss to the Bengals would be putting it lightly.
The rookie passer threw three interceptions and had three more dropped. Wentz had six of his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. He averaged a mere 5.1 yards per attempt and finished with a 58.2 passer rating.
Much like the Eagles as a whole, Wentz has really cooled off after getting off to such a great start this season. It was less than two months ago when he had won NFL Rookie of the Week for the third time. He also took home NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month and NFC Offensive Player of the Week awards.
So what happened?
One key number from the Eagles’ loss to the Bengals helps to explain why the rookie quarterback has regressed.
That’s how many times Wentz had to throw the ball against Cincinnati, who owned the NFL’s 28th-ranked run defense, on Sunday. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s simply not a formula for success.
In their first six games of the year, Wentz averaged 30.8 pass attempts per game. The Eagles were 4-2 in that span, which included the Detroit game that they gave away. In their last six game, Wentz has averaged 39.2 pass attempts per game. The Birds are 1-5 in that stretch.
Part of the reason the Eagles have had to throw so much is because they’ve gotten behind early in games. It’s obviously hard to rely on the running game when you’re trailing.
Injuries have also forced the Eagles to get away from the run. Philadelphia’s offensive line has been banged up. Ryan Mathews has predictably missed time due to injury and Darren Sproles understandably looks less effective while playing through a broken rib.
But whether it’s by circumstance or design, it’s clear the Eagles have been asking too much of a rookie quarterback who they originally didn’t plan on playing this year. They simply can’t ask him to throw the ball this often and expect him to have success.
It’s painfully clear that Wentz doesn’t have many quality receiving options to work with, especially when leading receiver Jordan Matthews isn’t active. Philadelphia’s leading receiver against the Bengals was undrafted rookie free agent Paul Turner, who spent most of the season on the practice squad and was only playing in his second game. It bears repeating: Wentz needs more weapons.
The importance of having a strong run game also can’t be understated. Remember how Nick Foles once went 27-2? It’s no coincidence LeSean McCoy led the league in rushing that season. If one is looking for a more recent example, look at how Dak Prescott is having success in Dallas. The rookie fourth-round pick is operating behind a strong offensive line that has also paved the way for NFL MVP candidate Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys rank second to last in pass attempts per game.
The bad news for the Eagles is they likely won’t be able to fix their talent issues any time soon. Those improvements will need to be made in the offseason. In the meantime, the Eagles have four games left. The team would like to see progress from their rookie quarterback, but it’s going to be hard to expect Wentz to rebound if he has to continue to throw more often than he should.
Wentz can’t be completely absolved of his struggles. A lack of talent around him doesn’t fully explain why the rookie quarterback is continuing to sail passes over the head of his receivers and right into the arms of defenders. This is an issue that has been apparent with Wentz dating back to offseason practices.
“It’s strictly mechanics,” said Doug Pederson of Wentz’s overthrows. “It’s the fact that we have to get him off his back foot and get him stepping into the throws and trusting the decision down the field. There were opportunities, obviously. Again, he’s a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning these things up.”
The Eagles’ rookie quarterback doesn’t seem to be on the same page as Pederson, though.
“I don’t think it’s the mechanics,” said Wentz. “You make mistakes. Things happen, and that’s just the bottom line.”
Whatever the issue is, everyone can agree that Wentz needs to be better. The Eagles can make that happen by putting him in better positions to succeed. They probably won’t be able to do that down the stretch this season, but it should obviously be their goal moving forward.
Though it hasn’t always been pretty, Wentz has shown franchise quarterback potential this season. It’s up to the organization to build around him and give him the help he needs.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Nine things we learned from the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Instant Observations from an ugly game in Cincinnati.
Take a look at some of the biggest moments that happened yesterday afternoon.
The Eagles were without Jordan Matthews for the game, but Nelson Agholor was active after sitting out last week’s loss to the Packers.
Could a DeSean Jackson reunion in Philadelphia happen in the offseason?
How were this week’s picks against the spread?
“He’s been good; now he’s made that leap to where, boy, you better game plan for Derek Carr. And I think with Carson Wentz, you’ll see the same thing.” Ron Jaworski sees big things ahead from the rookie quarterback.
We profiled three college football players to look out for during conference championship weekend, including a local running back.
Prior to the game, we spoke to Jim Owczarski to get a sense of what to expect from the Bengals.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
After the game, Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson had disagreeing thoughts about the quarterback’s struggles, pens Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
When head coach and former QBs coach Doug Pederson was asked about those high throws from his prized quarterback, he said, “It’s strictly mechanics.” Pederson elaborated, saying they need to get Wentz off his back foot and stepping into throws. And then there were batted passes too.
“There were opportunities, obviously,” Pederson said. “Again, he’s a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning those things up.”
There might be a problem, though.
Wentz doesn’t seem to think there’s anything to clean up.
“I don’t think it’s the mechanics,” Wentz said. “You make mistakes. Things happen, and that’s just the bottom line.”
After a great start to the season, the defense is beginning to fade fast, notes Zach Berman of the Inquirer.
“Last couple of weeks have been frustrating,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “To not get off on third downs – it’s something we’ve done well, and the past couple of weeks, we haven’t been able to get it done. It [stinks], and we can be mad at ourselves for it. We get them in these third-and-long situations, but it’s something or another and they convert it.”
The Bengals had conversions of 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 5 yards on Sunday. Those would seem to be good opportunities for the pass rush to pressure Dalton, but he was not sacked and was hit only once.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Eagles defense. They didn’t have any sacks last week, either, and they have only six sacks in their last six games.
“It’s definitely not a problem,” insisted defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who hasn’t recorded a sack since Oct. 9. “Obviously, we aren’t getting to the quarterback the way we should. When teams have success dinking and dunking us, and they see previous teams dinking and dunking, it’s a copycat league. Teams are going to do that. They’re going to get rid of the ball quick. And when they get ready to go deep, they have seven-man protect. And we’re rushing with four, so you do the math.”
Doug Pederson will hold his day-after press conference at around noon.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.