When it was revealed that Carson Wentz had suffered a hairline fracture in his rib, forcing him to miss valuable preseason time, the Eagles preseason appeared to take a huge blow. One of the most important and exciting parts of preseason was the development of the rookie quarterback. Wentz was slated to see plenty of playing time throughout the four games but with that no longer an option..preseason has lost its meaning for many, but it’s even more crucial than ever.
To start with, there’s the Offensive line. It’s probably unfair to blame the line completely for the hit Wentz sustained, but the pass protection was abysmal from start to finish. While Carson Wentz may not have been sacked, that was mainly down to his athleticism and vision, extending plays and scrambling when needed. Chase Daniel, a quarterback who isn’t as mobile, was sacked 4 times in just 10 passing attempts. Out of Wentz’s 26 total plays, 13 of them saw the pocket collapse from one side or pressure storm through the middle.
There is a fundamental problem on the Line..from Stefen Wisniewski to “Big V”, the pass protection was invisible, not to mention the penalties. As noted in a previous article, both Lane Johnson and Jason Peters ranked among the 15 most penalized players per game in the league last season..with O-line penalties costing the Eagles over 200 Offensive yards. With Johnson most likely suspended for 10 games, an early bye-week and the degenerative injury haunting Jason Peters, the Eagles are going to have to rely heavily on their backups..
The backups is where the problem seems to be. On paper, they have the size and the versatility to “plug n play” depending where Pederson needs them to, but Thursday night’s loss showed just how big the gap between starters and backups are once again. In terms of opening holes for the running backs, they were far more impressive..but when it came to protecting the quarterback, they struggled mightily.
Now, with Johnson out of the picture and rotations setting in, the battles on the line have intensified tenfold. No longer is the battle just for the starting LG position..but now there are potential starting spots to be won at RT and LT in case Peters does go down at some stage. The Line was simply atrocious in terms of pass protection on Thursday (more on that in a film review soon)..but that only makes the next few games even more important.
Then, there are the wide receivers. The quarterback can only do so much of the work..and when drops are still such a prominent issue and receivers are struggling to get separation, you have to be concerned. Paul Turner caught 50% of passes thrown by Carson Wentz..mainly because he was the only reliable pair of hands on the field. Jordan Matthews is going to miss next weeks game at the very least..partner that with the absence of Josh Huff yesterday, an shortened practice for Chris Givens and the war between the undrafted rookie wideouts, it’s absolutely imperative that the Eagles iron out these errors before their week one clash with the Browns.
Then, there are the remaining quarterbacks. Sam Bradford completed one pass on Thursday after a huge start from the Eagles special teams unit gave them perfect field position. But with Chase Daniel, a quarterback who knows this system better than anyone struggling so much, it should raise concerns over Bradford’s playing time. I understand that Wentz was the focus..but the Eagles have to ensure their starters are prepared..and as of right now, the first team Linemen and receivers do not look ready to perform against the Cleveland Browns. Throwing one pass is simply not enough considering that once again, this is a new Offense. In Training camp, Sam Bradford has been impressive..but sporadic and at times inaccurate. He needs to be seeing more action in the upcoming games..and with Wentz out, Pederson doesn’t really have a choice.
Wentz may not feature in the next 2-3 preseason games, but his injury has highlighted just how many flaws Offensively surfaced during that game. The Eagles have to get better..and the areas they need to improve are the same areas that cost Wentz a strong performance on Thursday.