Evaluating Carson Wentz’s Preseason Week Three Performance (with GIFs!)

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Photo credit: David Maialetti/philly.com

Before I get any further, I feel as though I have to preface this post with a few side notes.

  • Some of the stats I’ll be referencing come from Cian Fahey’s 2017 Pre Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue. I’d definitely recommend purchasing it; it’s only $20 and it’s an invaluable resource.
  • I know it’s the preseason. I don’t put much stock into someone’s performance in the preseason. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about the things they did right and the things they did wrong.
  • I don’t hate Carson Wentz. Contrary to popular belief, I want our QB to succeed just as much as the next guy. Having said that, it seems like it’s a sin to criticize Wentz in this area, which is infuriating. It’s understandable, don’t get me wrong. The Eagles haven’t had a good QB since Donovan McNabb, and as Philadelphia fans we’re inclined to grasp onto the smallest bit of hope whenever it presents itself. People want to believe that Wentz is our savior, so they justify his mistakes by pointing out what other players did wrong instead of what Wentz did wrong. I’m not one of those people. With that out of the way, let’s continue.

The Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Miami Dolphins in a high-scoring preseason affair Thursday night, coming out on top 38-31. The offensive starters were slated to play at least the first half and potentially into the second, but Carson Wentz and Co. found themselves on the sideline at the conclusion of the first quarter.

Wentz finished the evening 6-for-10 for 129 yards, two TD’s and one interception. Looking just at his statistics, it would seem as though Wentz had a pretty solid night in what will be his final in-game tune-up before traveling down to FedEx Field in two weeks.  Spoiler alert: the stats were deceiving.

Touchdown Pass to Torrey Smith

Following an incomplete pass intended for Alshon Jeffery and a two-yard run by LeGarrette Blount, Wentz was faced with a 3rd-and-8 from midfield. Here is what happened:

WentzSmithTD

Many Eagles fans saw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith on this play. I saw a poorly thrown deep ball that Smith had to wait and adjust for (not to mention the busted coverage). Here’s another angle:

WentzSmithTD2

There were many issues with Wentz during his rookie season, one of which was his inability to throw the deep ball. The North Dakota State product was painfully inaccurate last season, especially on passes that traveled 21 or more yards. His accuracy percentage on these passes? 28.57%. That mark was good for 31st in the league, ahead of just Jared Goff and Blake Bortles. That’s not the kind of company you want to be in if you want to survive as a QB in this league. If Wentz is to take a big step forward this season, that’s an area of his game he’ll need to drastically improve upon.

Passes to Zach Ertz (x2) and Jeffery

Here’s a pass that could have very well been incomplete:

WentzErtz

That’s not something I would categorize as a good pass. Ertz bailed his QB out. A second angle:

WentzErtz2

When Wentz’s poor rookie season is discussed, his supporters tend to use the “He had no weapons, you can’t accurately judge him” argument. Admittedly, there’s some truth to that statement. The group of receivers Wentz had to work with last year wasn’t very good. However, they actually helped Wentz more than you would think:

“One of Wentz’s receivers caught an inaccurate pass once every 21.68 attempts, 4.61 percent of his attempts. Only Matt Barkley had a higher created reception rate.” – Cian Fahey

Wentz’s receivers may have been ninth in lost receptions, but they led the league in created receptions because of attempts like the one above from Ertz on his slant route. I mention that Ertz ran a slant route because Wentz had issues connecting with his receivers on slants last season. You can only hope that he improves upon that aspect of his game in his sophomore campaign. It goes without saying, but just because your receiver catches the ball doesn’t mean you threw a good pass.

On what would end up being his final drive, Wentz connected with Jeffery on a 20-yard pass over the middle. The pass wasn’t good, but Jeffery managed to adjust and make a nice grab in Miami territory:

WentzAlshon

It’s great having a receiver that can adjust on-the-fly and snag a pass like that, but it’s also fair to point out that Alshon wouldn’t have had to lay out if Wentz put the ball in a better spot. You kind of start to wonder how many yards the Eagles might leave out on the field this year if the Wentz’s accuracy doesn’t improve.

Later in the same drive, Wentz threw another poor pass that Ertz somehow managed to come up with:

WentzErtz3

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I understand that it’s only the preseason. Still, it’s at least a little upsetting that Wentz’s accuracy is still off.

Wentz’s Second TD Pass (featuring faulty footwork!)

Wentz had multiple question marks upon entering the draft over a year ago, and one of the big ones involved his footwork. It’s not uncommon to see Wentz stand like a statue in the pocket; that is, plant his feet and not move them even when he passes the ball. Take a look at this pass to Jeffery that put the Eagles up by seven late in the first quarter:

WentzAlshon2

The pass on the play? That was great, and was one of the best passes from Wentz all evening. The footwork? No bueno. It’s a bad habit that Wentz still hasn’t gotten rid of, and if he’s going to become successful in the NFL, it’s something he’ll need to be aware of. Now, in all fairness, compared to last season his footwork has seemingly improved at least a little. However, it still seems like Wentz reverts back to what’s comfortable, which is a bad look.

The Interception

WentzPick

Lane Johnson had trouble blocking the edge rusher, William Hayes, here. Maybe Wentz should have tried scrambling through the hole on the left side of the line. Maybe he should have attempted to roll out to the right to see if anything developed. Maybe he should have found a way to just throw the ball away. Instead, Wentz threw the ball into the waiting, outstretch hand of Hayes, who tipped the ball sky high. Jordan Phillips came down with the interception, and came close to making it a pick-six.

WentzPick2

Take a look at what Wentz does in the above GIF. I don’t need my QB attempting to take down a 6’5, 329 pound defensive lineman by diving head first in the regular season, much less the preseason. That’s how you risk getting an unnecessary injury that’ll put you out of commission for a while. I admire that Wentz didn’t give up on the play, but there’s no need for reckless actions like that.

Athleticism

Not everything was bad last night. As I mentioned, Wentz threw a nice ball to Alshon for a TD. He also showed off the athletic ability that has so many people enamored with him.

WentzAth

One of the pluses on Wentz’s scouting report was his athleticism, especially for a guy of his size. It’d be easy to panic and simply fall on the ball, but Wentz managed to compose himself and complete a pass to Ertz. We’ve seen Wentz dance and maneuver his way around the pocket multiple times before, which is great. Wentz might not do a ton of things well at this point in his career, but his athletic ability can help bail him out of situations like the one above.

WentzAth2

The end result of this play ended up being a sack, but I liked how Wentz managed to at least elude Cameron Wake. There wasn’t much he could do after that, making one of the best edge rushers in the NFL miss was neat.

Conclusion

So, what does this all mean? To some, it would seem that I:

  • hate Carson Wentz
  • want him to be a bust
  • never want him to succeed

That couldn’t be further from the truth. I am heavily rooting for the kid to succeed. I hope he’s the one raising the Lombardi Trophy when the Eagles finally win a Super Bowl. Still, just because you want him to be our franchise QB doesn’t mean he should be exempt from criticism. Wentz showed flashes of what he can become last season, but overall he had a bad year.

There seems to be a large crowd that would pick Carson Wentz as their young QB to build around. I think those people need to pump the brakes a little bit. Wentz is far from one of the best young QB’s in the league, and he has a lot of flaws he’ll need to improve upon before he enters the conversation. As of this moment, there are eight QB’s I’d take over Wentz if I was building a team for the next ten years.

I hope Wentz proves me wrong. I hope he forces me to change my stance on him. I hope he dominates highlight reels this season. I hope he takes a big step forward in his development (it’s easy to forget that, even going back to college, he doesn’t have a ton of games under his belt). Until that happens, though, I can’t be as optimistic as a large part of this fanbase (and even people outside of this fanbase) are. Call it being pessimistic, call it being overly critical, call it being a hater, call it whatever you want. I call it being realistic, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“If Wentz’s rookie year is anything to go by, those big plays will favor the defense more than the offense. Contrary to public wisdom, he has a lot of work to do this offseason to approach the Wentz some media members believe in.” – Cian Fahey

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