Carson Wentz stunned NFL circles right out of the gates as a rookie in 2016. After his first four NFL starts, he had the Eagles flying high with a 3-1 record, and a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. While that initial shock did wear off and the Eagles would finish the 2016 season with a 7-9 record, Wentz proved that he had all the tools to be a franchise-caliber quarterback.
Heading into 2017, it was clear that Wentz was benefiting from his offseason work. Much was made of his time spent working with quarterback guru, Adam Dedeaux, but Carson also benefitted from the additions brought in by the front office. Year two in the same system with the same head coach had him making better decisions and showing off his refined mechanics.
While Wentz shined during 2017, his ACL injury left all Eagles’ fans wanting just a little bit more. Below we will dive in to what made Carson so effective and an MVP-front-runner in only his second season.
(Note: Rankings based on quarterbacks who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps)
Let’s take a look at where Wentz ranked in the following categories:
- PFF Grade
- QB Rating
- Completion Percentage
- Deep Passing
- Passing Under Pressure/No Pressure
- Passing Using Play Action/No Play Action
- Time in Pocket
PFF Grade: 87.6, 5th
With a grade of 87.6, Wentz jumped almost ten points above his 2016 rookie grade. Not only did he throw for 33 touchdowns to only seven interceptions, but he also led his Eagles to a number-one-overall seed in the NFC. Despite tearing his ACL in a big-time matchup against the Rams in LA during Week 14, it took other quarterbacks in the league until week 17 to reach Carson’s mark of 33 TDs.
Based on this indication, the future is bright for both Philadelphia and Wentz.
NFL QB Rating: 101.9, 5th
PFF QB Rating: 91.09, 7th
QB Rating is a prime statistic in terms of measuring the overall [passing] effectiveness of a quarterback. However, there are certainly a myriad of outside factors that aren’t considered when determining a QB Rating: Rushing statistics, sacks, or fumbles; nor does it consider a player’s performance during crucial situations such as third and fourth downs. Additionally, passer rating does not account for the quality of play of wide receivers or offensive lineman.
In any case, going by both NFL QB Rating, and PFF’s QB Rating, Wentz was one of the best QBs in the league last season.
NFL Completion Percentage: 60.2%, 26th
PFF Adjusted Completion Percentage: 69.6%, 31st
Somewhat like the traditional NFL QB Rating, completion percentage is somewhat of a skewed statistic. It’s a little less volatile than QB Rating, per say, but it still fails to account for drops, throw aways, batted passes at the line, spikes, and being hit while throwing.
PFF’s Adjusted Completion Percentage does account for the factors above, and even then, Wentz ranked near the bottom of the league in this category. That said, this shouldn’t be too surprising – Wentz attempted deep passes at one of the highest marks in the NFL last season (more on this below).
Deep Passing Attempt Percentage: 14.8%, 5th
Deep Passing Accuracy: 44.6%, 8th
NFL QB Rating on Deep Passes: 100.2, 10th
(Note: PFF’s Deep Passing metric is derived from passing attempts targeted at lest 20 yards downfield)
There weren’t many quarterbacks better than Wentz when throwing the deep ball in 2017. Not only did Wentz attempt a lot of deep throws last season, he was extremely effective when he did – racking up 912 yards and 10 of this 33 TDs on throws of 20 yards or more.
Wentz, often times, used his rocket arm to fire deep balls and squeeze passes into tight windows with ease. His ability to put the ball on the money in the deep game really opened up Philadelphia’s offense in 2017.
Passing Under Pressure
Percentage of Passes Under Pressure: 35.7%, 21st
Sack Percentage When Under Pressure: 15.6%, 28th
Completion Percentage Under Pressure: 43.1%, 31st
NFL QB Rating When Under Pressure: 81.7, 4th
NFL QB Rating When Pressured by More Than Two Defenders: 110.7, 1st
Passing When Kept Clean
Percentage of Passes in a Clean Pocket: 64.3%, 19th
Completion Percentage When Kept Clean: 67.4%, 24th
NFL QB Rating When Kept Clean: 110.3, 5th
One of the biggest jumps in Wentz’ game from year one to year two was how he dealt with pressure. As a rookie, Wentz struggled mightily against pressure. His 32.8 passer rating when pressured was the worst in the NFL in 2016. He did, however, change that in 2017, with eight touchdowns and only one interception when facing pressure.
Interestingly enough, although Wentz ranked in the back-half of the league in completion percentage when under pressure and when kept clean (again, somewhat due to the rate at which he attempted deep passes), he finished fourth and fifth in the league in QB Rating, when under pressure and when kept clean, respectively.
When under pressure, Wentz tied for second in the league with eight touchdowns and a TD:INT ration of 8:1. When kept clean, Wentz’ TD:INT ratio sat at a healthy 26:5.
Passing Using Play Action
Play Action Percentage: 26.7%, 5th
Completion Percentage When Using Play Action: 63.7%, 16th
NFL QB Rating When Using Play Action: 95.3, 21st
Passing Without Play Action
Completion Percentage No Play Action: 59.0%, 27th
NFL QB Rating No Play Action: 104.1, 1st
Carson Wentz utilized play action passes on nearly 27% of his passing snaps – good for fifth in the NFL. The Eagles, to Wentz’ credit, are able to run a diverse offense that utilizes quick passing, traditional play action, multiple wide receiver and tight end sets, motions, multiple running backs, RPOs, and more. The flexibility of such an offense, coupled with a cerebral quarterback who can execute it, makes said offense nearly impossible to defend.
Run-Pass Options (RPOs)
Number of RPOs Eagles called in 2017: 181, 1st
An RPO is a play where the offense can either run or pass depending on, more times than not, the count of defenders in the box. The quarterback has to make a decision, either pre- or post-snap, on whether or not to hand off the ball, or pull it and throw.
RPOs have gained a lot of publicity in recent years. While they’ve been around for a while, in one way or another, Chip Kelly’s Eagles (2013-2015) and Andy Reid’s Chiefs have really brought them into the spotlight in recent years. Not surprisingly, the Eagles and Chiefs still utilize them more than anyone else to this day.
In 2017, the Eagles had plenty of success running RPOs – all the way to the Lombardi Trophy.
Time in Pocket
Average Time to Throw: 2.75 secs, 28th
Time in Pocket: 2.5 Seconds or Less
Completion Percentage: 66.3%, 26th
NFL QB Rating: 108.2, 4th
Time in Pocket: 2.6 Seconds or More
Completion Percentage: 51.4%, 26th
NFL QB Rating: 92.6, 5th
Wentz, again, although ranking in the back-half of the league in terms of completion percentage with less than 2.5 seconds to throw, and more than 2.6 seconds to throw, still managed to rank fourth and fifth in QB Rating in both categories, respectively.
As far as average time to throw goes, Wentz ranked 28th in the NFL with an average time of 2.75 seconds to get rid of the football. While that release time was relatively slow compared to other QBs, that can be attributed to Wentz’ scrambling ability, his ability to keep plays alive by maneuvering the pocket, and his tendency to hold on to the ball longer in an effort to throw deep down the field.
Third and Fourth Down Efficiency
Not only did Wentz improve his deep ball and his ability to execute in the face of pressure, it turns out the latter of which actually helped him improve another crucial area of his game: third and fourth down efficiency. Wentz had the highest conversion rate on dropbacks on third and fourth downs combined of any quarterback in football.
Red Zone Efficiency
Simply put, there was no one better near the goal line in 2017 than Wentz. It was truly a sight to behold. He ended with 24 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone last season.
I think everyone can agree – Carson Wentz certainly passed the eye test in 2017. Watching the young gunslinger in only his second year put together MVP-caliber season was something very special. Not only that, but his numbers backed up the extraordinary play we saw from him all year long.
Although returning from a major knee injury, if Wentz can pick up where he left off in 2017, there is no reason to expect anything less than MVP-caliber play from the soon-to-be third-year signal caller.
Information source: Pro Football Focus
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport