Eagles Wake-Up Call: Carson Wentz’s Improved Pocket Presence
Frank Reich doesn’t remember the game, but he recalls the play vividly. About a month ago at Lincoln Financial Field, Carson Wentz rolled out to his left as a big nose guard chased him down. The defensive lineman had no chance of catching up to Wentz, but the rookie quarterback played it safe once he got closer to the sideline and threw it out of bounds.
The next day, when Reich and Wentz watched the play on film, the offensive coordinator cracked a small joke.
“You couldn’t have swung back around and just bought a little bit more time?”
“Am I allowed to do that? Is that free game?”
“Yeah, it’s free game if you can make the play.”
“Okay, now I know.”
Since then, while there hasn’t been a dramatic upturn in scrambles, Wentz has used his legs more to extend plays. He’s also picked up extra yards on the ground as 89 of his 137 rushing yards this season have come in the last month.
“It’s a fine line how much you want to use it, but he has a good sense and it’s showed up pretty well on the field,” Reich said. “It’s definitely part of his development and evolution.”
On a play similar to the one Reich described, Wentz’s elusiveness backfired against the Giants as he bought more time outside of the pocket before throwing an interception. Still, Wentz did give himself additional opportunity to make a play, and he’s become increasingly impressive with escaping pressure.
“The standard deviation on those plays — the good and the bad that can happen from those plays — really goes extreme on both ends. But you got to trust the guy to do it; we got to trust our receivers,” Reich said. “The angle of the receiver that was coming back [on the interception] probably wasn’t the best angle. Maybe not the best decision, but the receiver could have helped him out by coming back more towards the ball.”
In addition to Wentz’s improved pocket presence, Reich praised the 24-year-old’s toughness. Outside of Jason Kelce, Wentz has played the most among the Eagles’ offensive players with 1,051 out of 1,057 offensive snaps.
Reich cited how his quarterback’s durability is partially because of how his judgment has improved when it comes to getting down and avoiding some hits. According to Reich, Wentz was “a little bit too aggressive” earlier in the season, but he now “has a good sense for getting down” and “looks like a seasoned pro.”
“He has a good internal clock. He’s not just a big, strong, athletic guy who is going to get back there and make plays with his legs all the time,” Reich said. “We worked very hard at trying to develop that into him and not have him just get back there and let his athleticism take over. Be systematic; be disciplined; have a progression in mind; know what you are doing; have a plan on every play; then when things break down, react and let your instincts take over.
“He knows to be great in this league and to be great and take us where we want to go, you’ve got to learn how to play quarterback from the pocket and then let your natural athletic ability take over when something breaks down. ”
WHAT YOU MISSED
All-22: Taking a look at the offense from the Eagles’ win over the Giants.
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“I think we’re going to be confident going into the playoffs no matter what.” NFC East Roundup.
The Eagles’ opponents for the 2017 season have been finalized.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles officially placed running back Ryan Mathews on injured reserve.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 27, 2016
Nelson Agholor‘s touchdown reception was a big moment for the second-year receiver. But offensive coordinator Frank Reich thinks it’s not a breakthrough, pens Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
“You know, obviously it was a nice play. Shows his speed. He did a good job,” Reich said on Tuesday. “I think the only way to get breakthroughs is to do something over and over again consistently. This league’s too tough to be just a flash here or there. I think we all know that, Nelson knows that, every player knows that.
“You have to do it week-in and week-out, play-in and play-out. But you take every positive step that comes along and that was certainly a good one.”
This season and throughout his short career, Agholor hasn’t been able to play well week-in and week-out.
Agholor’s touchdown catch against the Giants was his first since the opener against the Browns, when he caught a 35-yard touchdown against Joe Haden. It took him most of the season before he found the end zone again.
The Daily News’ Paul Domowitch thinks the pass rush, not the cornerbacks, is the key for the Eagles’ defense.
It’s not that he wouldn’t like one. But it’s clear that [Jim] Schwartz feels you can get by with tough, competent corners who may never see the inside of a Pro Bowl if you have people up front – and particularly on the edge – who can get to the quarterback.
Connor Barwin has had a tough year and may or may not be back. [Brandon] Graham and [Vinny] Curry both are solid pass rushers, but neither of them ever is going to be mentioned in the same breath as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.
What the Eagles lack, what the Eagles need, is their own Miller or Mack. Someone dominant enough off the edge who can take those double-team shackles off defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
If you can get pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush the way the Eagles did the other night, you don’t necessarily need All-Pro corners.
Doug Pederson will address the media around 10:50.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.