NFL

Is Carson Wentz Regressing Or Are The Eagles Failing Him?

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Once upon a time all the way back in September of 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles were 3-0 and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was the toast of the town.  Wentz played flawless football and even the name of the Commonwealth was in question, as many termed it, “Wentzylvania.”

That may have only been three months ago, but it seems like an eternity.

The Eagles have fallen into last place in the competitive NFC East with a 5-8 record, and the young quarterback has certainly hit a rookie wall, or two.  Meanwhile, if the Eagles look atop the standings, they’ll see the Dallas Cowboys with an 11-2 record, also led by a rookie quarterback in Dak Prescott. What really stings is that Dallas waited until the fourth round to grab Prescott while Philadelphia had to give up a king’s ransom to move to the No. 2 overall pick to select Wentz.

Is Prescott a better football player than Wentz?  The short-term answer seems to be yes, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.  The Dallas rookie is protected by the best offensive line in the NFL, he has the league’s leading rusher to hand the ball to, and a Top 5 receiver in Dez Bryant.

Wentz, well….he doesn’t have that.

“I think the quarterback position is such a unique position in that you’re so dependent on the play of everybody else,” Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich explained. “I think we go up and down together – quarterback is the [center] of it. I think, by and large, Carson is still doing a lot of really good things, still a lot of positive [things], even in a bad stretch. Two people can look at the same thing and see different results, and we have to own the negative results. But I still feel good about a lot of the things that he’s doing, even in the adversity [of] the bad stretch we’re in.”

Philly has lost four straight games and six out of their last seven.  Wentz, who didn’t throw his first interception until October 9th, has nine interceptions against just five touchdowns during that stretch.

The Eagles aren’t helping him get over the rookie wall all that well.  Through 13 games he’s thrown 498 passes, putting him on pace to shatter the team’s record for most pass attempts in a season-As a rookie.

“I didn’t anticipate him throwing the ball quite as much,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said when asked about all of his rookie’s pass attempts. “I felt that he was capable of doing it, but you never want to expose a young rookie quarterback to that.”

Pederson is the head coach, right?  Doesn’t he make the decisions for everything that goes on between the lines?  If he doesn’t want to expose his young quarterback, then you know…don’t.

Sure, the Eagles don’t have a top tiered rushing attack, but they’re not ranked in the 30’s either.  Philly is ranked 15th in both rushing yards per game and average yards per carry.  Although the ground game has been mediocre, Wentz’s efficiency has plummeted.  He now has the 27th ranked passer rating at 80.7, while averaging 45 attempts per game over the last six contests.

“Would love to manage that a little bit more, for him,” said Pederson. “I think that’s putting him in a tough situation.”

What’s interesting is that the Philadelphia coaching staff recognizes that there’s a problem, yet they don’t do anything to actually fix it.

“Everybody has a plan, as they say until they get in a fight and get hit around a few times,” Reich said about the team not having anything close to a balanced offense. “In the perfect scenario, do you want to throw that many passes at the end of the year? No. Are there silver linings in it in other ways? I’m sure there are. ”

The silver lining is what, humbling your young quarterback?

Philadelphia’s set of skill position players is among the worst in the NFL.  With Wentz’s most reliable target, wide receiver Jordan Matthews out for the season, they are left with youngsters like Nelson Agohlor, who is quickly heading down the bust road, and former second-round pick Doriel Green-Beckham, who was so good that the Tennessee Titans let him go after one year.  The rest of the receiving corps is rounded out by Bryce Treggs, Byron Marshall and Paul Turner.  Tight end Zach Ertz has all the talent of an elite player, but he’s never scored more than four touchdowns in a season and that came in his rookie year of 2013.

“Have we asked a lot of him? Yeah, we have, and he’s handled it extremely well,” Pederson said of his young quarterback. “And it’s just making him a better quarterback not only for the rest of this season but for the future.”

In summation, the Eagles have put their young quarterback in a nearly impossible situation with subpar weapons and they keep having him throw the football at a record pace.  The coaching staff recognizes that it’s a real problem, but won’t do anything to fix it.  Instead they maintain that it’s making him a better quarterback.

I wonder if the Cleveland Browns thought that with Tim Couch and the Houston Texans employed that same expertise with David Carr?


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.