Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz’s Mechanical Issues
It’s been an issue since Carson Wentz first arrived in Philadelphia. When the rookie quarterback steps back and unleashes a bullet down the field, he consistently misses high if he’s off target. That’s because the 23-year-old North Dakota State product sometimes doesn’t shift his weight properly, which is a mechanical flaw the Eagles were well aware of when they drafted him.
But when the Birds brought Wentz in, they thought he would have more time to work on his footwork during the season while Sam Bradford started and he didn’t have to worry about playing. So instead of picking apart his game and building him back up behind closed doors, Wentz is now working through issues typical for a rookie under the brightest of lights.
“There’s times when there’s pressure in his face, so the ball is going to tend to sail high. There’s also times where he’s still back on his back foot and the ball sails high. It’s a combination of both. It’s just something we’ve got to continue to work on,” Doug Pederson said. “Off the back foot, shoulders are going to be high, ball tends to release high, ball is going to be high.”
In the last three games, Wentz has recorded a 59.3 completion percentage, a 65.0 passer rating and twice as many interceptions (six) than touchdowns. He doesn’t believe mechanics are responsible for his dropoff in production lately, noting that when “you throw the ball 60 times, you’re going to miss some. That kind of happens.” But Pederson disagrees.
Even before Wentz accumulated 60 pass attempts as the Eagles tried to mount a comeback against the Bengals down four touchdowns in the second half, he played poorly. On just his second pass attempt of the game, Wentz threw a bad ball, but he was bailed out when a Cincinnati defender dropped it. Even though he recorded a career-high three interceptions, Wentz was fortunate three other incompletions weren’t picked off.
As for his mistakes under pressure? Pederson says even though his rookie needs to shift his weight better, he’ll also need to get used to making uncomfortable throws off of his back foot when he’s under pressure and has no better alternative. According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz’s passer rating dropped from 75.5 when not under pressure against the Bengals to 25.2 when he did encounter defenders in his face, with his rating under pressure ranking him 24th out of 27 quarterbacks before Monday Night Football.
“We talk about subtle movements in the pocket — not big, drastic movements. They could be just the fact of just hitching forward to avoid a lateral or a side rush, maybe stepping lateral to avoid anything coming into his face, but the biggest thing is we want to make sure that he’s on time and in rhythm with the throw,” Pederson said. “Listen, there’s going to be times when you’re going to have to throw off your back foot and make throws. That’s just the nature. There’s never really just a pure pocket with the way teams are either blitz rushing or just the pressure that you get from a bull rush. It’s just things that we learn and we continue to work on.”
Pederson also attributed some of the Eagles’ false start penalties to Wentz, noting the quarterback sometimes hesitates in his cadence as he tries to take care of all of the pre-snap responsibilities he has at the line of scrimmage. While Wentz is “learning how to handle adversity for the first time in his career,” according to Pederson, the Eagles’ head coach is far from alarmed when it comes to the progression of his 2016 first-round pick.
“We all sit here today, and I sit here today, and say, ‘Hey, I wish things were different this season with the way things are going,’ but at the same time, we continue to work. I don’t think it’s going to affect Carson going forward; I just don’t think it’s going to affect him at all, because he’s really a pro’s pro,” Pederson said. “It’s something that we get to the OTA’s and we get a full off-season in and we just continue to work on it.
“The thing about Carson is he continues to work and practice on it. I know Frank [Reich] and [quarterbacks coach John] DeFilippo work on every single day with him, and he’s very conscious of it. Obviously, we’re all disappointed that things aren’t turning out our way. But yet, we just continue to work.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“If he can pick up a block, obviously we ask our guys to turn and block.” Doug Pederson will ask Zach Ertz why he didn’t make a block in the first quarter.
“Everybody just do things right, do their jobs, do their assignments and good things are going to happen.” Pederson wants his team to stay focused and give a full effort for the remainder of the season.
After starting the season undefeated, could Pederson be on his way out the door after a rocky last stretch of games?
With a depleted offensive line and not a whole lot of talent around him, the Eagles aren’t helping Carson Wentz succeed in his rookie season.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Doug Pederson should bench Zach Ertz and Rodney McLeod for “soft” play, writes Marcus Hayes of the Daily News.
Doug Pederson saw it, too.
He saw safety Rodney “No Thanks” McLeod refuse to hit Bengals running back Jeremy Hill at the goal line Sunday. He saw tight end Zach “El Matador” Ertz refuse to block Vontaze Burfict on a quarterback run.
Asked Monday whether all of his players played hard in Cincinnati, Pederson replied:
You heard that correctly. The head coach of an NFL team in a blue-collar town acknowledged that his players are tanking. Stealing money. Playing soft.
In the 215 area code, that’s heresy. You might punk out in the baseball heaven that is St. Louis, where McLeod spent his first four NFL seasons, but, in the Delaware Valley, refusing to block and declining to tackle warrants benching.
After sitting out last week’s game against the Packers, Nelson Agholor took a small step in the right direction on Sunday, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Dave Zangaro.
It wasn’t a great day for Agholor, but it wasn’t an awful one either. He tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. He was the Eagles’ sixth-leading receiver on a day when the offense struggled mightily.
But he caught the football, didn’t have a drop and didn’t have any major mental blunders. Yes, the bar is low.
“I thought it was a great time to get out there, got to touch the ball a bit, caught some passes, caught some contested ones,” Agholor said. “And now it’s just about finding a way to take the next step for myself. Watch the game with a critical eye and continue to grow as a football player.”
Since the Eagles drafted Agholor with the 20th overall pick in 2015, he’s been a colossal disappointment. During Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Bengals, Agholor quietly surpassed his receiving yards total from his rookie season. In 2016, he has 287 yards on 31 catches.
Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz will address the media at 11:45.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.