The incredible performance of Carson Wentz in week 3 against the Steelers is one that will be spoken about for seasons to come. Throwing for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and completing 74% of his passes, Wentz shined in a game that was a culmination of everything we saw in weeks one and two. But, naturally, the critics are out in full force.
Some claiming that Wentz is “dinking and dunking” his way down the field, while others simply refuse to acknowledge the level of maturity shown in his game..something this article will aim to portray.
Early on in the game, both Wentz and Pederson wanted to establish momentum. Wentz could have easily targeted Sproles out of the backfield or looked for Brent Celek on a shallow crossing route, but instead placed trust in the hands of Dorial Green-Beckham to move the chains. The passing lane opened up narrowly toward the end of the play, but gave the rookie just enough time to throw a precise pass over the middle.
Talking of tight windows, Wentz was just as impressive with this throw to Brent Celek. Reading the situation perfectly and anticipating Barbre’s push to the outside, Wentz kept his eyes down the field and threw a zip pass over the middle straight into the hands of Celek for another big gain. Again, it would have been easy to throw a dump pass out of the backfield, but the poise Wentz showed in the pocket to stand tough on a three-step drop and not move around was impressive.
Then, there’s this touchdown pass to Jordan Matthews. Again, Wentz read the play perfectly and made it look so effortless getting the ball securely into the hands of the Eagles top receiver on the edge of the endzone. The Offensive line ensured that Wentz had plenty of time to get the play off, but again..Wentz started this game with a certain spark about him. The passes completed weren’t always the checkdown’s that people like to make out the system is so reliant on. Wentz isn’t afraid to throw a pass into a tight window, something he showed against the Steelers.
What really impresses me about Wentz, are the intricacies often overlooked that veterans struggle with. Throwing and making decisions under pressure are what often define the success of a quarterback..but Wentz has a relaxed ora about him that really helps him make the most of every situation.
For instance, on this short pass to Nelson Agholor, Wentz looks for the screen passes before moving outside and recognizing the pressure. Wentz draws a window with his legs and flicks a short pass in Agholor’s direction, anticipating his position perfectly. It’s not rare to see quarterbacks freeze in this situation and either attempt to scramble, take a hit or throw a risky pass.
One thing that sets Carson Wentz apart from the rest of the pack is his athleticism. At 6’5, Wentz has the ability to extend plays in a similar vain to Andrew Luck. Wentz made it clear in a presser that he’s a passer first, but that doesn’t mean he’s inept from good scrambling technique. Wentz senses the pressure on a play action look and after seeing a gaping hole, rolled outside for a gain of ten. What really stands out here however is his technique. Wentz isn’t loose with the football, he tucked it in almost instantly with the arm closest to the sideline, shielding it on the run before chasing the sideline instead of the big play.
These sound like simple things, but how many times has ball security cost a “dual threat” quarterback a fumble?
Screen passes became an integral part of the Eagles dismantling of the Steelers Defense, but they did begin to sniff the looks out. So how did Wentz combat this? Motioning a man outside to set up a screen and draw pressure before turning and throwing a pass in the opposite direction to Trey Burton. It’s the pre-snap adjustments and diagnostics that really give Wentz an edge.
The most impressive pass of the game without a doubt was the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles. Wentz looks to his left and notices oncoming pressure. The rookie’s reactions and footwork to navigate throw what became a very narrow chicane were impressive, but what followed was simply beautiful. Wentz sees Sproles in a pocket of space and instead of trying to make a big play on the ground, floats a ball over the top to the veteran running back who then took it all the way to the house. A mixture of pocket awareness, instincts and ball placement made this touchdown a perfect example of just how impressive Wentz has been.
Screen passes were a problem for the Eagles last year..and they were for Alex Smith in Kansas City. Far too often were the passes batted down, nearly picked off, or rendered incomplete..and that was really due to a lack of instinct. Here, Wentz goes to throw the screen and notices an edge rusher coming down so instead pulls back the throw and then reattempts it after Johnson forces the passing lane (if you pardon the pun) to re-open. My initial thoughts after this play were “how many times would Bradford or Smith have thrown that pass regardless?”. The mental processing speed of Wentz is electric and is one of his greatest assets.
The confidence of Carson Wentz is another trait often complimented by the Eagles coaching staff and it’s easy to see why. In the play below, Wentz fakes the handoff after helping out his O-line pre-snap and then steps up and throws a deep pass to Brent Celek who had a defender in front of him and a Safety closing in behind. The pass had to be perfect in terms of placement, anticipating the route and throwing it ahead of the tight end, leading him into an open space. Wentz did exactly that.
One of the must underrated throws of the day fell incomplete in the endzone. Wentz showed his phenomenal touch on the deep ball as he drops it in the bucket perfectly to Dorial Green-Beckham. Cockrell made a big play and the aftermath cost the Steelers massively. But the poise shown from Carson Wentz to take a deep shot and get the ball out as cleanly and accurately as he did has to be commended.It was a beautiful throw and almost a beautiful touchdown.
Carson Wentz completed 74% of his passes against the Steelers and yes, there were plenty of screen looks and short passes and yes, he had a lot of help from the Defense..but you simply cannot take away from the poise, accuracy, game management and awareness shown by Wentz.
As the weeks go by, Wentz continues to prove why he’s the perfect fit for Doug Pederson’s Offense. The ability to quickly dissect a Defensive look and call an audible partnered with his accuracy and judgement would make Wentz a formidable weapon in any Offense, but his ball placement, pocket awareness and sheer confidence is not only impressive for a rookie, but it’s elevating this Offense in ways previously thought unrealistic.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports