When you look at the state of the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles, it’s extremely easy to see that the offense is a very different specimen to what it was one year ago. That explosive nature, the balance, the fun, the consistency, that we all came so used to seeing every week, has just disappeared and been replaced with a shell of what once was. On the surface, all fingers are being pointed to Doug Pederson and his newly promoted offensive coordinator, Mike Groh, but one key issue stems from a very different coaching loss.
In actual fact, it’s former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo who may have hurt the Eagles the most with his departure. Now the offensive coordinator for the Vikings, DeFilippo was an integral cog in the growth of Carson Wentz.
Hired by the Eagles in the 2016 offseason, the former Browns offensive coordinator used his former experience that involved developing Derek Carr, who went on to lead all rookies in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns in 2014. That same success would be repeated with Carson Wentz, who set a team and all-time NFL rookie record with 379 completions. Wentz posted franchise rookie records in pass attempts, passing yards, passing TDs and completion percentage. That’s not to mention his 33 touchdown sophomore season that was deserving of an MVP award prior to his heartbreaking injury.
Perhaps the biggest step of all between 2016 and 2017 for Wentz wasn’t something that could be tracked statistically. During his second offseason Wentz sought out the help from the team at 3DQB, who have helped improve the fundamentals of some of the NFL’s most gifted quarterbacks this generation. From Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, to Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford, 3DQB have been the choice of many top-tier quarterbacks during the offseason months and Wentz was no exception.
What followed in year two was a stunning improvement. Wentz looked far more comfortable in the pocket and was far lighter on his feet than what we saw in his rookie year. The ball was coming out much faster and his ability to climb the pocket and stay light on his feet while maintaining a firm base was a drastic improvement.
But then came the ACL tear. An offseason of rehab left Wentz sidelined until week 3 of the regular season, missing close to 8 months worth of full-contact action. An injury that severe meant that Wentz was on crutches for an extended period, so you can only imagine how difficult it must’ve been to find the strength in that knee once more and then pick up where you left off, expected to dive straight into a regular season game and play like the elite quarterback he was one year ago.
The truth is, Wentz is different this year. The biggest visible change is his footwork inside the pocket. Just like his rookie season, Wentz often sticks to one spot after his drop back and will very rarely move from it. This is what is (arguably) responsible for the sudden increase in blindside hits and fumbles (9), as a stationary target is far easier to hit than a moving one.
Not only that, but when scanning through his reads, Wentz isn’t adjusting his lower body, which means if he has to throw across his body for instance, he’s not resetting his feet and aligning to his target, instead overcompensating with added torque from his upper body. As a result, his passes are either overthrown or thrown lower than the intended target because the arm is coming down at a different angle.
These are fundamental problems that are very coachable. The problem is that losing John DeFilippo meant that the Eagles promoted Press Taylor, a former assistant QB coach whose first season with the Eagles was in 2013 as a ‘quality control assistant’, Taylor rose through the ranks to eventually become an assistant to DeFilippo prior to replacing him. A former QB himself, Taylor fits the mold that Pederson looks for in coaches.
The problem is that these are persistent issues that have plagued Carson Wentz since he returned to the field. Some drives, Wentz will look surgical, as he did in the fourth quarter against Dallas, but other times he will look like the rookie that struggled with those same issued in 2016. It’s really difficult to quantify the progress of a position coach because nobody sees the work that goes in behind the scenes, we just view the final product and make judgements.
I think we all know the reason behind the sudden stagnation in Carson Wentz’s mechanical progress, but the remedy would surely come from extended time working on those fundamentals that were revamped one year ago. It can be done, Wentz himself as proven that. But if it takes another offseason trip to 3DQB to correct them once more on top of a full offseason, then maybe the Eagles need to take a closer look at the impact of their recently promoted quarterback coach.
DeFilippo came into the position with an extensive resume of working with young quarterbacks and helping them elevate their game. Taylor was a mainstay of the Chip Kelly coaching staff who objectively hasn’t been able to guide Wentz out of these problematic mechanics. It’s going to take another season at least to gain an insight as to whether these issues will persist or if they can again be corrected, but if Wentz does travel back to 3DQB and returns bigger and badder than ever, then it really nullifies the work Press Taylor has done thus far.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports